We all love our furry friends, but there’s no denying they can be pretty weird. Maybe they have a thing for digging, like to roll in smelly things, or insist on making a nest of any nearby blanket. Maybe they attack the vacuum or demand to be tucked in with your bathrobe. While some of their strange behaviors might just have no explanation, we can shed some light on others that are more easily explainable. Here are some common behaviors and what they could mean…
1. Chasing Its Tail
Tail-chasing is often playful, especially if your dog is young. Many dogs chase their tails because they’re getting to know their bodies, see it as a chew toy, or because it’s a nervous habit. However, if your dog does it for long periods of time or frequently it can cause an injury or mean something more serious. Take your dog to the vet to get checked out if they’re chasing their tail frequently to rule out a medical issue.
2. Spinning in Circles
This behavior may seem funny and can sometimes be harmless, but can also be a sign of medical issues, anxiety, or other problems. It’s normal for dogs to circle in their beds or around blankets before sleeping to ensure they’re comfortable (nesting), or spin in circles before going to the bathroom. Visit the vet if your dog spins frequently, particularly if it’s elderly—spinning could mean a memory, hearing, vision, or neurological issue—or if your dog spins in stressful situations, it signals anxiety.
3. Running Around After Pooping
The jury’s still out on this one, but there are a few theories. Your dog might be marking its territory, as dogs have scent glands in their paws (this also explains kicking after pooping, which many dog owners assume is covering up the mess).
Or, it might just feel free and relieved. We might not ever know.
4. Eating Poop
The question has long puzzled dog owners everywhere—why do dogs eat poop? Because it seems so gross to us, we can’t possibly understand why our dog friends would want to do it. It could be a learned behavior, but also a sign that they’re lacking nutrients.
Traditional kibble often doesn’t contain easily digestible ingredients and dogs may not be able to fully absorb the nutrients in their food. So, if they’re eating their poop, it can be an attempt to regain those nutrients.
5. Rolling in Gross Things
It’s happened to a lot of us—enjoying a nice walk with our dogs until we happen upon a pile of something disgusting and they just have to roll in it. What makes a dog want to roll in garbage, poop, or dead animals?
Well, like running around after pooping, there are a lot of theories, but none of them are certain. Dogs could be doing it to mask their scent or because what smells terrible to us might smell different (and good) to them.
6. Digging Holes
You spend a lot of time maintaining your lawn, only to go outside and find your dog halfway into a crater they’ve been digging. It might be frustrating for you, but for them, it’s perfectly natural. They might simply be following their instincts or denning, a behavior common in breeds such as Huskies.
Digging holes can also result from wanting to escape the yard or something they fear, hearing moles or bugs under the ground (if your dog is digging holes in random parts of your yard, this might be the case), wanting to cool off in hot weather, or wanting to stash away food or treats. Read other common reasons dogs dig here.
In some cases, dogs might be missing key minerals in their diet and may be seeking it from the soil, which brings us to…
7. Eating Dirt
It’s common for dogs to eat dirt every once in a while—it’s a way of exploring their surroundings, especially if they’re digging holes. In rare cases, it could mean your dog is anemic or has pica, an eating disorder in which animals are compelled to eat things that aren’t food (such as paper, grass, or even rocks).
Pica can develop for many reasons, from boredom to thyroid conditions to nutritional imbalances. Boredom causes dogs to seek an outlet for excess energy, and nutritional imbalances can result from a lack of digestive enzymes, difficulties with digestion, or a diet that doesn’t include enough essential nutrients. If you notice your dog compulsively eating dirt (or anything else that isn’t their food), talk to your vet to determine whether there’s an underlying health issue.
8. Licking or Biting Paws
Like many behaviors, licking paws can be normal. Nonstop licking or chewing on paws to the point of red spots, though, is cause for concern. These behaviors result from a wide variety of causes—they could mean boredom, anxiety, dry skin, pain or arthritis, or allergies. Licking dry skin is a dog’s attempt at reliving the dryness. Allergies or an injury could be causing discomfort or itchy skin, causing dogs to react by licking.
Since there are so many potential causes of compulsive licking or chewing, be sure to check with your vet once you notice it.
9. Licking Tile Floors
If your dog does this, they could be trying to pick up crumbs you happened to drop, but licking tile floors can signal anxiety, gastrointestinal problems, or a deficiency of vitamins or minerals in your dog’s diet.
Licking floor tiles made of clay, in particular, could signal that specific nutrients are lacking in your dog’s diet, as the tiles may smell like the minerals they’re missing. Make sure they’re getting the vitamins and minerals they need and talk to your vet if the licking becomes a regular issue.
Give Your Dog the Right Nutrients
Many of these behaviors are caused by nutrient deficiencies, so reevaluating your dog’s diet or adding supplements or healthy treats that are high in protein are good ways to prevent some of these issues. And, it’s never a bad idea to talk to your vet if your dog is doing something a little too weird for your liking. Read more pet info here, or check out our products to help add more nutrients to your dog’s diet.