Veterinarians Explain 10 Strange Dog Behaviors

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posted on May 23, 2014
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undefinedEver wonder why your dog chases its tail, walks in circles before lying down or just plain won't quit staring at you? The pet health resource website Vet Street has posted explanations to these and other strange dog behaviors.

Here's a synopsis of some I found interesting:

Why do dogs cock their heads?
This rather cute behavior is generally in response to a high-pitched or funny sound. According to Vet Street, animal behaviorists believe the dog's goal is to make sense of what he's hearing; better identify the sound's location; or pick out a known command such as "sit" or "fetch" that could be in the midst of it. However, if your dog tilts its head frequently without the provocation of sound, it's worth mentioning to a veterinarian. This may indicate an underlying condition.

I've often wondered why gundogs tilt their heads in response to certain sounds, but one you'd expect to trigger it—the initial introduction of a dog whistle—is seemingly understood right off the bat. It's likely nobody can say definitively. According to Vet Street, behaviorists remain uncertain as to the exact cause of head cocking.

Why do dogs chase their tails?
I've only owned one tail chaser—a fairly high-anxiety dog in many respects. Vet Street says this may not be coincidental, as tail chasing is sometimes linked to obsessive-compulsive traits. However, more commonly it's just a fun way for dogs to expend extra energy. If the tail chasing is rather constant or you suspect the dog is doing so in response to discomfort, speak to a veterinarian. Vet Street says this may be a sign of anal gland problems or flea allergy dermatitis.

Why do dogs howl?
It's a common notion that dogs howl because they're lonely. Not so, according to Vet Street, which contends that this instinctive, primal behavior is necessary and enjoyable for dogs. In short, dogs howl because they like being dogs.

Why do dogs walk in circles before lying down?
According to Vet Street, the circles—which can sometimes last a comical length of time--are not intended to annoy you. Rather, the behavior was passed down by your dog's wolf-like ancestors. The circles are an instinctive act used to pat down leaves, grass and other debris to create a cozy area to rest. Hopefully that's not necessary on your living room floor, but the instinct remains.

For six additional strange behaviors explained, be sure to check out Vet Street's full story.

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