Strange Dog Behaviors

By Gayle Rodcay

Does your furry friend constantly chase her tail? Does your pup pounce on light beams or chase shadows? How about obsessively licking her paws? Some quirky behaviors are purely instinct from thousands of years of evolution. Some seem cute and endearing, while others can be annoying and even harmful and need to be addressed. So how do you know when you need to step in and try to modify their behavior?

Instinctual Quirks

Does your furry friend circle her bed or sleeping area several times before settling down? That behavior had its origins in the fact that your dog's ancestors needed to tramp down the grasses to make a bed for themselves.

One of the more unappealing instinctual behaviors is rolling in animal excrement or smelly carcasses. If your pup has come running back to you with an odor that is not of this earth, you probably weren't too happy or eager to pet her. Most experts believe this behavior goes back to when canines wanted to disguise their scent from their prey. That makes sense, but to the human sense of smell, not so much.

Trying to curb the rolling in aromatic refuse is probably a lost cause. The best recourse is to be on guard for whatever your canine companion might find. If she manages to escape your surveillance and rolls in the smelly stuff, she's just doing what comes naturally. Time for a bath. The turning in circles before lying down -- just enjoy it.

Obsessive Quirks

Humans aren't the only species that can suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD. The condition manifests itself in behaviors such as tail chasing, incessant chewing and/or licking objects, constant pouncing on light beams or shadows, or snapping at flies. Interestingly, these obsessive behaviors are seen more often in the highly intelligent breeds like border collies and German shepherds. Typically, they start the behaviors because they lack proper mental stimulation. In other words, they're bored. These activities may seem harmless or even cute at times, but they can become problematic if your dog becomes so focused on the behavior that she tunes everything else out.

If your furry friend displays obsessive behaviors like these, ignore her. Any type of attention, even scolding, will reinforce her behavior. Try distracting her with playtime or give her a puzzle toy that will stimulate her brain. Getting her involved in activities such as obedience, agility or fly ball will often help.

Time to Call the Vet?

Another quirky behavior some dogs exhibit is scooting their hind end on the floor. Typically, this behavior occurs because your dog is trying to relieve a painful anal sac, or she may have internal parasites that are causing her to itch around her rectum. You can usually eliminate this behavior with a visit to your veterinarian.

Some dogs will chew compulsively on their tail or flank or constantly lick their paws. This can lead to infections or hot spots, which are wet, irritated areas that can be quite painful. These behaviors have many causes, such as being confined in a small enclosure or tied up for long periods of time, nervousness, boredom or medical conditions. Consult your veterinarian to rule out a medical cause like allergies, parasites or neurological disorder. Once those are ruled out, try some of the behavior modification techniques mentioned earlier.

By Gayle Rodcay


About the Author
With a Bachelor of Arts in technical communications from Colorado State University, Gayle Rodcay has spent over 18 years editing and writing for various technical publications. In 2009, she launched a freelance writing career. Before embarking on her writing career, Rodcay was a certified veterinary technician and uses her animal and health knowledge in her freelance writing efforts.