Dogs are weird creatures. While cats are a mysterious, enigmatic species, dogs simply do crazy things that appear to have no rhyme or reason. But, there actually is a method to their madness, whether or not it makes sense to their owners. If your pooch is practicing their zoomies after a bath, gnawing on a bunch of tall grass, or sniffing another dog’s hind end in greeting, there is likely a reason for their unusual behavior. Let’s dive into five common, but odd, behaviors you may see from your canine companion.

Why does my dog scoot on the floor?

Intestinal parasites have been a common theory for a butt-scooting dog, but since your furry pal is likely on a parasite prevention plan, worms shouldn’t cause an itchy hind end. Instead, your dog is probably scooting along the carpet because of full anal glands, two small glands that are positioned right inside your dog’s anus and typically release a thin fluid during defecation. However, a variety of issues can cause problems with the glands emptying and, when they become too full, they can create excessive pressure that your dog tries to relieve by scooting along the floor. If your dog is scooting, licking, or chewing at their hind end, schedule an appointment with your primary care veterinarian. 

Why does my dog turn in circles before lying down?

This trampling behavior is common in dogs before they lie down to rest. While you may think they are fluffing up their blanket or bed as they paw and turn in circles, your dog may be practicing an ancient, ingrained behavior. Their wild ancestors often slept in beds of lush grass and weeds and, in addition to creating a nest for the night, the pawing and circling scared away snakes, rodents, and biting insects. Nowadays, your dog may also paw and circle before lying down to create a cooler resting place. 

Why does my dog eat non-food items?

Dogs eat a lot of gross things, from cat poop and rotting trash, to bugs and dirty diapers. But, dogs may also eat other inedible items that have no appealing odor or taste. When a dog eats items like rocks, dirt, and other foreign objects, their condition is called pica. Not to be confused with the destruction of your favorite pair of shoes, pica refers to the actual eating of non-food items and can be a sign of many underlying causes, including:

  • Malnutrition
  • Vitamin deficiency
  • Increased appetite
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Anemia
  • Neurologic disease
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid disease

Since pica can lead to serious medical problems, such as toxin ingestion or a gastrointestinal obstruction, determining the cause and stopping the behavior are essential. 

Why does my dog chase their tail?

Chasing their tail is an adorable canine behavior, but can signal a bored pooch. Many dogs who lack appropriate environmental enrichment and mental stimulation find their own entertainment, which can often get them into trouble if they become destructive, or they self-harm. Tail chasing is also sometimes an excitable behavior—for example, dogs who are overly stimulated may turn to tail chasing, rather than something more productive, as an outlet for their excess energy. Keep your dog busy with plenty of exercise, toys, puzzles, and training to ensure they are physically and mentally stimulated, and you’ll likely notice less tail chasing, or none at all. 

Why does my dog lick their paws?

You may have noticed your dog licking their paws when they settle down for the evening or after running outdoors in the summer. The two most common reasons for paw licking are behavioral or medical in nature.

  • Behavioral — Dogs with generalized anxiety often lick their paws when the family is relaxing in front of the TV for the night, as the repetitive behavior helps them unwind.
  • Medical If your dog is a seasonal allergy sufferer and develops itchy skin in the spring and summer when exposed to grass and pollen, they may also lick their paws. As they walk through the allergen-laden grass, their paws become coated with pollen, which can lead to severe itching in allergic dogs. Your dog then licks and chews their paws to stop the itching and to soothe their skin, but a hot spot may actually form.

If you’re uncertain whether your dog’s behavior is normal or a sign of an underlying medical problem, our Pet Emergency Clinic and Referral Center team is here to help. Give us a call to determine if your pet is experiencing a medical emergency and needs veterinary care, or if they are simply performing an odd doggy behavior.