10 Strange Things Dogs Do
As much as we love them, dogs do disgusting and puzzling things. Why and how can such a sweet, innocent-looking ball of fur act so weird? Here we investigate 10 strange things our pooches do and the evolutionary origins of their behavior.
1. Drinking Out of the Toilet
As people who keep the lid-open already know, Fido seems to enjoy drinking out of the toilet so much more than the perfectly good water in his bowl. To him, it's not a temporary receptacle of human waste; it's an eternal fountain of a never-ending supply of clean, cool water. The constant flushing keeps the water fresh and maximizes its oxygenation. Even the container holds some appeal - porcelain doesn't change the taste like metal or plastic bowls can. Experts, however, recommend keeping the lid closed, due to the potential ingestion of harmful bacteria or poisonous cleaning chemicals.
2. Rolling Around in Smelly Stuff
What smells repulsive to humans is like perfume to a dog. Pooches enjoy the odor so much that they can't resist covering themselves in it, essentially making it a part of them. Although indescribably gross, instinct and evolution guides this action going back to dogs' hunting days. In order to make the kill, he had to stealthily stalk his prey and needed to smell as much unlike a dog as possible to remain undercover.
3. Chasing Cats
For those of you who have cat-loving dogs, please know that we do realize many dogs get along perfectly well with cats, and skip to the next segment. If your pooch is of the feline-chasing persuasion, though, read on. Some dogs, whether by breed or temperament, are hunters at heart. Since city dogs see many more cats than other furry creatures, such as squirrels and rabbits, the association of Fido chasing Fluffy comes from seeing those two on the run rather than any other prey. However, with felines clocking in at the top speed of almost 30 miles per hour, versus canines reaching a maximum of 29 mph plus a few hundred yards, a physically intact and reasonably young cat will out-pace her predator.
4. Pumping His Leg While His "Sweet Spot" is Scratched
Whether your concentration of scratching or rubbing is on his tummy, side, or back/tail joint, your pooch will usually respond with pumping his leg. This could indicate his enjoyment, but more likely is an ingrained response to keeping pests off of him. No matter how hard he tries, he is unable to stifle this automatic reflex reaction. In fact, it's so predictable that veterinarians will use it to test their neurological functioning during examinations. Despite being fully aware that your fingernails aren't fleas, he can't resist the hardwiring that makes him bring his leg up to scratch them off. Both scratching and insect bites will produce the same response.
5. "Greeting" Your Visitor's Leg
Embarrassed pet owners wish this behavior, more than any other, did not exist. Male dogs in their adolescent period, similar to teenage boys, have an overabundance of hormones that give them an insatiable sex drive. Neutering can often tame this behavior, but it's not a guaranteed fix. If Fido's obsession with his male parts seems especially overboard, get him checked out by your vet to ensure there's no medical issue.
6. Eating Grass
While no definite explanation exists, there are two plausible theories. One is that dogs inherently know that grass helps their digestion, and they probably don't know that its chlorophyll and fiber is why. The other theory is based on canine evolution, when no vets existed nor synthetic medications to ease their ills. Pups took matters into their own paws when they ate something bad by following with a grassy snack to tangle with the offending food, thereby irritating the lining of their stomach and making them vomit. Eating grass in modern times doesn't always indicate a spoiled meal, but pooch's nausea is relieved by instinctively eating grass to make them throw up. Anyone who's been seasick knows that vomiting makes the nausea go away, and apparently, dogs know this too.
7. Barking at the Mailman
Unfortunately, the mail is delivered by someone in a recognizable uniform who approaches the front door, aka Fido's territory, on an almost daily basis. When dogs normally bark at a stranger coming toward them, and that stranger leaves at the sound of the barking, pooches believe that they made the departure happen by loudly voicing their protest. If that stranger, such as the mailman, returns, canines bark even louder, believing their point wasn't effectively made upon the stranger's first transgression. A louder bark, they think, will make the offender leave for good. Over the course of time, this pattern of aggression becomes more intense and ingrained through the behavior/reward scenario. In other words, he is conditioned to bark to make the stranger go away, just as he is trained to beg for treats.
8. Licking You, Other Humans, Even Other Animals
Many dog owners consider this a form of "kissing," although that is far from the truth. Licking is behavior introduced to Fido as soon as he is born by his mother performing clean-up duty. Licking her young removes the birth sack so that puppies can breathe. Motherly licking continues until they are old enough to clean themselves. But there's more to this explanation than cleaning alone. Puppies lick their mother's face to tell her they're hungry and it's time to regurgitate some food for them to eat. When the pups grow up, licking shows submission to alpha beings, whether that's you or other dogs in the pack.Excessive licking can be a sign of injury, whether an open wound or sore joints, and signals that a trip to the vet is necessary.
9. Walking in a Circle Before Lying Down
Before the days of dog beds and rugs, pups in the wild had to create their own comfy sleeping quarters. Similar to people who smack down their pillows before laying their heads on them, pooches had to smack down their bedding of tall grass to make it more comfortable. Since "smacking down" is not as easy for dogs, instead they walk around in circles to flatten the flora. This also served to make a sort of fox hole to protect canines from the view of predators, with a high fence of grass all around them, and ensure more peaceful and secure sleep. And as an added bonus, circling helps regulate Fido's temperature by exposing a cooler layer of grass closer to the dirt. In especially hot, desert areas, creating a cool spot was crucial to his comfort.
10. Wagging Their Tails
Dogs, like cats, communicate with their tails. Most people believe that a wagging tail means a happy dog, but the position of his tail is the real indicator of his mood. When your pooch holds his tail low and curves it into a "U" shape with a slow wag, he's relaxed and content - "all is well." However, if your pup's tail is high and arched over his back, he is either fascinated or annoyed and a growl may be the only way to tell the difference. Interestingly, when a dog is home alone, his tail will rarely wag, since no members of his pack are around to communicate with. With no one nearby to see his furry flag, he keeps his feelings to himself.
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