Dogs are amazing creatures, and constant sources for entertainment. We have all watched our dog perform some strange action, and wondered why they would do such a thing. The Alisos Animal Hospital team wants you to wonder no more. We explain the origins of some of these eccentric habits.

Question: Why does my dog walk in circles before lying down?

Answer: Maybe your dog’s routine is to circle twice to the right and three times to the left before settling in for a good nap. Regardless of the number of circles, this ritual may be confusing for a pet owner, but the answer is straightforward. Your dog is simply trying to ensure their chosen nap site is as comfortable as possible—the same way you smooth out all the wrinkles in your sheets before going to bed.

Q: Why does my dog sniff people’s crotches?

A: You are minding your own business, when suddenly your dog thrusts their snout into your personal space. Or, they give friends and family the same treatment, which is much more unpleasant and embarrassing. Your dog is not trying to be rude—they are simply trying to learn a little more information about the person. Dogs have a type of sweat gland, called an apocrine gland, in their groin area that releases pheromones and relays information. So your dog is simply checking out personal details like age, gender, mood, and ability to mate. In other words, they want to know your Facebook status.

Q: Why does my dog kick grass after pooping?

A: After what seems like an hour of walking, your dog finally finds an appropriate spot to do their business. Then, they proceed to fling grass or soil over their deposit with their hind legs. This scene may be amusing to watch, but your dog is not burying the feces, but marking their territory. Scent glands in your dog’s feet release pheromones that are stronger and longer-lasting than those in urine and feces, and your dog is ensuring his scent stays around as long as possible, and everyone knows the extent of his domain.

Q: Why does my dog roll in smelly stuff?

A: Your dog romps in the woods and returns reeking of some indefinable odor. They will most assuredly need a bath and several scrubbings to get rid of the stench. Remember, dogs have left-over wild animal instincts, and rolling in something strong-smelling covers their scent, making them invisible to their prey, as well as other predators. They are effectively going incognito.

Q: Why does my dog eat poop?

A: Watching your dog gulp down feces can be incredibly disgusting, especially when they immediately want to give you a big kiss. This practice, known as coprophagia, can be the result of malnutrition, either from a nutritional deficiency or a lack of adequate calories, leading to a compulsion to consume feces. Coprophagia can also be the result of other health issues, including intestinal parasites, chronic diarrhea, and pancreatic disorders. More benign reasons, such as anxiety or boredom, may also be the culprit. If your dog frequently exhibits this behavior, they should be checked by our veterinarian to ensure that a medical issue is not causing their coprophagia.

Q: Why is my dog scooting on the floor?

A: Witnessing your dog scooting on your carpet, rubbing his hind end, may make you giggle, but your dog is not trying to entertain you, and you likely will soon need a carpet cleaning service.  Unfortunately, your dog likely has an inflamed anal area. Pouches on either side of your dog’s anus, called anal sacs, secrete a foul-smelling fluid that acts as your dog’s signature scent, and is usually eliminated when they defecate. However, inflammation causes the fluid to thicken, and the anal sacs become impacted, which makes your dog extremely uncomfortable. Their scooting behavior is an attempt to alleviate the problem, but the anal sacs will need to be expressed by our veterinarian to provide relief. Other common causes for anal area irritation include allergies, trapped foreign substances such as grass or hair, and, less commonly, Intestinal parasites.

If your dog is exhibiting any of these behaviors and you are concerned they may have a medical issue, do not hesitate to contact Alisos Animal Hospital. We will happily answer any of your questions, or suggest you schedule a visit.