Embarrassing Habits of dogs, you’ve been too ashamed to ask anyone about

Our relationship with our dogs goes back to over a million years. Yet when it comes to understanding our canines’ crazy quirks, we are often left stumped. With all the love and joy dogs bring us, they also manage to baffle us with their bizarre and often embarrassing behaviours. In this feature, Woof! attempts to understand the doggie rationality behind the awkward behaviours.

Why does my dog poke his nose between people’s legs?

The next time Banjo zeroes in on your Aunt Greta’s crotch, don’t get uptight. For Banjo strictly views it as an information gathering mission. Canine behaviourists suggest that dogs that it’s very natural for dogs to home into an area where there’s lots of scent information to be found. The dog then places the data together to reveal a lot about Aunt Greta. That gives him a chance to get to know her intimately. Once a dog has gleaned the information, he normally moves on to other pursuits. It’s a human equivalent of shaking hands and introducing yourself. If Aunt Greta gets offended; next time just ask her to hold a purse in front of her.

Interestingly, dogs that carry out this behaviour on humans are normally dogs that are of the correct height to do so. However, if your dog is carrying out this behaviour excessively with humans there could be a hormonal / sexual element involved.

Why does my dog pass gas when guests are over?

Ever been in a delightful situation where your boss has come over for dinner and mid-way the room is filled with a mid-swirling odour that literally leaves your boss gasping? Well, you’re not alone. Loads of dogs suffer from flatulence; older dogs (because of their slowed intestinal function), certain breeds (large dogs, especially) and dogs that tend to eat a single meal a day (they tend to gulp down the food, swallowing air in the process) are prone to passing gas frequently. The easiest thing to do is to leave the room. But if you are one of those owners that spends most of the day walking around holding your nose and constantly saying to others “it’s him” in case there should be any confusion, don’t lose heart, there are a few remedies to try out.  You could feed your dog more than one meal a day, change the diet, or ask the vet for a product that could help reduce the gas.

Why does my dog make a meal out of his poop?

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Sushi may be a delicacy to some, but to others, it is just smelly raw fish. So before we start saying “eew, gross!” at all the disgusting things dogs eat, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt – even if it is poop they are relishing.

This absolutely disgusting and unhygienic behaviour may be repulsive to us humans, but most dogs don’t consider it yucky to grab a mouthful of canine crap. If fact, most dogs given half a chance, would grab a mouthful of animal manure when out for a walk in the countryside.

Coprophagia, as the condition is known, may be repulsive to us humans, but to our dogs it is a perfectly normal behaviour – nope, he’s not doing it just to gross you out.

There are many theories as to why a dog can become coprophagic – it can be a symptom of a dog suffering from certain medical conditions like diabetes or hyperthyroidism. Others believe that the eating of faeces may be a way for dogs to supplement a diet lacking in minerals and vitamins (who needs a multi vitamin when there’s some poop around?). It can also be a psychological condition caused by nervousness or a guilt complex instilled by an owner who was too harsh in housebreaking.

What does my dog have against my mother-in-law?

Ah, this is a sensitive issue. Before we delve into what relationship your dog has with your mother-in-law, we need to understand that dogs, like children, are not born with any prejudices – whether it is against a particular race of people, certain animals or even in laws. Hatred, bias against people or animals are all behaviours that are learnt in life. Now how does a dog learn to hate a certain type of person – whether it is a dark skinned person, a delivery man or even your mum-in-law? A lot depends on the variety of people a puppy is exposed to during his puppy socialisation period. Pups that have had positive experiences with a wide range of people usually grow up without much bias. You can also have dogs that learn to pick up on your personal bias against certain people and show their attitude by barking or even growling at that person. And then there are certain people who will probably always elicit suspicious behaviour from a canine – this is mostly due to their shifty or jerky body movements around the animal.

Why does my dog sniff another dog’s rear end?

Image: Dog Training Blog

Image: Dog Training Blog

This is one behaviour that can turn an owner crimson red. But there is a very good explanation behind (pun unintended) it. The dog’s anal glands lie on either side of its anus. They contain strong smelling fluid, which gets emptied regularly when the dog defecates. This fluid contains certain odours that can be ‘read’ by another dog. Another dog can seemingly tell the sex of the dog, its mood, health, and state of mind. The glands secrete the fluid when a dog meets another, is aggressively aroused, excited, scared or even angry. Each dog gives off a particular scent that is peculiar only to him. In human society we identify each other by fingerprints or photos; in dogs they do it with this special scent.  So when two dogs meet, it is the norm to sniff the other’s nether region.

Every time I have a party, my dog ends up anointing a few hapless guests.

The explanation is simple, for a dog looking to mark, any vertical object will do – even a leg! Urinating on a vertical surface is not a canine quirk. It has good reason. Bruce Fogle, in his book Know Your Dog, suggests the scent of urine on a vertical surface will generally last longer than the scent on a horizontal surface and it is less likely to get disturbed. The scent is also more at nose level, so the next dog coming by will be less likely to miss the scent. For dogs, urination is more than the mere elimination of waste products from the body- it is a way to establish their scent on a territory and to leave behind vital personal information. So when a dog cocks his leg on an unwitting guest, he probably has nothing personal against the person, he’s just using your guest to spread a message about himself.

What can I do about my dog’s malodorous habit of rolling in dead animals, and sometimes even faeces?

 

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How many of us have given a dog a bath only to find him running outside again to roll in something foul? Though frustrating and disgusting, this behaviour has its roots in survival. It is thought that dogs may choose to roll in rotting flesh to mask their scent, just as wolves do. Wolves roll in decomposing carcasses or the faeces of herbivores to disguise themselves. They want to cover their own odours so their prey will not be alarmed by their scent. This way, they can sneak up on their prey and have a better chance of making a kill.

Some behaviourists also feel that dogs may roll in smelly things to ‘advertise’ what they have found to other dogs. If a dog encounters the dung of a possible prey species, rolls in it and then interacts with other dogs, it could be telling them of its valuable find and instigating a group hunt. Other canines always find a smelly dog interesting (even if humans don’t) – they crowd around it and sniff it with great curiosity, reading all the exciting odours.

Whatever is my dog trying to convey when he mounts my girlfriends leg?

Image credit: rover.com

Image credit: rover.com

 

Let’s begin this answer by alleviating your fears – no, your dog is not competing with you for your amour’s attentions. Many people have been at the receiving end of a dog’s unsolicited sexual attention. As you embarrassedly try to push the animal off, you wonder why he would choose such an unpromising target. As awkward as it may be to us, dogs consider mounting a form of communication. Sure, in most cases it is done with amorous intentions, but a dog will also mount another dog or person as a display of social dominance —in other words, as a way of letting the other dog know who the boss is.

This behaviour is typically seen in adolescent dogs. With a lack of females in heat to mate with, the sexually frustrated dog turns his attentions to anything that will stay still long enough. The human leg makes an easy target, though dogs are known to mount anything – from cushions and slippers to cats and even vacuum cleaners.

Some dogs mount when they’re excited or over-stimulated. Too much petting or grooming, or the arrival of guests, can trigger the behaviour – especially in young intact males – and serves as a release for pent-up energy or anxiety. The correct way to respond is to politely push the dog off, rather than scold or punish him for something he has little control over.

It is a fallacy that hyper-sexuality in dogs can be relieved by allowing a dog to mate. In fact, it will only serve to increase the dog’s libido. Since mounting is most common in intact dogs, the first step is to neuter the animal. Studies show that 60% of cases where male dogs mounted people were helped or cured by castration; with a greater success rate in younger dogs.

Why does my dog enjoy embarrassing me by scooting across the floor on his butt?

Mainly because it itches and dogs are firm believers in the theory of scratching where itches. Scooting across the floor, does just that. When a dog’s anal sacs get impacted (filled to the brim) is causes the animal discomfort. Dragging his bum across the floor helps empty the fluid out (yes, onto your expensive carpet) and relieves the uncomfortable feeling. You can avoid all the drama by feeding your dog a good diet, getting the anal glands emptied by a vet or groomer on a regular basis, and getting your pooch checked by a vet for worms, allergy or even an injury.

So as you can see, most of our dogs’ charming habits are perfectly natural for them, even if they seem rude to us. Though is some cases, it probably is true that the dog carries out the behaviours with the sole intention of embarrassing his owner.

– Originally published by Woof Magazine. Republished here with the permission of the author.