There are a lot of things that make dogs happy, like going for a long walk, sniffing every blade of grass and a solid game of fetch. However, there are a lot of weird things that dogs do which puzzle their owners. Unlike humans, dogs don't often do things because they have to, unless specifically taught to do them. They do weird things because they like to do them or, at very least, it is ingrained into their DNA through the behavior of their oldest ancestors.
Snuggling Your Feet
So you've just got home from work, kicked off your shoes and are having a nice relaxing layabout on the couch. Suddenly, your dog comes up and plops down right on your feet. This behavior isn't particularly troubling unless the dog happens to be a big, leg-crushing breed, and many owners take it as a welcome sign of affection.
However, it isn't a sign of affection; it is a sign of ownership. By lying on your feet, they are sending a message to other animals by leaving their scent on the part where most other animals will first come into contact with you.
Alternatively, for dogs that love to cuddle up with you regardless of if they are lap-sized or not, it is because your scent and warmth are a bit like a security blanket. Your dog might also get it in their head that when they are cuddly, they get more affection and attention.
Dogs may be social creatures, but they don't like to sit down to a good dinner party like their owners. Even with their owners present, dogs may feel uncomfortable. When it comes to feeding time, dogs work on an alpha hierarchy wherein the leader of the pack gets first choice of the best bits of food. With the owner being the alpha, it will make most dogs feel better to eat alone so it knows you won't try to filch anything through your crazy alpha dominance techniques.
Alternatively, if your dog won't eat unless you sit and stare them down, you no longer are in control of your house.
Does your dog dig through the trash, shred any paper within reach, chew on the furniture or engage in any other destructive behavior? Dog experts agree that destructive behavior is often not a case of poor manners, but rather a case of boredom. Some breeds absolutely need a job to do, like Border Collies, but all dogs enjoy having something to pass the time and engage their brains.
There are a number of brain games to play with your dog that will help them work out the boredom. Some can be easily made while others are easily bought, but all involve hiding a treat. In the wild, dogs used to occupy their mind with scavenging for food. Hiding food, even if it is just behind an object, exercises this instinct.
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Getting Down and Dirty
No, Fido didn't go roll around in the mud immediately after their bath because they are a big, fat jerk. They did so to affect their scent. A dog's natural smell is telling to other dogs. It sends messages like what they have in their diet or if they are ready to mate. When a dog rolls in something stinky - be it mud, cow dung or garbage - they do so to mask their own odor.
Smelly things are the doggie invisibility cloak.
Alternatively, they may roll in smelly things because they like the smell and want to take it with them, like a perfume. If the behavior is annoyingly persistent, trainers recommend following up the behavior with something the dog dislikes, like shaking a jar or pennies or a quick squirt of water.
Carrying Objects Around
Say Fido picks up a bone, but instead of sitting down to have a nice relaxing chew, they walk into the bedroom. A few seconds pass, and they walk out and back into your sight. This repeats for half an hour until they appear to get bored and lay next to the bone on the floor.
Why? What was the reason?
Dogs carry items around because they like them and want to protect them. Sometimes they will hide them, sometimes they will sleep on them, and sometimes they will just keep them in their sight. They think that if they leave these items alone even for a second, a more dominant dog will come along and take it away.
Sometimes a dog may even drop the item on you. This is a good sign, as the dominant animal will get first dibs on all things. This is your dog's way of showing that they respect your alpha status.
Stashing All Your Favourite Things
Next time your favourite shoe, necklace or smart phone goes missing, don't be so quick to blame your toddler or any errant underwear gnomes. Dogs are attracted to things that the both of you like and will often snatch them away and hide them in places like under the bed or in the cavernous void of the couch. While it is more common to pry up a couch cushion and find 36 bones and a squeaky toy, some dogs will take their owners objects in order to preserve them.
Instinctually, dogs are programmed to stockpile any excess. Before domesticated, meals weren't guaranteed and any leftovers got buried for a rainy day. Dogs don't usually tuck things away today so much so because they might get hungry later, but because it helps ease the boredom or they'd like to keep something with your scent for later. There is another theory that states that dogs, like young children, will take any attention even if it is negative. So, scolding your dog for hiding your hairbrush somewhere is likely going to enforce the behavior. If it has become a serious problem, owners may want to invest in puzzles for their dog.
Licking Your Face
It has long since been believed that when Fido lays a big wet one on your face, they are showing their affection for you. While that is not too far from the truth, they also lick for a few other reasons. One of the most frequent cases is because it is instinctual. Licking is a way to show that they are submissive to a more dominant animal. (That's you!)
Alternatively, licking is a way to relieve stress, much like how kids suck their thumbs. It has also been said that because humans sweat, and sweat is salty, that dogs just like the way we taste.
One would think frozen treats would be met with an up-turned nose until they thawed out. However, frozen dog treats, especially in hot temperatures or after hard exercise, are almost always well received. This love of cool treats in hot weather boils down to a dog's temperature regulation system.
When a dog pants, they do so to let out hot, moist air in favor of the cooler air. This cooler air cools the blood vessels in a dog's head and circulates around the body. So, when a dog licks or takes something cold in their mouth, it speeds up the whole process. Frozen treats, if nothing else, are an excellent tool to cool down thick-furred dogs that are prone to heat stroke.
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Sitting in Its Crate
Old Fido has the whole run of the house, and yet, when they get tired, they always go into their crate for a snooze. Domesticated dogs still carry an instinct or two from their wild days, and this is one of those instincts. Many domesticated dogs still seek to create a den. In the wild, this may be a hole in a rockface or a burrow in the ground. In your house, it is their crate. They feel safe inside, and it is a place to go when they get too stressed out or tired of all the attention.
Let your dog have its space and they will be happier for it.
Making Up its Bed
Who doesn't enjoy a nice soft bed? Like hedonists, dogs are particularly fond of comfortable spaces when they have the choice. So naturally, when they are overwhelmed with choice, they will pick the most comfortable spot and try their very best to make it even more comfortable without the use of opposable thumbs.
The most basic form of making a spot more comfortable is walking around in a few tight circles. This habit dates back to their ancestors who had to sleep rough in the field. Not only would it trample down long grass, but it would imprint their scent on the area which signalled to other animals that they had claimed the area.
While some dogs are content to just do a little trampling and have a nap, others can be pretty fussy. Some dogs may insist on bring over a particular blanket or paw the blanket they have until the lumps are in all the right places. Others might not be able to sleep without a favorite toy. This is all about comfort and security, two aspects that make for one happy dog.
Listening to Music
Dogs are known for their supreme sense of smell, but they actually have decent pitch as well. In fact, when dogs bark and howl at each other, they make sure to change their tone in order to be heard as unique among the clamour.
While dogs may not sing along or head bang to music, the pitch and rhythm in music does influence their mood in the same way music effects people. According to research by psychologist Deborah Wells at Queens University in Belfast, dogs particularly like vocal music. The sound of human voices quells loneliness, but the tempo of the music can either be calming (like with folk music) or agitating (like with heavy metal).
Hanging About with Other Dogs
They may bark at every dog that walks by the window, but when it comes down to it, dogs like to hang out with other dogs on occasion. They are pack animals and usually humans will replace their pack, but some still enjoy other dog-to-dog interaction. They like to have friends, and as your dog's alpha, those are shoes you will never quite fill.
This can vary from dog to dog, though. If your dog bristles or starts to growl around another dog, ease them off.
Sometimes, you glance over at old Fido and swear that it is watching TV with you. Maybe there is a dog on screen and it seems plausible or maybe they are just staring that direction for no reason. In fact, dogs do watch TV on occasion. However, dogs experience TV different than humans. They see a limited array of colors and require a high number of frames per second in order to see an image rather than a strobe.
Today, with all of our high definition televisions, dogs can actually get a little something out of the television. There is even a channel on cable for them called DogTV which shows interesting scenes like bouncing balls, landscapes, other dogs and even desensitizing things like vacuum cleaners. These short scenes help dogs pass the time and keeps them company.
However, like with people, TV is not a substitute with interaction with others face-to-face. Even if Fido gets a little mental stimulation from the tube, actually playing with them will make them much happier.