12 Dog Behaviors & What They Mean

Your dog’s behavior reveals a lot about his mood. And, though you may not be fluent in canine lingo (aside from understanding what it means when she salivates), you must learn to interpret dog behavior. Have you ever seen your dog licking a certain texture or circling the same area in front of you? There are a variety of explanations why a dog’s state of mind or a health condition can cause him to behave in this manner. You’ll be able to help him if you pay attention to his behavior.

1. Bad Breath

Dogs aren’t known for their perfectly minty breath, so if you detect a significant difference in your dog’s breath, even if it’s just a little halitosis, it’s time to see your veterinarian. There may be a concern with your dog’s dental health.

A change in the odor of your dog’s breath may indicate a problem with his gastrointestinal tract, liver, or kidneys. If your dog’s breath smells like urine, he may be suffering from a kidney problem. Sweet-smelling breath may indicate diabetes in your dog (especially if he’s drinking more water and urinating more frequently). His dog’s overall mood may appear to be happy, but if his breath has changed, pay attention and call your veterinarian.

2. Biting

As they learn to interact with their pet parents, puppies may nip at you. This typically occurs while playing, as young dogs often interact through their mouths. It could also happen when you’re exercising or for no apparent cause. If your child is nipping on a regular basis, however, it’s critical to intervene before it escalates into a more serious dog action.

Dogs bite when they are nervous, afraid, or hostile. Can you find out what motivates your dog to do so? Is his state of mind affecting his actions? Consider partnering with a licensed trainer or, better yet, a veterinary behaviorist if you’re having trouble training your dog not to bite.

3. Circling

Dogs who can’t stop walking in circles may be suffering from a health condition. Yes, chasing your tail can be entertaining at times, but if your dog can’t seem to stop, there’s an issue lurking underneath the surface. Circling can be caused by ear infections, but bull terriers can also have compulsive tail chasing.

Of course, your buddy’s circling may be for a variety of reasons. Idiopathic vestibular syndrome may affect older dogs, and both dogs are at risk of poisoning or developing a brain tumor. Only your veterinarian will determine the cause of your dog’s circling, so schedule him an appointment to get some tests run.

4. Digging

Dogs dig in the dirt for a variety of purposes, including escaping, tracking predators, creating a cool place to sit, and hiding something valuable to them. Some dogs, however, “dig” inside as well. Have you ever heard your dog scratching at the covers or sofa in search of the ideal spot to rest? This is a perfectly natural dog activity that occurs most frequently at night and during naps.

If your dog’s digging is upsetting you or causing harm to your furniture, consider hiring a skilled trainer to help you break this stubborn habit.

5. Eating poop

Dogs eat feces for a variety of reasons; it’s a typical (though unappealing to us) dog activity. Young dogs may observe and imitate their mother cleaning them (and ingesting feces as a result). If your dog is scared of the consequences, he may even eat feces. On the other hand, your dog might simply be curious. He may detect certain odors in the feces and wonder how it tastes.

Eating feces can also be a natural way to make up for a nutrient deficit. Make sure your dog is consuming a well-balanced diet so you can rule out malnutrition as a source of his waste eating. If your dog is losing weight at an unusually fast pace, consult your veterinarian.

6. Head Pressing

If you find your dog rubbing his head against a wall or another solid object, you must intervene right away. Head pressing is a typical symptom of a number of serious conditions, including toxic poisoning and brain disease. Create an appointment with your dog’s doctor as soon as possible.

7. Panting

Dogs’ mouths are where they expel the majority of their body heat. When your dog pants, he’s usually too hot and is attempting to cool down. It’s important to pay attention to his panting, as he might do it when he’s in pain. Before engaging in any physical activity, assist your pal in regulating his temperature and ensuring that he is properly hydrated–especially when the weather warms up. If your dog has been wounded, take him to the veterinarian right away. Increased panting may be a symptom of a variety of other health issues, so consult your veterinarian if you have any concerns.

8. Sitting on Your Feet or Between Your Legs

This is often misinterpreted as possessive behavior, but it’s more likely a symptom of anxiety or nervousness. It’s unlikely that “dominance” is the issue; your dog is most likely trying to feel protected by staying near.

Yellow lab puppy sitting at owner's feet on a leash

Anxiety is often more than a dog trainer is qualified to help with so discuss the behavior with your veterinarian and see if your dog would benefit from a referral to a veterinary behavior specialist.

9. Scooting

Have you ever seen your dog dragging himself around the room, his bottom on the ground? It can appear humorous (or kind of disgusting). But it’s also known as scooting, and it indicates that something is bothering your dog’s anus. Your puppy’s anal sacs can be complete and need to be expressed.

If your dog’s anal sacs aren’t clogged, the issue may be inflammation caused by something else. Allergies may manifest themselves in the form of an itchy rear. Although it’s popular to blame worms for bad behavior, it’s a rare cause. Consult your veterinarian to ensure that your pet is on a parasite control regimen that is suitable for him.

Finally, a grass-eating dog or one that likes to lick around the house may have strands of grass or hair stuck in his anus and scratching the ground to get them out. This is the least serious explanation for scooting, but it’s also the most simple for you to assist him with.

10. Urinating

If your dog is housebroken, you may be surprised to find him urinating in your home. Dog behavior seldom changes without a cause. Formerly obedient dogs who suddenly start urinating inside require your immediate attention! This is a sign that something is seriously wrong with your pet, and repeated urination–even if he is in the correct location–could indicate a urinary tract, bladder, or kidney infection. It may also be a symptom of dementia in an elderly dog.

11. Yawning

American Staffordshire terrier puppy, white with black eye patch, yawns sitting on wooden boards

A dog yawn does not necessarily suggest that he is tired, even though you believe he is. He could be snoozing, but he could also be displaying signs of anxiety or tension. Don’t hurry the introduction if your dog seems to yawn more while meeting a new individual. He’s either picking up on vibes he doesn’t like, or he’s afraid for a less apparent cause. Forced introductions are never a good idea, regardless of the situation.

12. Anxiety Shows in Many Ways

Shaking, tail tucking, escapist conduct, defecating in the house, biting or hurting himself, and barking are all signs of anxiety.

Your dog can become afraid when left alone because they’re technically pack animals. If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, you’ll need to learn how to build a soothing atmosphere when you leave the home. To wear your dog out before you leave, take him for a long walk or play a vigorous game of fetch in your backyard. Also, don’t make a huge deal about your exit. If you’re still experiencing problems with separation anxiety, see a therapist who can help you with behavioral training.

If your dog exhibits some of these habits that are out of the ordinary for him, schedule an appointment with his veterinarian to rule out any systemic medical problems. Your once-sociable, high-energy dog will not become sedentary and withdrawn overnight. If he does, he’s demanding assistance.

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