Have you ever wished your dog could just tell you what they’re thinking? Things would be so easy if they could just walk up to you and say “Hey human, I would like to go outside to do my business now instead of on the new carpet later.”. Or if they could let you know “Hi Mom, the reason I keep chewing up your shoes is that I’m incredibly anxious and need some reassurance”. While it can take some time and training to teach your dog to “talk” to you, there are many common behaviours dogs exhibit that can be easily explained. It's no heart-to-heart chat, but these 7 habits have been decoded to help you understand what your pet is really saying.
This behaviour is very common in younger dogs. Puppies use their mouths to play, to nurse, and to generally determine what new objects are. If you give a puppy an object it has never interacted with before, odds are that it's going to bite or chew on it to determine how interesting it is. Play biting is also quite normal for baby dogs but can become problematic if it continues into adolescence. When an adult dog bites it is likely because they are scared or anxious. If biting becomes a common occurrence, especially towards other dogs or people, consider working with a trainer to resolve the behaviour.
Chewing shoes and socks
To a dog, there is almost no item of clothing more exciting than a shoe. Shoes provide a lot of stimuli for a dog. They all have different shapes, textures and smells. By smelling your socks or shoes, your dog can learn about all the different places you went to that day. The chewing behaviour comes out when they get stressed or nervous, and your shoes just happen to be the most interesting and accessible thing to gnaw on.
In most cases, circling is a normal behaviour dogs exhibit before laying down, urinating, or sniffing some new thing. But if it starts to become a compulsive behaviour this is not normal and can signal an underlying problem. Compulsive circling can mean they’re experiencing pain or neurological problems, which can be diagnosed and treated by a veterinarian.
A classic pastime, digging provides many advantages and opportunities for a dog (maybe not for your lawn though). Dogs dig to hunt animals or escape and explore. Many dogs dig holes to lie in, as they make nice cool beds that smell great (to them). For dogs, digging is a stress-relieving experience that brings them comfort. While it is totally normal, some owners prefer to diminish this behaviour if it becomes too destructive.
Head shaking/ear scratching
If you notice that your dog is constantly scratching their ears or vigorously shaking its head, it could be a sign of an ear infection. Some breeds are more susceptible to ear infections, such as those with big floppy ears like cocker spaniels or poodles. Make sure to routinely check your pup's ears and make sure they’re clean and healthy.
When a potty-trained pup suddenly starts urinating in the house it can signal that there's something else wrong. This also applies to dogs that have an increased need to urinate as well. These behaviours can mean your pet has a kidney or urinary tract infection, or for older dogs, it can be a sign of dementia.
Many dog owners say that they know their dog understands them because they tilt their heads when being spoken to. This is kind of true. Dogs often do this when they are interested in what's going on but aren't really sure what to make of it. So while your dog doesn't actually know what you're talking about, you have their full attention (and they look so cute while doing it).