Dogs see the world from their own unique perspective and do things based on instinct. To canines, it’s perfectly natural to search the trash for an interesting tidbit, or chase the neighborhood cat that dares to enter their domain. Dogs instinctively know it’s wise to circle before lying down even though their bed is inside away from biting insects. Some of the things dogs do seem odd to us, though. Here are five strange behaviors of dogs and why they do them.
Kicks Leg When Scratched
Your dog is relaxing on his back and you scratch what you think is a “sweet spot” on his belly. He immediately responds by kicking his leg in the air. Some dogs react when their lower chest or upper area of the back leg is scratched. You didn’t really find a sweet spot, but you did hit a nerve and his rapid kicks are involuntary. It’s the same reaction we have when the doctor taps our knee with a rubber mallet to check our reflex. In fact, a vet may check a dog’s scratch reflex to determine if the dog is dealing with a neurological concern.
You can tell if your dog enjoys being scratched by watching his body language. If he’s relaxed and lying on his back with his tongue dangling from his opened mouth, he’s probably OK with it. But if his legs are stiff, his mouth is closed, his ears are flattened and he shows signs of wanting to move – he is likely saying “stop doing that.” Think about it this way – if your doctor kept hitting your knee over and over with his hammer to activate your reflex, would you enjoy it?
Yes, dogs can laugh, but not in the same way we do. It sounds like an excited burst of breathy panting exhaled from the mouth; a dog does this when playing with his owner or other canines. A doggy laugh is probably more of a reflex response than an intentional laugh, but it does indicate a dog is being playful, relaxed and having a good time.
When recordings of doggy laughs are played in animal shelters, studies have shown they send a positive message and help reduce pacing, barking and other signs of stress in shelter dogs. The good news is that dogs don’t laugh at us, just with us – anyway, we hope that’s the case!
A reverse sneeze is when your dog, without any warning, makes a choking or snorting sound while sucking air into his nose. His neck is extended and it looks like he might be choking on something. You might notice the corners of his mouth pulled back during a reverse sneeze. It’s usually not as serious as it sounds and will pass shortly. The medical term is paroxysmal respiration and can be caused by drinking or eating too fast, nasal infection or something in the air that irritates the dog’s nose.
When the throat or palate is irritated, it causes a spasm which results in the dog inhaling quickly through his nose. Sometimes the sudden inhaling causes the trachea to narrow and makes it more difficult for proper air movement. If you notice a nasal discharge or your dog has recurring problems with reverse sneezing, have him checked out by your vet. If your dog tends to wolf down his CANIDAE meals, try using a food puzzle bowl to slow him down.
Barking at the Mailman
To dogs, the mailman is a nemesis who enters their territory almost daily and violates their space by putting stuff in the mailbox. When the mailman approaches, the dog sends out his warning bark. With the mail safely delivered, the mailman leaves. In the dog’s mind, it was his barking that drove the stranger away.
It doesn’t take long for him to learn that his fierce barking obviously intimidated the person and scared him away. However, when the mailman returns the next day, louder barking is needed to make the stranger go away because he apparently didn’t get the message. Each time the dog barks and the mailman goes away, the dog is rewarded and a pattern develops over time.
Drinking Out of the Toilet
It’s not uncommon for dogs to walk past their water bowl to get a drink from the toilet. To him it’s a never ending supply of clean cool water. Constant flushing means the water is fresh and oxygenated. Unlike metal or plastic bowls that can change the taste of the water, the porcelain bowl doesn’t.
It’s best to curb this behavior though, because your dog could ingest harmful bacteria or toxic chemicals from cleaning products. Just keep the lid down so your dog can’t drink from his favorite porcelain fountain.
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