From sniffing other dogs’ bums to eating other animals’ feces (or their own), puppies have many unusual behaviors that make us humans scratch our heads. Why do puppies chase their tails? Why do puppies sit on your feet? How do you know whether your puppy’s weird behavior is normal or cause for concern?
To help you out, here is a list of six common puppy behaviors and what they mean.
6 Strange Puppy Behaviors
Puppy Eating Grass
Because dogs evolved alongside humans, they have many of the same dietary requirements as we do. Dogs are omnivores and will consume vegetables and cereal grains as part of a balanced diet—including eating grass from the backyard garden. Dogs are also known to eat grass if their stomach feels upset.
How can you tell the difference between normal and abnormal grass-eating behavior? In general, if your puppy sometimes consumes a small amount of grass or other non-toxic plants in the backyard and is otherwise acting normal, then it isn’t a problem. (Not sure what is toxic? Check out our list of Backyard Dangers for Dogs.) If your puppy consumes grass and then vomits it up, doesn’t want to eat or has diarrhea, or is suddenly eating a lot of grass, then the grass eating might be a symptom of something else, and you should call your local veterinarian for advice.
Puppy Tail Chasing
Puppies are playful, and part of that play may involve chasing their tail, which they often think is just a toy and not even part of their body. Puppies can also chase their tails if they don’t get enough exercise or if they are bored. If they aren’t getting enough attention and you give them praise and attention when they chase their tails, they may learn to chase their tail to get a reaction. If you think your puppy is chasing her tail too much, try increasing daily exercise with games like fetch, take walks, or engage their minds with food puzzles or training.
Tail chasing can also indicate a medical or behavioral problem in some dogs. If your dog starts chasing her tail all of a sudden, or is excessively chewing at the tail or dragging her bum across the floor, then your dog could have an itchy bum due to intestinal parasites or irritating skin allergies. Anxious or obsessive compulsive dogs can also develop behaviors that involve excessive tail chasing.
If your puppy is chasing or biting her tail, have her examined by a veterinarian to make sure there aren’t any problems. It’s a good idea to help prevent issues like this from occurring by controlling parasites all year round with a broad-spectrum dewormer, like Interceptor® Plus (milbemycin oxime/praziquantel).
See important safety information below for Interceptor® Plus.
Puppy Licking Paws
Dogs and puppies naturally groom their whole body, including their paws, with their tongues. However, puppies can also lick and chew their paws excessively if they are itchy. It is normal to see a puppy cleaning her paws daily, but how do you know if it is a problem? In general, if you notice that the paws are red (look under the paws, in between the toes), if there is an odor to the paws, if there is hair loss on the paws, if the paws look swollen, or if the puppy seems to be licking excessively, then it indicates a problem.
There are several things that can cause itchy paws in puppies, including skin mites, allergies, and skin infections. Demodex is a very common mite seen in puppies that can cause itchy, red skin and hair loss. If your puppy has any of the signs listed above, or if you aren’t sure if your puppy’s paw licking is normal, talk to your veterinarian.
Puppy Digging in Bed
Why do dogs dig in their beds? If you’ve searched the internet with this question, then you have learned that it is called denning, and in most cases, is considered a normal canine behavior left over from their ancestors. Dogs use denning behavior to create a comfy, cozy spot to rest in. It is usually accompanied by turning in a circle several times before lying down. Denning is a natural behavior, and shouldn’t be discouraged. If your puppy is digging a lot in her bed, she could be cold. Try adding a blanket to the dog bed.
Puppy Eating Poop
One of the grossest puppy behaviors reported by pet parents is eating poop. Another name for this behavior is coprophagia. Coprophagia is a fairly common behavior among domestic canids, especially curious puppies that explore the world with their mouths. This includes exploring the gustatory wonders of their poop—and poop from other animals.
In most cases, coprophagia is a normal, exploratory behavior that fades as puppies mature, at around 8 to 9 months of age. If it doesn’t go away, or if your dog is an avid poop hunter, talk with your veterinarian about ways to discourage this behavior. Puppies may consume poop if they are malnourished, bored, stressed, isolated, confined too much, to get your attention, or if they are anxious.
While eating their own poop is disgusting, in most puppies it is harmless. If your puppy routinely eats other dogs’ or wild animals’ poop, however, she could be exposed to potentially harmful intestinal parasites, such as whipworms, roundworms, and hookworms. This is another reason why year-round parasite protection is so important.
If you notice that your puppy is eating poop, it’s not an emergency, but there are helpful steps you can take, such as regularly (and promptly) picking up dog poop from your yard and blocking access to cat litter boxes. You should also ask your veterinarian at your puppy’s next vaccination check-up appointment for tips to help stop the behavior.
Puppy Twitching in Sleep
Have you ever noticed how twitchy infants are when they sleep? Puppies can be the same way. The reason puppies twitch when they sleep is due to their immature nervous system, sleep cycles, and possibly dreams. Just like humans, dogs go through REM sleep cycles, which can cause twitching, paddling, kicking, and sometimes vocalization.
Harmless sleep twitching can also be confused for seizures, which is abnormal electrical brain activity that causes jerking or stiffening of the legs, loss of consciousness, confusion, and an abnormal mental state. Dogs that are seizuring may also urinate or defecate during a seizure, and they may act weird afterward, including drooling, disorientation, and panting. If you notice any of this, you should call your veterinarian immediately for advice.
Fortunately, most strange puppy behaviors can be explained as “normal for them.” If you are ever in doubt, do not hesitate to call your veterinarian.
Interceptor Plus prevents heartworm disease and treats and controls adult roundworm, hookworm, whipworm, and tapeworm infections in dogs and puppies 6 weeks or older and 2 pounds or greater.
Interceptor Plus Important Safety Information
Treatment with fewer than 6 monthly doses after the last exposure to mosquitoes may not provide complete heartworm prevention. Prior to administration of Interceptor Plus, dogs should be tested for existing heartworm infections. The safety of Interceptor Plus has not been evaluated in dogs used for breeding or in lactating females. The following adverse reactions have been reported in dogs after administration of milbemycin oxime or praziquantel: vomiting, diarrhea, decreased activity, incoordination, weight loss, convulsions, weakness, and salivation. For complete safety information, please see Interceptor Plus product label or ask your veterinarian.
Disclaimer: The author received compensation from Elanco US Inc., the maker of Interceptor Plus, for her services in writing this article.
Interceptor is a trademark of Elanco or its affiliates.
© 2020 Elanco or its affiliates. PM-US-20-2202
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