Have you ever wondered why your dog does weird things, like sniff other dogs’ butts or get the zoomies? Everyday behaviors like cuddling and kisses are something every dog parent loves, but there are certain behaviors that many pet parents just don’t understand.
We’ve all seen dogs eating grass when out for a walk, and watching dogs interact at the dog park or on a hiking trail often leads to displays of quirky behaviors. However, many of these weird dog behaviors aren’t to entertain us (or your dog, for that matter). There is usually a physiological reason dogs do these things. And they may even signal something is going on internally with your pup that needs to be examined further.
Why is My Dog Acting Weird?
Paying attention to a dog’s behavior is invaluable. We gain a lot of information by watching our dog’s routines, habits, and daily patterns. And knowing what is normal behavior for our dogs helps us understand when our dogs are acting weird or out of character.
Dogs may suddenly start to act weird for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, the cause is related to a change in their environment or routine, a new stress trigger, or the onset of an illness or injury.
One of the key ways to tell the difference between a strange behavior that’s just quirky and something that could point to a health or behavioral issue is how repetitive or obsessive the behavior is. For example, if your dog is constantly eating their own poop or has an ever-present head tilt, these may be signs that something is wrong and your dog should be seen by a veterinarian.
6 Weird Dog Behaviors Explained
To decode your dog’s behavior, let’s dive deeper into some of these quirky, funny, and strange things your dog may be doing. This will give you a better idea of why your pup is acting weird and if you need to be concerned.
Why Do Dogs and Puppies Eat Grass?
We’ve all seen it—dogs eating grass. Whether it’s your own dog mowing your fresh spring lawn or seeing a dog casually grazing the wild grasses on the edge of the trail, this behavior is not uncommon.
Many people believe that dogs with an upset stomach will eat grass to make themselves vomit. This is true to some extent. In a survey of more than 1,500 dogs, 79 percent were documented to eat grass at least monthly. Only 9 percent of the dogs appeared ill prior to eating plants and about 22 percent regularly vomited afterward (1). If your dog is constantly eating grass to make themselves vomit, make sure to have them examined by your veterinarian to find out why they feel nauseous.
Dogs and puppies may also choose to eat grass due to an imbalance in their gut bacteria. They may instinctually munch on grass to help bridge any nutritional gaps. If this behavior bothers you, you can look into offering your dog probiotics as a way to improve their gut health. But as long as your dog is not constantly vomiting after eating grass, it’s okay to let them eat a little bit of the green stuff. That being said, if dogs are eating a lot of grass, they can be more prone to intestinal obstruction, and it’s important to take them to your veterinarian to figure out why they are consuming such a large amount.
Finally, some dogs simply seem to enjoy eating grass. Many dogs who eat grass do not have any underlying health disorders.
Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws?
Another weird dog behavior is when a dog licks their paws. Licking for dogs has many self-soothing properties due to the endorphins (aka feel-good hormones) that are released. However, if your pup is excessively licking their paws, this could indicate there may be a health condition or behavioral problem occurring. So, how do you know the difference?
Many dogs will lick their paws after going for a walk, playing, or eating—when they stop and take a rest. This type of licking is considered a normal behavior.
But if you’re noticing that your dog or puppy is constantly licking, chewing, or nibbling at their paws or nails, there may be something bothering them. The most common cause is an environmental allergen from grasses or pollens that causes inflammation in the body and makes the paws itchy.
You should check for any excessive redness between the paw pads and toes, look for any foreign bodies (like grass seeds or rocks) that may be stuck in the paw pad, and if you see any of these, make sure to take your dog to the veterinarian to get assessed.
Also, some dogs will lick if there is pain present from conditions like osteoarthritis (which is more common in aging dogs), a cut, or an interdigital cyst. If your dog is licking excessively enough to create a sore, red skin or a skin infection, make sure to take them to the veterinarian to rule out underlying health conditions.
Why Do Dogs Sniff Butts?
Even though dog butt sniffing seems like a gross behavior, this is a normal way that dogs introduce themselves and get to know each other. Dogs have anal glands that are scent markers. Each dog has their own smell that is constantly changing depending on their emotions. This ancestral behavior of sniffing butts allows dogs to know whether the dog they’re sniffing is friendly, scared, anxious, and if they are male or female.
When you see your dog sniffing another dog’s backend, make sure to allow this to happen (as long as both dogs are comfortable with the interaction). This is a normal behavior that helps your dog get important information about their canine friends.
Why Do Dogs Get the Zoomies?
Have you ever seen a dog get a crazy, wild look in their eyes and then just take off running with a burst of energy? This is what we call the zoomies and it’s a completely normal behavior for dogs.
Zoomies are actually a sign that your dog is feeling great, full of energy, and is really happy. Dogs tend to get the zoomies after bath time when they feel fresh and clean, when you get home from work and they’re really excited to see you, or even right before a walk. Embrace the zoomies, since this means your dog is super joyful at that moment in time.
Just make sure when your dog gets this burst of energy that you protect them from crashing into you or other objects in the environment that could cause harm. Also, watch for slippery floors during zoomie time, which could lead to wipeouts and injury.
Why Do Dogs Tilt Their Heads?
Watching your dog tilt their head when you’re speaking is quite comical and heartwarming. However, researchers are at a loss to explain why dogs exhibit this behavior.
One of the theories is that dogs who tilt their heads are more sensitive than others and more attached to their owners. Dogs also have a good sense of hearing and this behavior may help them clue in to certain words that are being said. For example, many dogs who tilt their heads will only do it for certain high-value words like “dinner” or “walk.”
Most of the time, dog head tilting is not something to worry about. However, if your dog is frequently tilting their head or has a constant head tilt, this can indicate a medical issue. Your dog may feel dizzy or unbalanced which can happen with disorders of the vestibular system, like vertigo. There are numerous causes for this condition ranging from ear infections, grass seeds stuck in the ear, toxic reactions to drugs, or a brain disease.
If head tilting is something that your dog does frequently or suddenly, go to the veterinarian for a complete physical exam and to check your dog’s ear canal.
Why Do Dogs Yawn?
While yawning may seem like a strange canine behavior, it’s actually something that all dogs do. You may notice a dog yawning as they are getting ready to take a nap or go to bed. We assume that yawning means that our dogs are tired or bored, but the research shows yawns have a bigger function for our dogs.
Yawning can actually help with stimulating the nervous system. Due to this function, you may notice yawning occurs more with transition phases like waking up, falling asleep, or going from being bored to more alert.
Yawning also has an emotional function for dogs and can be an indicator of stress. This is one of the many reasons why assessing these quirky or seemingly strange behaviors can help us identify what our dogs are thinking and communicating with us so we can avoid conflict.
For example, if your child is hugging your dog and the dog starts yawning, this is a stress signal that shows the dog is uncomfortable. In these instances, pet parents should stop the behavior or interaction that is causing stress and give the dog some space.
When Weird Dog Behaviors Aren’t So Weird
In conclusion, whether dogs are yawning, sniffing butts, eating grass, or displaying other quirky and sometimes funny actions, these behaviors have physiological and emotional reasons behind them.
When you start to learn why the behaviors are happening, it allows you to gain a better understanding of your dog and connect to them on a deeper level.