All Of Your Dog’s Strange Behaviors, Explained

Written by Angie Menjivar
Updated: October 10, 2022
© Yuri Kravchenko/Shutterstock.com
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Your dog’s antics can entertain you for a lifetime. Sometimes, they’re sweet behaviors, like when your pup lays on his back, cute little toe beans up in the air—does he know he’s melting your heart right then and there, or is he just born to kill bad moods? Sometimes, it’s when you tell your floof about your day and he tilts his head with apparent curiosity. Or when you celebrate one of his adorable big stretches! Sometimes it’s a funny sploot that gets your own head tilting! There’s never a shortage of strange behaviors when you share a home with the best pupper ever.

From small puppies to big ol’ babies, unusual behaviors persist. You’ve probably seen the army crawl, which is when your dog glides about the floor on his belly—this is usually because he’s itchin’ and he needs a good scratch. The bootie scooting boogie (butt dragging on the floor) is another strange behavior that’s also a real bummer if you have carpeted floors. But hey, your doggo’s butt is itching and since you’re no help, he’s got to take care of it! Speaking of butt problems, if you’re ever at your vet and someone yells out “hot bottom!” there’s a poor pup somewhere with massive diarrhea (and hopefully it’s not yours!).

Being a dog parent comes with all sorts of blessings and responsibilities—they really do become family. The blessings are all those countless moments when your dog just seems to understand you better than any English-speaking non-fur person could! It’s the licks, the cuddles, the nuzzling nose, and the request to play when all you want to do is sulk about a bad day. Dogs bring you back into the present and if that’s not the best place to be, we don’t know where is! Most dog behaviors are a normal part of their existence, as funky as they may get. But other times—something might be afoot.

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Nobody knows your fur babe better than you, so it’s pretty easy to spot when he’s acting stranger than usual. It could be subtle, or it could be a glaring, in-your-face, something-is-wrong behavior that prompts you to rush him to the vet. When that happens, we support you in getting the best care for him (with the best pet insurance)! Otherwise, we invite you to explore the table below, where we identify each strange behavior, let you know if it’s concerning, what possible underlying conditions could be contributing to it, and any product(s) to help the behavior! Keep checking back because we’re keeping this page alive with new behaviors and solutions as we identify them!

BehaviorIs It Concerning?Possible Underlying ConditionsProduct(s) to Help Behavior
Shaking HeadIf it’s a one-off, your dog may just be trying to clear debris or water from his ears. However, persistent head shaking can point to more serious health conditions.Ear infections, ear mite infestations, ear or head injury, ear hematomas, allergies, foreign objects, otitis media, and otitis interna, neurological conditions, hypothyroidism, or ear vasculitis1. Dog towels for when your dog goes swimming.
2. Ear cleaning solution to prevent infections.
3. Proper fetch toys instead of sharp sticks.
4. Fluorescent collars for safety.
5. Dog-proof fence to keep your dog safe.
6. Limited ingredient dog food to quell allergies.
Licking YouGenerally, it’s a sign of affection. However, it could also signal boredom or anxiety. Obsessive licking may point to a behavioral or medical issue.Anxiety, boredom, obsessive-compulsive disorder, allergies1. Automatic fetch toy for solo entertainment.
2. Interactive dog toys to relieve boredom.
3. Dog lick mats to relieve anxiety.
Tilting HeadNot usually—when your dog tilts his head and keeps his gaze on you, it’s considered normal. Permanent head tilting could point to a medical condition.Ear infection, allergies, neurological problems1. A special diet with limited ingredients to soothe allergies.
2. Ear cleaning solution to prevent infection.
Female Dog HumpingIt’s a way for female dogs to communicate but it could also point to behavior or medical issues that require attention.Urinary tract infection, difficulty urinating, poor socialization1. Dog training books to aid with behavior modification.
2. Snuggly behavioral aid dog toy.
3. Training dog treats.
Eating Their Own PoopIt’s normal, especially for puppies. However, your dog may be expressing a need or it could be indicative of disease in some cases.Attention-seeking behavior, anxiety, liver disease, intestinal parasites, gastrointestinal disease, nutritional deficiencies, malabsorption syndromes, diabetes, Cushing’s disease, thyroid disease1. Puzzle game toy to relieve anxiety.
2. Crate cover to create a comfortable, soothing environment.
3. Interactive toys for self-soothing.
4. Calming music.  
5. Head collar for bathroom breaks to prevent behavior.
6. Balanced dog food to ensure proper nutrient intake.
Kicking After PoopingThis is territory marking behavior and a way for dogs to clean their paws. In some cases, when the behavior persists, it could be due to anxiety.Anxiety1. Grass potty pad for training.
2. Dog shoes to prevent injury.
3. No-dig fences to create a contained space for potty breaks (also helps to protect your garden).
SmilingNot always, but what humans perceive as a smile could also be indicative of a range of other behaviors, including aggression.Stress, timidity, guilt, aggression 1. Interactive dog toys for consistent entertainment.
Sniffing ButtsTo greet each other, to identify and gather information about the other dog, or to determine whether a female is in heatNone. This is normal canine behavior.1. A training book can help you teach your dog not to sniff human butts, 2. Yummy, bite-sized treats for a job well done, 3. a clicker for audio reinforcement during training
My Dog Is Twitching in Their Sleep, Should I Be Concerned?Usually, if a dog twitches in its sleep it’s dreaming. Dogs have good dreams and nightmares, just like we do. Twitching and seizures are very different and, as a dog owner, you should learn to differentiate between them.Unlike twitching, seizures are a sign of a medical issue stemming from liver disease, neoplastic growth, brain trauma or tumor, toxins, or
kidney failure
1. A cozy bed will make your dog feel comfy and secure while it sleeps
When Do Puppies Lose Baby Teeth? The Full TimelineNo. Losing baby teeth so permanent teeth can grow is normal for puppies.Teething can cause red/swollen gums, discomfort/pain, increased chewing, and lethargy. Only lethargy is a concern and should prompt a visit to the veterinarian.1. Kong rubber chew toys can satisfy your teething puppy’s need to chew,
2. toothpaste, will help you keep your puppy’s permanent teeth healthy for a lifetime
Sniffing Your CrotchNo, this is simply how dogs gather information about you.None1. Train your dog to target your fist with a training book.
2. Use a clicker to confirm good behavior.
3. Use high value dog treats to reward good behavior.
Walking in Circles Before Laying DownNot usually, however, if you notice excessive circling, this could signal a medical condition.Ear infections, hip dysplasia, arthritis, osteoarthritis, neurological conditions, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorders1. Plush dog bed for extra comfort.
2. Heated dog bed or cooling dog bed for maximum temperature control.
3. Orthopedic dog bed to assist dogs with arthritis conditions.
4. Dog crate to create a soothing environment for anxiety relief.
Staring At the WallIt could be that your dog is detecting something that your human senses can’t pick up on or engaging in attention-seeking behavior but there are situations when this behavior is cause for concern.Focal point seizures, canine cognitive dysfunction, liver disease, head pressing, diabetes, loss of vision,1. Interactive dog toy to ease attention-seeking behaviors.
2. Puzzle toys to aid with mental stimulation.
3. Prescription dog food for liver care.
Following You to the BathroomThis is normal behavior, as dogs want to be part of all your activities. It could point to behavioral issues, particularly when paired with other symptoms.Separation anxiety1. Calming vest to ease anxiety.
2. Calming hemp chews to soothe separation anxiety.
ZoomiesYes, there is a wide variety of reasons why dogs zoom about like expending energy and demonstrating excitement. Unless paired with a concerning symptom, they are not a cause for concern.Anxiety, stress1. Durable dog toys to keep your pup entertained and minimize stress and anxiety.
Digging HolesNot really, digging holes is a natural impulse for dogs but it could point to behavioral issues.Boredom, stress1. An automatic dog fetching machine to relieve boredom.
2. Dog crate and dog crate cover to alleviate stress and stress-related behaviors.
Paw LickingNot always, particularly when only done on occasion. But when the behavior becomes excessive, it could point to either behavioral or medical issues that require your attention.Injury/pain, skin issues, food allergies, anxiety, infection, parasites1. Waterproof dog shoes to protect your pup’s paws.
2. Sensitive skin and stomach dog food to minimize or eliminate allergic reactions to food.
3. Puzzle game toy to keep your pup’s attention and relieve anxiety and anxious behaviors.
Licking Each Other’s EarsIf it’s just once in a while, no. But if you notice it’s happening a lot, it could point to something worth paying mind to.Infection, obsessive-compulsive disorders1. Dog lick mats to redirect licking behavior.
2. Interactive dog toys to provide entertainment and engagement while alleviating anxious, obsessive behaviors.  
HowlingGenerally, no, but howling could point to behavioral issues.Separation anxiety, emotional or physical pain1. Hemp calming treats to soothe anxious feelings.
2. Remote dog training collar to reduce unwanted behavior.
3. Dog treats to reward good behavior.
Sitting, Sleeping, and Laying at Your FeetNo, this is normal behavior. However, if it’s happening frequently along with other changes, it could point to a behavioral issue.Anxiety1. CBD for dogs to aid with reducing anxiety.
2. Dog treats for behavior modification.
Chasing CarsYes, dogs could become seriously injured (or worse) when they engage in this behavior.Predatory instinct, wanting to play, territorial protection, boredom, and excitement1. Dog training book to shift unwanted behavior.
2. Flyer dog toy to engage fetching play.
3. Dog proof fence to keep your dog in an enclosed, safe area.
4. Ball launcher toy to safely redirect chasing behavior.
Rolling in PoopNo, this is basic canine behavior that helps them mark their territory, carry messages to their pack, and camouflage (they may just like their own scent too!)None1. Ball toys to redirect behavior during training.
2. Tasty treats to use as a reward for good behavior.
3. Pet wipes to clean your pup up on the go.
4. Dog shampoo to remove any poop and get your dog smelling better.
Staring at YouNot usually—staring is a way for dogs to receive information and communicate with you. If your dog is older, this could point to a medical condition.Cognitive decline, illness/pain1. Dog food specifically formulated for senior dogs.
2. Interactive dog toys to reduce boredom.
3. Dog training bell to teach your dog how to communicate specific needs to you.
Burying BonesNo, this is usually due to your pup wanting to preserve something he values. However, constant digging could point to a behavioral issue.Obsessive-compulsive disorder1. Puzzle game toy to keep your pup engaged with a mentally stimulating activity.
WhiningUsually, dogs whine because they want something from you. Whining could also point to behavioral or medical issues.Fear, anxiety, injury, illness/pain1. Calming music to ease fear and anxiety.
2. Calming dog treats to soothe an activated nervous system.
PantingNot always but panting could point to underlying medical conditions if excessive.Heatstroke, poisoning, pain, injury, reaction to medications, eclampsia, low calcium levels, allergies, infection, airway irritation, full stomach, bloat, Cushing’s Disease, heart failure, lung problems1. Balanced dog food to ensure appropriate nutrient intake.
2. Limited ingredient dog food specially formulated for dogs with allergies to reduce allergic reactions.
3. Slow-feeder bowl to keep your pup from eating too quickly (which can cause a full stomach, bloating, and vomiting).
Rolling In the GrassNo, the behavior itself isn’t concerning but it could be dangerous if the grass has been treated with pesticides or herbicides or if you’re in a flea and tick-infested environment.None1. Flea and tick treatment to protect your pup when outdoors.
Chasing Their TailsIt could be. While it could be boredom, there could be more serious underlying conditions.Obsessive-compulsive disorder, parasites, allergies, injury, medical1. Automatic dog ball launcher to keep your pup entertained.
2. Chewable tablets that work on heartworms, hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms (plus, they prevent flea and tick infestations).
Howling at SirensNo, it’s normal.None1. Training to teach your dog not to howl at sirens.
2. Treats to reward good behavior.
3. Bark collar to aid with training.
Chasing SquirrelsNo, this is just your dog expressing his natural prey drive.None1. Fetch toys that appeal to your dog’s prey instinct.
2. Short leash to use on walks where squirrels are present.
3. Halter collar to provide better control on walks.
4. Dog first aid kit in the case of injury from a squirrel.
Eating GrassYes, it could be.Inflammatory bowel disease, gastric reflux, pancreatitis, stress1. High-quality dog food for proper nutrient intake.
2. CBD pet tincture to reduce stress.
BarkingBarking is normal for dogs but on some occasions, yes, it could be cause for concern.Boredom, fear, separation anxiety, pain, canine cognitive dysfunction1. Puzzle game to alleviate boredom.
2. Calming collar to reduce excessive barking.
Eating Cat PoopIt is normal but it should be stopped. It could also point to underlying medical issues.Boredom, stress, malnutrition, parasites, endocrine or hormonal imbalance, cognitive decline1. High protein dog food to ensure your dog has a balanced and wholesome diet.
2. Special dog food for seniors to ensure they get the right nutrients as they age.
3. Slow-feeding dog bowl to protect the stomach during meal time.
Licking Your FeetNo, this is normal behavior for dogs. You can redirect it though.None1. Lick mat to redirect licking behavior.
2. Rope toys to redirect behavior.
Reverse SneezingWhen combined with other unusual symptoms, reverse sneezing could point to an underlying condition.Allergies, nasal mites, constriction, foreign bodies1. Limited ingredient dog food to help with allergies.
Chasing CatsIt’s normal behavior but it should be consistently discouraged.None1. Fetch machine to redirect chasing behavior.
2. Gate to separate pets.
3. No pull dog harness to keep dog from chasing.  
ShakingIn many cases, this is normal. However, there could be behavioral or medical issues that need to be addressed.Fear, anxiety, pain, old age, nausea, poisoning, cerebellar hypoplasia, shaker syndrome, shaking puppy syndrome, epilepsy, Addison’s disease, hypocalcemia, hypoglycemia, distemper1. Specially formulated dog food for senior dogs to strengthen their joints.
2. Head halter to prevent garbage-curious dogs from getting into poisonous items.
3. Dog food for diabetic dogs.
Bringing Sticks HomeThis is a normal instinct but should be discouraged to prevent injury.None1. Bone dog toy for aggressive chewers.
2. Automatic dog ball launcher toy for a safer fetching item.
3. Flying disc toy that’s safe to bite during fetching games.
Barking At NothingOn some occasions, this could point to behavioral or medical issues.Stress, anxiety, cognitive dysfunction, pain1. CBD oil to relieve stress and anxiety.
2. Engaging toys to mentally stimulate your pup.
Scratching Their BedsTypically, this is normal behavior that you can work to dissuade but if it happens during sleep, something may be wrong.Seizures, REM behavior disorder1. Calming bed to soothe your pup.
2. Non-shedding fleece blanket to add to your pup’s dog bed.
3. Pet nail trimmer to keep your dog’s nails from doing too much damage.
Licking ThemselvesYes and no. Dogs lick themselves often but when you notice it’s excessive, it’s worth exploring further.Anxiety, allergies, skin infections, parasites, pain, anal gland issues, urinary tract infection, bladder stones1. Flea shampoo or flea collar to eliminate them.
2. Licking mat to relieve anxiety and redirect licking behavior.
2. Dog puzzle to quell boredom.
3. Limited ingredient dog food to reduce allergic reactions.
4. Dog wipes to keep your pup clean when on the go and facing environmental allergens.
Eating DirtYes, not just because it likely points to an underlying issue but because it is harmful to your dog.Nutrient deficiencies, boredom, separation anxiety, anemia, cancer, immune-mediated diseases, hookworms, fleas, ticks, gastritis, inflammation1. Provide high-quality dog food so your pup gets all the nutrients his body needs.
2. Puzzle dog toy to keep your dog from getting bored.
3. Dewormer to keep your pup protected, especially after eating dirt.
Putting Their Paw on YouGenerally, no. But sometimes, your dog could be trying to alert you of an injury.Leg sprain, cracked paw, a thorn in the paw pad1. Dog shoes to protect your pup’s paws in environments where he may get hurt.  

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Basenji rolling on couch
Owners will enjoy their basenji mix best if they are able to meet the dog halfway and have a sense of humor about the mischief they can get into.
© Yuri Kravchenko/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Angie is a writer with over 10 years of experience developing content for product and brand reviews, focusing much of her time on animals of all types. A cat owner herself, she enjoys writing articles on beloved pets that both inform and entertain her audience.

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