Dogs are cool. They make us laugh, cry, scream, and ponder. They are there to comfort us, remind us what life is really about, and show us that vanity is far from the answer to life. Dogs don’t care if they are beautiful primped stars, or mongrels with their tongue hanging out. If a dog has a booger on his nose, he’ll simply wear it proudly…and then lick it off! They usually don’t think about what they’re doing, unless trained to, and often just react when in a situation.
Dogs often show us humility, humbleness, innocence and personality rapped into a big ball of fur. But sometimes, it can be difficult for us humans to inturpret a dog’s behavior. How many times have you asked yourself, "Why is my dog doing that?" Well, if the answer is a lot, your not alone. Millions of dog owners often find themselves asking that exact question. I hope I can be helpful in answering that question in this entery. I will offer some scenarios, then try to explain them. There’s no way I can review every strange thing that a dog does in one blog entery, so if you have one to share, please do. I will try to answer it for you as soon as I can.
1.)So you find yourself sitting at home, reading the paper or watching T.V. when out of no where your dog goes berzurk. He starts running all around, cutting corners hard, jumping on the couch and then off again, with no real purpose behind this odd behavior. You sit in awe, wondering and pondering why your dog is acting like a nut. You ask yourself, "Did my dog drink some jet fuel, or ingest some kind of enhanced caffine pill or something?" The behavior lasts for what seems like 30 mins before it finally ceases and your dog colapses on the floor.
So why do dogs do that? Well, some dogs do it more than others, and still some dogs don’t do it at all. Some reffer to this phenomena as the "Hebbie Jebbies" or they call their dogs "spastic." The truth is… dogs that display this kind of behavior need more exercise. If I had to name one thing as a trainer that the general public doesn’t understand about dogs, it would be that dogs create and store energy all the time. If that energy is not released in a healthy manner, like a walk, run, or jog at least once a day (whether they are outside dogs or not) this energy explodes, or releases in some other form. Some dogs run around like crazy, others become destructive. Imagine drinking so much coffe, or soda, that you are wired. Then imagine that you have to sit still and not move for an entire day while you are wired on caffine. Try it, even for 30 mins. Eventually, you wouldn’t be able to contain yourself. You’d need to move, run, jog, jump up and down, or something to depense all that built up energy, right? Same applies for a dog. Only dogs don’t need to intake caffine to feel that way, their body chemistry already produces that kind of energy. As a matter of fact, that’s why its bad to give your dog caffine, and chocolate. It speeds up their heart so much, that they can have a heart attack and die. So just remember, your dog is telling you to help him release that built up energy, and staying in the back yard all day doesn’t do anything to help that.
Other signs that your dog has to much energy built up in his system include behaviors such as: Chasing his tail, digging, excessive barking, excessive jumping up, intense chewing, and sometimes even aggression.
2.)In this scenario, picture yourself at home laying in bed next to your dog. You notice that every night while you are in bed, your dog likes to lick you on the ankle. If not your ankle, then maybe she licks your hand, or her paws, or even another one of your dogs. She licks and licks until her tongue is dry. The sound of the licking is driving you mad. You tell her to stop, she turns her head to look at you, and then continues to lick anyway. You ask yourself, "Why is she doing that?"
Believe it or not, dogs can suffer from neurological problems just like we do. Constant licking in a certain spot on you, or your dog, at the same time every day could mean your dog has an OCD. Or obessive compulsive disorder. In the wild, dogs thrive on routine. They hunt at the same time (generally) every day, wake up around the same time, etc. But domesticated dogs don’t really need a routine to survive, however, they do need a routine to stay sane. When dogs don’t have a set routine everyday, they don’t know what to expect next, and that can make them quite nervous. Some dogs over compensate by creating their own routines. Your dog may tear up the trash a certain time everyday, or ask to go out only certain times of the day, etc. Dogs feel they have to do it because it is routine, and with out routine, there is no sturcture to their lives. But they also do it to nurture. Dogs in the wild bathe themselves, keep wounds clean, and love on eachother by licking one another. So how do you know if your dog has an OCD, or is simply nurturing you? Simple, a dog that has developed a licking OCD, has taken licking to a whole other level. Poodles are often known to lick their own paws until the fur is gone, as well are some other breeds. Why? Because it soothes them.
How do you keep your dog from developing an OCD? Simple. Set up a routine for your dog and follow it everyday. In example, start your dog on a feeding schedule, maybe once in the morning, and once in the evening. Leave the food out for about 30 mins then pick it up and don’t offer it again until the next meal time. Your dog will figure it out within a day or two. Also, take your dog for a walk everyday around the same time. Maybe you could even set up a specific time every night to train your dog. The sky’s the limit. If you do this, and stay consistent, you’ll notice your dog will start reminding you when it’s time to do the routine.
3.) Ok, lets say in this scenario you find yourself asking why your dog loves to chase things. Every time you throw a ball, or a car or squirrel goes by, your dog takes off after it. Your dog even chases a light or reflection that goes by him on the floor.
So why do dogs seem to love to chase things? Well, believe it or not, there is a name for it. It’s called "prey drive." Dogs with a high prey drive will chase just about anything. While others seem to only want to chase balls. A phenomena called "ball drive" found in domestic dogs, seems to stem from prey drive in wild dog species, and we’ll talk about that more later.
Wolves use prey drive to catch prey. Prey drive is the instinctual urge dog species have to give chase. With out it, dogs would not survive in the wild, because they would not be motivated to chase down their food. Ball drive is the domesticated dog’s version of prey drive. Ball drive is the urge domesticated dogs have to chase balls. Some trainers and behaviorists believe it to be a seperate drive from prey drive, while others believe it is one in the same. It is described as the urge domesticated dogs have to only chase balls, or to chase balls with more enthusiasm than anything else. Prey drive has been bred more into some dogs than into others. The hunting, sporting, hound, herding, and terrier groups (AKC) should have higher prey and/or ball drive than the other two groups, because it is their job to find, chase, and retrieve. Those two groups of dogs where specifically bred for those tasks. While the non-sporting and toy groups where bred specifically to be companion dogs.
Prey drive can become out of control in a dog when the dog is bored, or has excessive energy like in the first scenario. They may begin chasing cars and even people walking or jogging down the street. This can also become an OCD like in the second scenario, because the dog may feel compelled to chase intruders away regardless of the "intruder’s" intentions.
So there you have it. You now know why dogs do some of the crazy things they do. I could write about this forever, but I do not have the space, nor the time. I have only listed 3 of the most common things I get asked about. So I encourage you to share your scenarios with me and everyone else. I will try and respond with an answer to them as soon as I can.