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7 Strange Dog Behaviors and What They Mean

Dogs are weirdos! Sure, they might act normally when a treat is offered, but left to their own devices, they can behave in some pretty strange ways. Sometimes those behaviors are funny, sometimes they’re gross, and sometimes they can even be concerning.

Here are 7 strange behaviors dogs often display, what they’re likely to mean, and what owners can do about them.

1. Hip shivers 

If you’ve ever noticed your dog shaking or shivering from its hindquarters, you’re not alone. Dogs will often shake, shudder, or shiver their hips, especially if they’re bigger breeds.

What does this behavior mean?

Dogs shiver for lots of reasons, including when they’re excited. But shudders located around the hips can be a sign of discomfort in that region. Joint swelling around the hips is one of the most common canine issues, with a large proportion of doggos experiencing it at some point in their lives.

What can owners do?

If you suspect your dog is shivering due to joint pain, try an anti-inflammatory supplement such as CBD oil or dog-safe NSAIDs.

2. Howling

Dogs clearly love howling, and many seem to have their own particular howling style. If you’re the owner of a regular howler, you’ll also know that it doesn’t take much to set them off – it could be sirens, other dogs in the neighborhood, or even the TV.

What does this behavior mean?

Howling is an ancestral behavior that dates back to when wild dogs needed to locate others across wide distances. In domestic dogs, howling doesn’t seem to serve any function, but dogs may find it satisfying.

What can owners do?

There’s no need to do anything if your dog occasionally enjoys a good howl. But, if howling is associated with other behaviors such as pacing and whining, it may be a sign of separation anxiety.

3. Zoomies

Zoomies are one of the most well-known weird dog behaviors, but most owners don’t stop to wonder why their dog has suddenly decided to sprint laps of the yard.

What does this behavior mean?

Animal behavior experts believe that the zoomies are simply an expression of excess energy and excitement, which is why many owners notice that they often occur in the evening, after dinner, or when visiting favorite places such as the park or beach.

In some cases, owners have noticed their dogs running around to help dry themselves off after a bather or dip in the lake.

What can owners do?

There’s no need to do anything about zoomies, but if you find that your dog is racing around uncontrollably at inappropriate times, it may help to adjust their schedule to manage when they’re likely to be at their most energetic.

4. Head tilting

It’s the classic picture of a cute puppy: sitting with eyes wide, head tilted to the side. Some dogs gradually stop tilting their head as they get older, while others continue the behavior throughout their life.

What does this behavior mean?

Often, head titling is an expression of inquiry or confusion in dogs. Many owners will notice that their dog tilts their head in response to strange sounds or noises that they deem important.

Many experts believe that dogs naturally tilt their heads to maximize their sense of hearing, helping them pick out key words or sounds more easily. Others believe the behavior may have developed over dogs’ long history with humans, as an extra form of communication.

What can owners do?

Head tilting is normally nothing more than a cute behavior, and there’s no need to do anything about it. However, if head tilting is happening often, with a dog constantly leaning their head to one side, it may be a sign of an ear infection or internal imbalance, and needs to be looked at by a vet.

5. Eating poop

One of the grossest strange dog behaviors is their tendency to eat poop whenever they come across a mess on the sidewalk. It’s something many owners hate and wish they could train their dogs out of.

What does this behavior mean?

However, it’s important for owners to know that eating poop – while unpleasant – is natural dog behavior and not a sign that something’s wrong. Dogs mostly likely eat poop due to survival instincts, dating back to a time when food was scarce, and they needed to source whatever nutrition they could.

What can owners do?

Owners should try subtle methods to avoid poop-eating, such as distraction or guiding dogs away from any messes on the street. Being too aggressive with training can cause your dog to associate their poop with an angry response, risking them forming unhealthy associations.

6. Hiding objects

Many dogs will pick up bits of food, their bowls, their favorite toys, or even household objects, and move them around the home, often hiding them from owners. As any owner whose dog hides the TV remote knows, this can be highly frustrating!

What does this behavior mean?

Dogs that hide objects are most probably trying to protect them for one reason or another. They may hide their food because they’re worried about it being eaten by another pet or family member, and they may hide their favorite toys to keep them for themselves.

With other objects, it is possible that your dog has decided they must be valuable (often if you handle them a lot), and so they may be trying to help by concealing them.

What can owners do?

While hiding tendencies can be frustrating, it’s important not to punish your dog, as they may only be trying to help out the family. At the same time, owners shouldn’t react to hiding by smiling or laughing, as dogs may take this as a sign of encouragement.

7. Running in their sleep

Owners will often discover their dogs in their beds, moving, kicking, and even growling in their sleep. Is this just dreaming, in the same way humans do?

What does this behavior mean?

Most experts think that dogs dream in a similar way to humans, so any acting out in their sleep may be no different to using sleep talking or sleepwalking. When dogs sleep-run or bark, their eyes will often move underneath their eyelids, suggesting they are in REM or dream-stage sleep.

What can owners do?

There’s no need to wake your dog when they’re dreaming. In fact, waking a deeply sleeping dog can lead to them becoming confused or aggressive.

However, owners should bear in mind that canine seizures often occur during sleep, and their symptoms often mimic those same dreaming movements. If you notice your dog having particularly vigorous movements during sleep, and they often wake up heavily disorientated, it’s important to speak to a vet.

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