Published on August 17th, 2017 | by Debbie Martin0
Frequently Asked Questions – Why does my Dog?
According to the RSPCA’s last published figures in 2015 there were around 8.5 million dogs in the UK, confirming the dog’s number one position as the most popular household pet and it is estimated that we in the UK spend around £7 billion annually giving our pampered pooches everything they need.
But despite this, how much do we really understand our dogs? The dog training industry has never been busier with more and more dog owners acknowledging the need to make sure their dogs are well behaved in public and there are ever more dog behaviour specialists available on whom we can call for advice. The cleverest and most intelligent of dogs are utilised in many different fields from military, police and security work to medical detection and personal assistance. In all cases the dogs are trained to obey a huge variety of commands and to this end they develop a keen understanding of the human language. In fact it seems that dogs understand more of our language than we understand of theirs. To try and redress the balance we’ve looked at some of the most common dog behaviours to help you understand why dogs do the things they do.
Dig in the Garden?
Many a gardener has thrown up their hands in despair at seeing their hard work undone when a gaping hole appears where their prized flowers should be! Some dogs have a deep-seated need to dig – and not just the terrier breeds as you might imagine. The dog’s wild ancestors would have done this as a way of hiding precious food from others and some animals retain this instinct. That’s why your pooch will often dig up the most disgusting bone from the garden and savour it as a great delicacy. In some cases though, it is boredom that drives a dog to dig in the garden. Taking him for regular walks, obedience training or agility classes and providing toys for him to play with, including interactive toys, will provide stimulation and interest and avoid the regular excavation of your garden. Giving him something else to do and think about is especially important if he is digging beside the fence to get at an animal, for instance, on the other side.
Some mistakenly assume that when their dog licks them they are bestowing an affectionate kiss. Everything a dog does has its roots in primitive instinct. In the wild young pups will lick the mouth of their mother to encourage her to regurgitate food for them. As they grow the face licking continues as a form of appeasing behaviour. Our dogs will often lick our face for a similar reason; it signifies appeasement and respect. They will often lick hands and feet for the salty taste of these, which they enjoy. For a dog, licking also stimulates the production of the feel-good endorphins and if licking a human gets a positive and encouraging reaction they enjoy it even more.
Stare at Me?
Although some dog owners swear their dog talks to them, in the main a dog communicates through body language and eye contact. With other dogs your animal will use eye contact as a way of controlling a situation and is often used to signal aggression. If this is the case with your dog then an urgent chat with a canine behaviourist is necessary. With humans, it is more often used to get your attention. Your dog learns that if he stares at you for long enough you will usually ask him what he wants and that a belly rub, walk or treat often results! Sometimes though, your dog will stare at you because he’s waiting for instructions or direction from you, especially when you’re out on a walk; he’s asking you what you want him to do.
Tilt His Head When I Speak?
This very endearing trait is not simply designed to exploit the cuteness factor; rather it has a practical use. Sometimes the reason a dog tilts his head is simply so he can hear better, depending on how his ear is constructed, or so that he can read your facial expression in order to figure out what mood you’re in and whether any treats or walks might be forthcoming! It may sometimes signal confusion in the dog, particularly if his training is sporadic or incomplete. In short, he may simply be trying to figure out what you want from him.
Roll in Smelly Things?
This less endearing habit is one that infuriates many dog owners especially when the dog has rolled in something so unspeakably stinky it takes several bathing sessions to eliminate the pong. Although your dog appears to thoroughly enjoy the action it does have its origins in the dog’s wild ancestry. A wild dog rolls to mask its own scent so that it can hunt undetected by its prey. Another theory states that the dog may attain pleasure from the smell of whatever it is rolling in, as we gain pleasure from the scent of a favourite perfume, for example. There’s no doubt that the act of rolling in something smelly is one that your dog will appear to enjoy very much. The good news is that with a little effort you can train him out of this habit.
Now you know some of the ‘Whys?’, you’ll be able to understand your dog a little more, allowing you to provide what your dog needs, whether it is discipline, food, or a trip to the vets!