Three Weird Dog Behaviors Explained

Behavior and Training  •  Pam Karkow  •  Friday, May 15, 2020

Almost daily, my sister sends me the most hilarious videos of her dog cocking her head from side to side when she is talking to her. She asks Harley things like, “Do you want to go for a walk?” or “Or do you want a treat?” It is almost as if Harley understands and is wholeheartedly trying to answer with the craning of her head from side to side.

When I walk my dog, Hattie, and she poops in the grass, she kicks her legs out behind her as if trying to cover her waste. She even does this after urinating, though not as often. I hear from other pet parents that their dogs do the same. I often worry about her tearing up other people’s yards, but it seems nearly impossible to get her to stop doing this!

My first golden retriever, Summer, used to make me dizzy by spinning in circles before finally plopping down on her doggie bed. She also used her front paws to squash the pillow this way and that, seeming to be plumping her pillow up before settling. This behavior seemed weird at best, a bit insane at worst! Had she lost her mind? Did she have vertigo? The answers are no and no. 

These three behaviors are completely normal! Let’s break them down and see just what is making our dogs do these funny things, and why we should just chalk them up to instinctual behaviors.

Why do dogs cock their heads?

Did you know dogs are listening when you talk and may be trying to make sense of what they hear? When Harley turns her head from side to side, she is trying to pick out keywords. She is listening intently for words she may know like “walk” or “treat.” You can use this to your advantage! By teaching words you want your dog to know like “come” and “sit,” and using them often (and of course praising when your dog obeys), you can use your dog's acute hearing and interest in listening to train commands. Read our post, Essential Cues to Teach Your Dog, for more ideas on how to train your dog.

Why do dogs kick their feet back after pooping?

Did you know dogs have glands in their feet that release pheromones? The scent from a dog’s feet is more pungent and lasts longer than the scent of their urine or feces. So, it’s not enough for them to mark their territory with just their waste, they have to seal the deal by kicking their feet back to leave the biggest reminder of their scent possible. While this behavior is instinctual, it may be a practice your neighbors don’t necessarily endorse. You may want to create a space in your backyard where your dog can scuff up the landscape to satisfy this need. Or walk your dog on a short leash and encourage potty time in the woods where grass will not be disturbed.

Why do dogs walk in circles before lying down?

This one dates back to when wolf-like dogs roamed the wild and walked around in the woods and leaves to find the perfect comfy spot to nest. It can be confusing to watch our dogs engaging in this particular behavior because we want to tell them, “No matter how many times you spin, your pillow will still feel the same!” Most of the time this behavior is harmless but if you notice your dog staggering, and occasionally unable to stand, then it is time to seek medical attention. Your dog could be suffering from vertigo.

Embrace your dog’s quirks!

Dogs are cute, quirky, and sometimes seem completely insane, but that’s why we love them so much, right? Embrace their funny behaviors and let pet insurance help you to afford the best pet health care so your pup can live a long, fun-filled life! Our dogs are a big reason to keep on smiling and to be thankful for the way they keep life interesting.



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