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The Whippeteer: Whippet Dog News, Issue #0044 - How to Stop Ten Common Dog Behavior Problems
September 04, 2013

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An here is this month's featured article

Odd Dog Behaviors: Decoded!

Dogs sometimes have odd behaviors that might leave you scratching your head. If you ever wondered what that dog behavior was all about, then read on!

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Odd Dog Behaviors: Decoded!

Odd Dog Behaviors: Decoded!
By Ron Ayalon

Why is he doing that? How many times have you caught sweet old Domino chasing his tail, scooting across the living room rug, biting his own foot or shaking his head and wondered "what is that all about?" A handful, or should I say a "pawful" of these odd dog behaviors are finally explained!

Tail Chasing:
Play can come in a whole lot of flavors and for dogs, when nothing is going on and boredom sets in, sometimes your own tail is the best plaything around! Often, but not always, tail chasing is nothing more than boredom and play, egged on by an owner's laughter.

While tail chasing sure looks like playful antics and nothing more, some interesting research has recently been published. Apparently, there is a correlation between high cholesterol levels and tail chasing behaviors. Before you rush to check Hector's blood levels, though, check a few other things first. Fleas, ticks, an injury, or an anal gland problem can all lean to tail chasing. If chasing leads to biting and licking, examine the areas carefully, looking for evidence of fleas or a hot spot. Hector may be going after a painful or itchy spot and not really playing after all.

It looks so cute! Little Domino, his spotted butt glued to the carpet, dragging himself forward with his speckled front paws. What's that behavior all about?

Well, actually, it's not so cute after all. Dogs have glands at the base of their tails, one on each side. These glands secrete tiny amounts of anal fluid when a dog defecates that identifies the dog, sort of like fingerprints or a business card, if you will. The openings to these glands can get kind of "gummed up" and then the glands get full and impacted or worse yet, infected. Scooting is a sign that there is an anal glands problem.

While there are myriad instructions on the Internet letting owners know how to free the anal sac, it really is best to have your vet perform this quick and minimally invasive and smelly procedure. It will take him or her 30 seconds with no risk of injury. Unless you are an experienced anal sac/anal gland remover, you can cause serious injury to your Domino. Just let the vet do this and in seconds Domino will forget about scooting. On occasion this needs to be repeated twice or even three times, however, this is rare.

Paw Licking or Biting:
On this one we need to move from the obvious to the obscure. First: is there something in the paw, either in a pad or in between the pads, that is bothering her? Check for cuts, scrapes, thorns, a pebble, a skin lesion or "pimple," etc. How about fleas, a tick or other parasites?

Once you are sure that there is nothing in there, and the licking and biting hasn't stopped, consider allergies. Sometimes food allergies can manifest as itchiness and paw licking/biting is the result. Check with a vet regarding allergies, and try to identify the culprit. With guidance from your vet, you might find that a raw food diet will help.

Finally, if you are able to rule out both localized problems, like a thorn or a cut and allergies are not to blame, paw licking can also be due to anxiety or boredom. In some cases, this is just a bad habit, kind of like a human biting their nails. In other cases, this can blossom into full-blown obsessive compulsive disorder and requires treatment.

Chewing "Air:"
Ever notice that some dogs "chew" even when there is nothing in their mouths? They make funny lip smacking, "air chewing" sounds as if they have a bad case of cotton mouth! What's that all about?

Apparently that sound is deeply soothing to a dog. It reminds them of one of the first sounds they ever hear, a sound associated with all good things: suckling or nursing. Dogs do it to convey a sense of contentment and to help others around them feel at ease. In other words, "don't worry and be happy!"

Rolling in Smelly Things:
Ask any dog owner: this nasty habit always occurs when the timing is at its absolute worst! Wearing white? Need to go to a wedding or funeral in five minutes? That's when Nemo will find the freshest pile of something horrid to roll in. Why?

Three theories have been suggested, but experts are not sure which explanation is correct. First, some think that dogs may do this as a predatory behavior to "cover up" their own scent. Others suggest that dogs gain status within a pack from being highly scented, since all the other pack members will stop what they are doing to sniff. Finally, some believe the behavior has to do with communicating to other pack members that a food source has been found.

Although there may not be full agreement among vets and researchers why dogs do this, it is, well apart from stinky and poorly timed, normal, healthy and nothing to worry about long term.

Muzzle Nudging or Poking:
A poke, or "ponk" (combination of poke and bonk) is a common enough dog-to-human gesture that usually means "pet me" or "pet me more." But have you ever seen dogs do it to each other? Dogs push or poke their nose into another dog's muzzle at a ninety-degree angle. What's that all about?

Apparently a throwback to puppyhood, the muzzle-to-muzzle ponk is about submission. It is a pacifying gesture, the ponker saying to the ponkee "I am not a threat. I'm just a friend. Got any food?"

Mounting or Humping:
No discussion of dog behavior would be complete without at least mentioning the dreaded humping behavior. Mounting or humping, is when a dog climbs on top of another dog to feign sexual intercourse. To humans, this behavior sure looks like it needs no explanation, but believe it or not, it isn't what it looks like! Humping or mounting can occur between two females or when a dominant female meets a submissive male. Humping can be about seeking sexual contact, but it is often just a display of dominance. It is extremely common to see within your pack as one is establishing and continuing to reinforce his or her place as pack leader.

Again, unless it gets too forceful or appears that one is hurting the other (unlikely), chalk it up to one of those dog-like behaviors. It's harmless, in other words.

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