3 Disgusting Dog Behaviors and Where They Come From
Some behaviors of domestic dogs don’t make sense to the average viewer. Especially those disgusting dog behaviors that I’d rather not have dealt with. But when we know the reason behind the action we are no longer average.
Photo by Nathalie SPEHNER
1. Rolling in the deep shit
Dogs like to go big on other animals’ poop, or dead animal remains. It’s a common dog behavior to rub their cheeks, necks, and whole bodies on ground that has been soaked with urine (at best), dead matter, feces, and any other possible smelly muck you can name. It’s a behavior able to ruin a lovely afternoon, and when things go bad, it will stand between me and my dog for a few days.
The behavior is an evolutionary leftover, rooted in their wild days. But why dogs find pleasure in such a stomach-turning activity? It is known that wolves rub their bodies in feces and carcasses of other animals, as well. Behaviorists turn to wolves and other wild canines to answer questions about dogs, and it has been successful, but the reason why wolves and dogs roll their backs in feces is still in question.
Is it a camouflage trick?
This theory suggests that dogs coat themselves with strong odor to hide their own from potential prey or predators. It is not clear which of the two is closer to the truth.
I’ll mark this as pending while behaviorists work on it.
You might ask, ”what dogs got to do with it?”. Nothing, except that this is a behavioral pattern deeply rooted in them and they have no option but to obey.
Is it a communication trick?
Coming from wolves, it could be that your dog rolls in the dead animal remains because he wants to communicate his finding to you and the rest of the gang.
Many wild canines roll in carcasses and then let the other members of the pack trace the smell back. It’s a way to tell that there is still meat left, or just brag about their finding.
Is it a variation of the marking behavior?
While this seems unlikely, this theory says that dogs want to cover the other smells with their own to warn the intruder of their strong presence. This is less possible because we know dogs use their urine to mark their space, but it could be that they use this behavior when things level up (in their minds).
*There is one instance though that all dogs roll their bodies on the ground and it’s not gross, and that is after a bath. They do it to exchange scents with their environment. They try to get their natural scent back.
2. Poop eating
I’m not done talking about poops. In fact, I am about to dive in. Poop eating has been a thing in our household, and it took part of the beauty away from puppiness. Aria as a puppy was a champion poop-eater. I suspect she still holds the title.
The reasons why some dogs eat their feces, or the feces of other animals, vary. In most cases, feasting on poop should alert you but first, let’s see two examples when coprophagy (how science call it) should be expected:
- When females nurse their puppies. Bitches have a remarkable (and very convenient) way to keep the den clean. They eat the stool and drink the urine of their puppies. It’s an instinctual move to keep the den clean and undetectable. Do not argue with that.
- Puppies. Do not freak out if your puppy is like mine. They grew up watching their mothers eating their stool, why would they think it’s gross to do it too. Just teach them otherwise.
Even when it’s not a learned behavior, puppies do things out of pure curiosity. Trying the taste of poops is seen in human babies as well. If it doesn’t taste that bad, or if your puppy (or baby) has an increased appetite, a new habit is born.
The best way for puppies to unlearn this habit is to remove access to poop. Teach them to defecate outside (where you immediately collect their stool).
If your puppy is like mine and eats the feces of other animals, then be extra attentive. If you catch them in action, show disapproval. They need to know that this is unacceptable behavior. Do not yell. Just show strong disapproval and introduce consequences, for example, off-leash time is over.
There are a few cases though that need more attention:
- Acting out. Attention seeking dogs are ingenious in their ways to get you to notice them. This is a sign of a not content dog. If that’s the case, give them the right attention by improving their life outdoors. When at home, don’t let boredom win. See here how to improve their life indoors. Be involved with your dog daily if you want a smooth symbiosis.
- Potty training gone wrong. Do you punish your dog for pooping inside? Yelling at your dog for doing something so natural is unnatural. Eating their poop is a way to remove evidence from their tyrant. (no offense)
- Dog lacks nutrients. This means that the poop eaters’ diet lacks essential nutrients, and he is looking to get them from elsewhere. Think of poops as your dog’s supplements.
- And last, why not? Dogs being dogs, they engage in activities because it’s fun, colorful, smelly, or tasty.
The best way to eliminate this gross behavior from your household is to remove your dog’s access to poop and let time work in your favor. When they eat poop, do NOT kiss and add a few drops of lemon in their water. Their saliva will cleanse their moth in less than an hour.
Let’s move on to something equally gross.
3. Eating their throw up
Enough with the poop talk. Let’s talk about vomit.
It’s not a reason for concern if your dog throws up once in a few days. However, if the behavior insists, ask your vet. We are here to discuss the head-scratching behavior of dogs eating their vomit or the vomit of other dogs.
Eating vomit makes perfect sense when we examine the behavior through a dog’s perspective. Imagine you are a few-weeks-old puppy. At some point, your mother will assist your transition from breast feeding to eating solid food. She will chew the food well before she swallows it and bring it up again for you to eat. There it is, you don’t question your mum’s gross ways of doing things. It is a perfectly normal thing to eat your mum’s vomit, why not eat your own.
Not all dogs have the privilege to grow up with their mothers, and when they do, we usually become their nurses. Regardless, regurgitating food to feed the little ones is a widespread behavior in the animal kingdom. Dogs are not confused when the eat their vomit, they are acting as their nature dictates.
An other reason why many dogs eat their vomit or the vomit of others is that it still tastes like food. Illogical? Not for a dog’s nose. Dogs detect smells that we don’t. They smell layers that we don’t. Under the bile and the mucus, there is still some half-digested food. Appetite driven dogs won’t think twice.
Be a little more concerned if your dog eats the vomit of other animals. It contains unfamiliar bacteria that might cause them problems. Ask your vet.
An honorable mention: Smelling and licking butts
Have you ever realized how many butts your dog smells in, let’s say, a month? If your dog is social the number could be high on the double-digit spectrum.
Smelling and licking each other’s butts is the canine version of looking in the eyes, shake hands, and exchange a few words. With their superior sense of smell, they collect information from and about each other, through their butt secretions.
Scents in the anus area contain information about gender, reproductive status, health status, current mood, and more. Dogs can also recall a previous encounter with a particular dog, by sniffing their unique butt scent.
That’s it, I managed to close this on a cleaner note.