Sharing your home with your canine companion means adventure, wet noses, and couch cuddles. Our dogs may seem part human, and to understand their pet parents perfectly, but the opposite is not always true. Dogs and humans behave in many similar ways, such as getting close to show we care, making a noise when we are scared or caught off guard, and yawning when we are sleepy. However, our canine friends also have unusual language and behaviors only their closest furry pals may truly understand, or that may indicate they are sick or suffering from anxiety. Our Airway Animal Clinic team explains five common odd behaviors your dog may exhibit, and some reasons why.
#1: Your dog twitches or runs in their sleep
Dogs sleep an average of 12 to 15 hours throughout the day, so chances are good your canine friend naps away while you go about your daily chores. Normally, an animal’s brain activity during sleep is similar to their alert state. However, like humans, dogs may also experience a deep rapid eye movement (REM) stage sleep disorder, when they may seem to be running or trying to catch their favorite toy. For some dogs with REM sleep disorder, this activity can become dangerous if they run into walls or attack objects.
Sleep running or twitching may also indicate a seizure. Your dog likely has REM sleep disorder if they wake up with no disorientation or confusion, but if you see your pet exhibiting this behavior, they should be examined by your veterinarian to ensure they are not having a seizure or have other brain abnormalities. REM sleep disorders can usually be managed with medication.
#2: Your dog chases their tail or their shadow
Most pet owners consider tail chasing normal, playful dog behavior. However, if your furry pal regularly chases their tail, shadow, or moving lights, they could be exhibiting a compulsive behavior disorder. People tend to laugh at their dog running around in circles, but you should not encourage your pet because that may make the compulsion worse. Compulsive disorders can decrease your pet’s overall quality of life, and disrupt normal daily activities. If your dog exhibits excessive or repetitive behaviors, take them to your veterinarian for a thorough physical exam and possibly diagnostic tests to rule out any underlying medical causes for their unusual behavior. Dogs with compulsive disorders can be treated with antidepressant medications, and may need behavior training.
#3: Your dog eats rocks, plastic, or other non-food items
Dogs who crave and ingest non-food items are exhibiting a behavioral condition called pica. Some dogs will focus on specific items such as rocks, while others will seek out a variety, such as golf balls, drywall, and children’s toys. Causes for this abnormal behavior include:
- Generalized or separation anxiety
- Metabolic disorders
- Nutritional imbalances
- Hormonal imbalances
Dogs with pica are at increased risk for gastrointestinal (GI) disorders or blockages that may require surgery. Your veterinarian may recommend blood work or urine tests to rule out any underlying medical issues that could cause your dog to indulge in non-food objects. If your veterinarian does rule out medical causes for your dog’s behavior, ensure your dog cannot access any dangerous objects they may want to eat.
#4: Your dog scoots across the floor
Many pet parents know the awkward feeling of seeing their dog drag their bottom across the carpet or floor, often leaving an unsightly mark. However, your dog does not scoot to disgust you—they are signalling to you that they are uncomfortable and need medical attention. Common causes of scooting include:
- Impacted or full anal glands
- An intestinal parasite infection (e.g., tapeworms)
- Skin allergy or irritation
If you notice swelling or redness beneath your dog’s tail, take them for a veterinary exam. Dogs with only a mild itch will scoot, but persistent scooting should be checked for other medical causes.
#5: Your dog yawns
Human studies have shown that yawning is contagious, which may also be the case in dogs. According to a recent study published in National Geographic, dogs may yawn in response to their yawning owners, which is considered evidence of the human-animal bond. Yawning may also indicate that your dog is anxious or stressed, so seek veterinary advice if your dog yawns frequently. Yawning may also be an alternate form of communication among dogs, as well as humans.
If you have any questions about your dog’s odd behaviors, or are concerned they may have an associated illness, call our Airway Animal Clinic office. We are here to help, and will be happy to check them out.