Leizpig / Vienna (dpa / tmn) – Chasing your tail, sniffing someone else’s dog’s backside or licking your feet for hours: Dog owners often ask themselves the question, shaking their heads: “Why would he do that?” Some seemingly unusual behaviors can be traced back to development, while others may indicate mental disorders or health problems.
“Essentially, when we look at animal behaviour, it is always important to know the normal behavior of the animal species,” says veterinarian and animal behavior therapist Ronald Lindner of Leipzig. However, people do see certain things as undesirable and behavioral problems, “while actual behavioral disturbances and pathological changes are often not seen or recognized as such,” according to the author (“What Dogs Really Want”). some examples.
chase your tail
First of all, it could just be normal play behaviour, especially in puppies. “Little dogs get to know each other and their bodies and discover there is still a stick for them. And you can just hold on to it,” Lindner says. However, in the course of later life, it can also be a compensation for stress (also joy) or an expression of appeasement behaviour.
What you find cute in puppies can later develop into a serious behavioral disorder, warns Stephanie Rimmer, a behavioral biologist at “Dog University – Science Meets Practice” in Vienna. Puppies are positive vibes when people watch them and laugh at them when they act like this. So, when they are frustrated or expected, they repeat it. This habit can then lead to obsessive-compulsive disorder.
“It is not uncommon for animals to experience a stereotypical spinning motion,” Lindner says. In extreme cases, it may mean that they do nothing else for hours. If he no longer abuses psychotropic substances, such behavior is grounds for euthanasia.
Therefore, a person must react early and correctly to chasing the tail. With commands like “No!” or “Don’t do that!” It must be avoided. Because these things can be misunderstood by the dog and have an amplifying effect. Instead, Lindner advises pulling off the fun stuff: “It’s best to just ignore the dog and leave the room.” If he comes behind you, you can let him “sit” and reward him for it – this will forget about the other behavior.
digging and licking
This is basically no different from tail biting, says Alexandra Wischall Wagner, a dog behavior trainer. People may have initially found it funny or cute when their four-legged friends tirelessly dig a tunnel on the beach or nibble their feet a little while watching TV in the evening. “But such behavior is poorly reinforced by humans.” Because dogs get affirmation because they get attention – and therefore show it more often.
The psychiatrist warns: “It is very important for a person to interrupt this. Otherwise, the dog will become addicted at some point and will not be able to stop it.” Whether it was excessive digging or biting the claws so that they bleed, rather than scolding or punishing, “Beautiful brought him out” of this delusion and calmed him.
“For me, the most important thing is always to know why he shows this behavior, what comes out of it, what is the emotion behind it,” says the author (“Comfort Human – Comfortable Dog”). So you have to distinguish whether he is bored when he starts this behavior, or whether he is frustrated or scared and can’t deal with his insecurities.
Of course, medical reasons must also be clarified, as Stephanie Rimmer emphasizes: Licking paws for hours may also be an indication of pain or itching caused by an allergy. There are also breeds that display specific compulsive behaviors: Dobermans tend to lick excessively, and Bull Terriers tend to chase their tail.
There are also dogs who love to suck on blankets or other things all their lives: often those dogs who separated from their mother too early.
Rotate on its own axis
Dog owners know this: First, the dog must turn on its axis before falling—often with a deep sigh—on its dog’s pillow. “It’s just a comforting demeanor,” Stephanie Rimmer says. Dogs will make their beds that way. Those who experience pain often do so intensely.
There are various theories as to why they should take turns when doing their big business. They range from trampling on the lawn to the north-south magnetic axis, which four-legged friends use to align themselves. “After an initial study in 2013, which caused a stir, an investigation in 2022 revealed that dogs may not pay attention to the magnetic field when defeating,” says Reimer.
Alexandra Wischall Wagner suspects that circling makes the space more comfortable. “The fact that dogs also scratch with their hind legs has the main purpose of spreading their own scent and expanding the field of marking.” In addition, they also have pheromone glands on the pads of their feet and when they scratch, they also release molecules to set their scent markers.
By the way: There are also pheromone glands in the back. “Dogs specifically love to smell their canine companions there, because that’s where they smell their identity,” explains Reemer. One reason dogs pull their tails likely is because they want to keep this information to themselves: “If they shake, they will spread it out,” says the behavioral biologist.
Eat grass like a cow
When dogs seem to be competing with cows for food, there can be many reasons. One: Because it tastes good! In particular, many dogs like to eat the tiny little green as a snack while in transit. However, some mainly grab the grass when they are sick. Then they eat green things until they vomit. “If this only happens from time to time, nothing will happen and it’s normal,” says Reimer. However, if dogs do this all the time, they should be checked out by your vet.
However, all experts agree that an old adage can be dismissed as a reason: that a dog eats grass is a sign that it will rain soon.
Dr. Ronald Lindner: What Dogs Really Want, GU, 256 pages, €15.99. ISBN: 9783833818783.
Alexandra Weschall Wagner: Relaxed Person, Relaxed Dog, GU, 176 pages, €19.99, ISBN: 978-3833868382.
© dpa-infocom, dpa: 220912-99-729923 / 3