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What’s Normal Behavior for My Dog?

What is behavior in the first place?

Animal behavior is noted as “Ethology” in the scientific world. It is the scientific and objective study of animal behavior, usually with a focus on behavior under natural conditions and viewing behavior as an evolutionary adaptive trait. 

Behavior in itself the way in which one acts, in this case the way a pet would act, or conduct oneself towards other animals, pets and people, including the owner. 

What does behavior have to do with your dog?

The answer is actually very simple, behavior has everything to do with your dog. Dogs have many unique behaviors that come from areas of their evolution. It is important to know your dog's background before choosing to adopt because often owners are unaware of the behaviors that they may experience in the dog that they are about to bring home. For instance, an owner may be so excited to bring home an American English Coonhound but find that their dog reacts quickly, usually with barks and a strong stance, every time a new sound or scent is in the air. This is actually, to the surprise of many owners, normal because this behavior has a lot to do with the genetics and how they were bred. Some of the behaviors we find to be abnormal or distracting are actually just a sign of your dog's inner history.

What are the common dog behaviors that we see? 

Common behaviors we see in dogs are: 

  • Digging
  • Chewing
  • Playing with toys or other pets 
  • Running 
  • Chasing things
  • Fetching or retrieving items
  • Barking 
  • Sniffing
  • Licking 
  • Whining 
  • Tail wagging
  • Curling into a ball formation to sleep
  • Nesting with blankets or sheets
  • Urinating on objects (scent marking) 
  • Cuddling with owners
  • Paw handling or giving paw
  • Howling (for certain breeds)

A lot of these common behaviors can be tricky to work with. Some might even call them bad behaviors or may not want the dog to do them because they can be a major disturbance, but have no fear, hope is not lost. For instance, urinating on objects can be a very pesting behavior and can be very frustrating to owners, rightfully so. It is actually a very common behavior amongst many dogs, as it is something they do for scent marking or marking their territory. Some owners even have new items “ruined” because they're dog decided to scent mark. As frustrating as this behavior can be, it is considered normal and it happens from time to time. The best way to deal with behaviors like this is to give your dog an understanding and try to be knowledgeable about the behavior at hand — you can help them process the world around them, even if they’re not familiar with things. For example, if you buy new sneakers, try spraying them with your perfume or cologne to help your dog recognize their smell. This may discourage territory marking since they have a familiar smell. Other preventative measures include minimizing your dog’s access to your items, walking your dog more often so they have plenty of opportunities to mark their territory outdoors, and using pet-safe sprays designated to discourage urination. If urination frequency becomes excessive or suddency changes, check in with your vet, as this could be a sign of a UTI or another medical issue. 

Another could be messing around with your sheets. A lot of dogs love to nest and dig through sheets to get comfortable — it's a natural occurrence and something that makes them feel safe especially when they are young. Dogs will often dig to find things or to make themselves at home in your bed. As much as it may seem odd to many owners, it is a weird yet totally normal thing for your dog to do. Similar to how we fluff our pillows, dogs will fluff the sheets to get good sleep.

SEE ALSO: Why is My Dog Not Eating or Drinking?

How can you be knowledgeable about your dog’s behavior?

The one thing most owners do when learning about pet behavior is to go to the experts, usually veterinarians and behavior specialists. But, as long as your dog isn't showing signs of illness, fear, or aggression, you don’t need to rush a call to the vet right away. The best thing to do when with your dog is to spend time observing. Sit for a bit and watch how your dog acts and question what they could be doing and why. Another great thing is to be knowledgeable about your pet’s background, such as their genetics and hereditary story. 

If you're choosing to get a beagle, read up on scent dogs and how their behavior is noted. If you're choosing to adopt a Border Collie, read up on dogs that were bred to herd. In the long run, it will help you know what to expect and how to handle their behaviors at home. In turn you can learn more about your dog's genetic breeding background. 

Learning to love your dog’s unique behavior

Behavior is an amazing thing — it makes every dog unique, yet also part of this broad species, and it forms the bond between owner and dog, making it that much more special. The more owners can understand their dog’s genetic background along with how their environment and surrounding might affect their behavior, you will notice that you will feel so much closer to your pet. You’ll understand them on a new level, which will help ease the stress of knowing if your dog is healthy or not when it comes to behavior. Try to understand their behavior and in order to further understand your pet. The key is to always be knowledgeable about and observant of your dog's behavior, and if there is anything alarming or different, you can call a vet. Always know that as an owner you can bond with your dog and embrace their behavior. Owning a dog is an amazing experience, filled with joys and wild times with your canine.

SEE ALSO: Why Is My Dog Scratching His Ear?

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