Why do our dogs do the things they do?
From Puppy Dog Eyes To Exposing Their Belly For A Tummy Tickle, Let’s Try To Find Out Why!
Our dogs see the world very differently to us.
They employ a whole range of different ways of interacting with the environment around them and it is a world away from how we as humans interact with it.
Some of the behaviors we see in our dogs make sense to us whereas some seem really quite strange, or indeed, quite off-putting or downright disgusting.
If we as humans went around sniffing other peoples butts as a form of introduction, you could imagine the response you would get!
And in this day and age, a visit from the Police would be expected and possibly a whole range of charges made against you from harassment to sexual abuse.
Yet, in the world of Dog, this behavior is completely normal and an extremely polite way of gaining information from another dog.
It is the furthest point away from the potential damage end of a dog (the teeth, the bite) so in the world of Dog, this is considered a best and safe practice.
Now when you think of it like that it makes sense doesn’t it? Are dogs smart or what?
Here we will look at a few things that your dog does and try to get a better understanding of what things mean from looking into a puppy dog’s eyes. ground scratching. scent rolling and whether your dog is really asking for a tummy rub when he lies on his back and exposes his belly.
Why Are “Puppy Dog Eyes” So Appealing?
In June 2019, Science News posted a paper called “The Evolution Of Puppy Dog Eyes”
A whole list of canine authors had been researching the changes in our dog’s behaviors and anatomy during their evolution.
Their research concluded that over time, dogs had evolved new muscles around their ocular areas in order, specifically to enable them to communicate more effectively with human beings!
They developed an ability to raise their eyebrows (like we do) and to make expressions that we associate with sadness.
This mimicry can only be accounted for by the thought that dogs have learned to mirror humans in these aspects.
The ability to do this by our dogs makes their eyes appear larger and we, as humans are attracted to the infant-like features that activate our protective like instinct.
The Facial Action Coding System (FACS) is a detailed map that is used for humans and dogs and it describes each and every facial expression that we make through the use of muscle groups in our faces.
These are then broken down into individually numbered units called action groups and these generate specific expressions that are used when certain emotions are felt.
It really is a true testimony to how powerful the urge has been for our dogs to develop a way of communicating better with humans over their evolution that they have actually changed themselves, physically in order to do so!
Why Do Dogs Scratch The Ground After Toileting?
If your dog does this after peeing or pooing you will of learned that it is always best to stand out of the way of the chunks of grass, mud and other things that can be propelled in your general direction!
This action is known as “Ground Scratching” but why does he do it?
Well, it’s a fairly simple explanation. Firstly, not all dogs do it, but if yours does then it’s good to understand the psychology behind it.
It’s all about territory. Dogs do this when they have relieved themselves as a way of telling other dogs that they were there.
Dogs have scent glands in their paws and the action of scratching near the poo or pee is a way of letting other dogs know that they were around and if they want to check it out!
Dogs that do this in their own gardens will also do this when they have a familiar walk and also if they are on an unfamiliar trail too. It’s a way of communication with other dogs to indicate that further investigation is available!
Dogs are not the only animals that do this either, you see this behavior in Coyotes, Wolves and also Lions.
Why Do Dogs Roll In Poo And Other Smelly Things?
One of the behaviors our dogs do from time to time that can make us turn our noses up at is rolling in substances that we deem disgusting.
I am talking about poo, people!
It’s when you catch your dog writing around in what is called scent rolling.
Poo from other animals and rotting corpses of birds and small animals seem to be the most popular amongst dogs (my boy Wilson has tried on occasion to writhe in Fox droppings!).
It can send our dogs into a writhing frenzy and they can become instantly less appealing to us on the walk if they start to stink to high heaven as a result.
It means that we then have to give them a good clean when they get back home which can be a whole new set of issues, especially if they are not too keen on the bathing and washing model!
It’s a grim task and if you have ever had to wash poo from another animal out of your dogs’ coat (it’s better if it is a herbivore animal…Fox poo is dreadful stuff) then you have my sincere sympathy.
It’s not just the unpleasant smells that attract our dogs though, they will also roll around in scents that smell interesting to them as well.
Wolves do this also and it enables them to take the scent back to their packs and it can then be shared and further investigated.
Scent rolling can also be used as a disguise to evade prey that they are either stalking or they are being stalked by.
Some dogs simply love and relish in smells in much the same way as we enjoy cologne or perfume.
Some of the smells that dogs like can be plant-based too or herb-based and again, very much like we do.
Why Do Dogs Roll On Their Backs?
Whenever you see your dog do this and offer up their belly to you the common thought is they want you to give it a rub.
However, you may be mistaken in this, although your dog will probably enjoy the belly rub, the communication here can be of a different kind.
Dogs can often roll on their backs as a form of appeasement or if play has become too rough, or if they feel anxious or uncomfortable.
Good points to look for are:
- If your dog is exposing his belly to you, check his face and body..his ears and mouth will be relaxed and he may even signal with a paw to say “I want a belly rub!”
- If your dog is exposing his belly to you and he looks tense with pinned back ears and a closed mouth then he is asking to be left alone and wishes to have distance…..don’t get this wrong as it can result in a fearful bark or nip.
It’s always important to continue trying to read your dog throughout their lives and try to keep learning new approaches and new ways of communication too.
Try to keep a record or journal of the things you learn about your dog and their body language and the ways they interact with you and always make sure you share them with the other members of your household so that you are all singing from the same hymn sheet.
This gives your dog consistency and lowers any forms of anxiety as they are getting the right kind of leadership from everyone in their “pack”.
Knowledge is king here, so take the time to get to know your dog and your bond with them will grow and grow and they will love you more than they already do!
For more great insights into dog behavior, this great book is a superb go-to guide..