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7 Common Dog Behaviors and What They Mean

Though dogs have been our best friends for centuries, some of their common behaviors have us scratching our heads! Here are some common dog behaviors and what they mean.

Barking & Vocalization

Since dogs can't talk, they use various vocalizations to let us know how they're feeling.

  • Howling is usually triggered by a loud, high-pitched noise and is often associated with a feeling of unease or sensing danger nearby. Your dog may be trying to warn you about something! Assure them with gentle words and body language that they are safe.

  • Barking can be due to excitement, alarm, or even just wanting to grab your attention. It is not uncommon for a dog to bark more than usual when at a dog park or other place that may be out of their comfort zone. Continuous training using positive reinforcement can help with unwanted barking.

  • Crying and whining can also be used to grab your attention or to alert you to something making your pup uncomfortable. Keep an eye on other body language cues to help you decipher what they want or what is bothering them.

Sitting on your Feet or Between your Legs

Dogs will sit on your feet or between your legs for a number of reasons. Typically, your dog is feeling a little shy or anxious and just feels safer near you. If your dog is growling at other people or dogs that come near you while they are between your legs, this can be a sign of possession. Try encouraging your dog to play with toys and greeting other dogs in a gentle manner to help ease their anxiety.

Tilting Head to the Side

This is one of the cutest behaviors we love to see dogs do! When you talk to your dog, whistle, or make another type of noise does your dog tilt their head to the side? Scientists aren't 100% certain why dogs commonly cock their head to the side, but they have some theories. A dog's long snout or long ears can confuse sounds, and head tilting is a way they can locate the direction of a certain sound better. A tilted head also shows a dog's engagement in what they are listening to. How cute!

If, however, your dog is consistently tilting his head to the side with no obvious cue, it can be a sign of an ear infection. Take your dog to your veterinarian if you notice a head tilt that is not associated with a sound or other interaction.

Eating Poop

Also called coprophagy, this is one gross habit. Unfortunately, this behavior is sometimes difficult to pinpoint the reasoning behind. Dogs who are not fed enough or who are missing key nutrients may turn to eating their own or other dogs' feces. Others do it out of stress or because they, funnily enough, prefer to keep their space clean and tidy. Some dogs seem to simply just enjoy it! If you find your dog feasting on poop at home or at the dog park, let your veterinarian know to try and find the underlying cause. It's important to stop this behavior as soon as possible to avoid potential intestinal parasite illnesses that can be caught from poop.

Sniffing Other Dogs' Butts

This is a dog's way of saying hello! A dog's nose is about 10,000 times more sensitive than a human's, and sniffing those pheromones helps them identify individual dogs arouthem. Dogs can tell a lot about each other from their scent including age, temperament, and gender. Allowing dogs to sniff each other upon meeting may allow them to better pick who is a friend or foe at the local dog park.


Does your dog get a massive boost of energy that they just can't contain? Great! This means your dog is happy and healthy. Many dogs will have a buildup of energy that they will release at one time at a certain time of day or location. Whether they decide to run in circles, chase their tail, or simply want to run and play ball with you, a boost of zoomies is one of the best things about owning a pup and a sure sign that you are doing something right!

Walking in Circles Before Lying Down

Some dogs will do this more than others, and it's a curious behavior. Dogs will often circle a spot they wish to lay down on as an old instinct from their wolf ancestors. Wolves will walk over leaves and debris before laying down to help flatten it out and make their spot more comfortable for a long rest. Your pup may have the most comfortable bed in the world, but this behavior has stuck through the generations!

What other dog behaviors have you scratching your head about? Let us know!

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