Why Do Dogs Do That Thing They Do? (FAQs For Dog Owners)

Why do dogs do that thing they do? You know, that weird thing. That funny thing they do with their head, nose, feet, eyes, ears, tail.

Actually, for lots of dog owners, wondering why their dogs do some of the things they do is a great learning opportunity not just to understand the basis of their own dog's quirks and foibles, but to understand more about canine behaviour in general.

So we've put together a nice little list, covering some of the most common 'why do dogs...' questions we've received through the years.

If you've ever wondered why dogs wag their tail (it's actually not what you might think) or why dogs tilt their heads, read on.

Why Do Dogs Do That Thing They Do? (FAQs For Dog Owners)

Here we tackle the most frequently posed canine questions as requested by K9 Magazine readers.

Why do dogs drink out of the toilet?

According to the American Kennel Club, the most common reason why dogs drink water from the toilet is: “that the water in the toilet bowl is often fresher and cooler than the water in your dog’s water bowl."

Dogs have some pretty gross habits and drinking out of the toilet is one of them. To us humans, toilet water is gross and full of germs but to dogs, toilet water can sometimes be more refreshing if it's cooler and once they've done it once, hey, they're dogs - they pick up habits quickly.

The toilet gets flushed a lot of times in a day. The constant flushing oxygenates the water and the porcelain bowl keeps the water cool.

Why Do Dogs Do That Thing They Do? (FAQs For Dog Owners)

Why do dogs pant?

Sophia Catalano, DVM of PetMD explains: "Panting is a normal behaviour for happy and active dogs. It helps dogs cool themselves down because they can’t sweat as humans do."

Panting allows a dog to rapidly inhale, humidify, then exhale the air, which increases the evaporation of water from your dog’s nose and lungs. The evaporation of water cools the body from the inside out.

Although panting can be a normal behaviour for a dog, it can also signal an underlying medical issue. When in doubt, call your Vet.

Did you know: Dogs pant through their paw pads and nose to help them regulate their temperature in a bid to keep cool. Find out how to help your dog beat the heat & stay safe

Why Do Dogs Do That Thing They Do? (FAQs For Dog Owners)

Why do dogs eat poop?

In our very own guide to explaining why dogs eat poop, the key takeaway that explains this (disgusting) behaviour is that dogs inherited the behaviour from wolves and, simply. because some dogs are really greedy.

Dogs have always been scavengers. They'll eat roadkill as readily as their suppers. Household rubbish, pond muck and dead sparrows on the lawn are no less appetising to certain dogs.

A dog's digestive process tends to kick into action the moment they sniff something with a pungent smell and, as we all know, dung certainly does smell.

Poop-Eating Tip: Veterinarians sometimes recommend adding garlic or canned pumpkin to a dung-eating dog's food. Assuming that it's his own dung that he's attracted do, these ingredients may give it a taste he dislikes - although it's hard to imagine that anything could make it taste worse than it already does. This isn't a perfect solution, but it does work for some dogs.

Why Do Dogs Do That Thing They Do? (FAQs For Dog Owners)

Why does my dog lick me?

Dr Emily Blackwell, lecturer in companion animal behaviour and welfare at the University of Bristol: "The foremost functions: dogs lick you to say hello and gain attention. It’s essentially a social behaviour that comes from their evolutionary history. It’s a greeting and can be taken as a compliment.”

However, the reason dogs instinctively carry out this behaviour is less sickeningly cute and more just a bit sickening.

“Puppies generally learned to lick their mother to greet her and also encourage her to get food. The mother will then regurgitate material for the pup to eat."

Why do dogs eat grass?

Vets Now: "Many dogs eat grass simply because they enjoy the interesting taste and texture of grass. Other theories include fulfilling their natural omnivore instinct and relieving boredom."

"Eating grass is a common behaviour in dogs and in many cases, a dog eating grass isn’t a major cause for concern. In truth, there is no single reason why dogs eat grass."

Why Do Dogs Do That Thing They Do? (FAQs For Dog Owners)

Why do dogs shake or tremble?

Fetch by WebMD: "Dogs shake and tremble for all kinds of reasons -- excitement, pain, old age, even nausea."

"Shaking, shivering and trembling may be symptoms of something serious -- like poisoning, kidney disease, or injury."

"So, if your dog suddenly starts trembling or shivering, it's important to take note of other symptoms such as diarrhoea, vomiting, or limping. Then talk to your vet right away."

Pure Wow: "A solid sign of a canine ear infection is a constant head shake. The habit can develop slowly (a few shakes here and there) and progress until your pup shakes her head frequently to ease the discomfort."

Why do dogs howl?

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA): "Howling is one of many forms of vocal communication used by dogs."

"Dogs howl to attract attention, to make contact with others and to announce their presence. Some dogs also howl in response to high-pitched sounds, such as emergency vehicle sirens or musical instruments."

Why Do Dogs Do That Thing They Do? (FAQs For Dog Owners)

Why do dogs wag their tails?

Not all dog tail wags mean what you might think.

The tail position is an important indicator of social standing as well as the dog's current mental state.

And there’s often little difference between a happy and excited wag and a nervous wag of a dog that’s about to snap.

The main reason a dog wags its tail is to communicate. Whether it's with other dogs, people, squirrels, the dog is using their tail as a way of indicating what they are feeling at a given moment.

Dogs can't talk, but they communicate their feelings and intentions through body language. The dog's favourite way of doing this, with humans and other dogs, is via their tail.

Why do dogs sleep so much?

Kayla Fratt, a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant: "It’s normal for dogs to spend about 50% of their day asleep. Another 30% of the day is spent “resting,” while dogs are active by just about 20% of the day."

"Most dogs will sleep whenever there isn’t anything better to do. Sleeping is generally the best way to spend long, tedious hours."

Understanding dog sleeping patterns is useful because sleep is as vital to a dog's health as it is to other mammals.

Why Do Dogs Do That Thing They Do? (FAQs For Dog Owners)

Why do dogs have whiskers?

Professor Emeritus Stanley Coren, PhD., DSc., FRSC of the University of British Columbia: "The reason that dogs have whiskers is that their whiskers help them to "see" things that lie under their noses or come close to touching their head."

"They do this by detecting very faint vibrations caused by changes in air currents and thus they act much like a personal set of radar detectors."

Why do dogs dig?

The Humane Society of the United States: "If your dog is leaving craters all over your yard, it's important to know your dog isn't doing it out of spite or a desire to destroy your landscaping; more likely they're seeking entertainment, attention, comfort, escape, prey or protection."

Why do dogs lick their paws?

Veterinary medicine worker Jenna Stregowski, RVT: "It's normal for dogs to lick their paws occasionally, but excessive paw-licking may be a sign of a health problem."

"If you think your dog's paw-licking is abnormal, the first step is to determine if there is a health problem with the paws. Dogs often lick their paws excessively if they are itchy, irritated, or painful."

K9 Magazine: "Some dogs tend to obsessively lick as a result of a behavioural pattern. Conditions such as separation anxiety, canine compulsive disorder (CCD) or simple boredom or stress can be the primary causes of feet chewing in dogs too."

Why Do Dogs Do That Thing They Do? (FAQs For Dog Owners)

Why do dogs circle around before peeing or pooping?

Chris Nichols of Yahoo News: "Turns out it's because they're trying to align with the Earth's magnetic field, according to new research by in the Czech Republic and Germany, Frontiers in Zoology.

"Dogs preferred to excrete with the body being aligned along the north-south axis under calm magnetic field conditions."

Why do dogs chase their tails?

Cesar Millan, a Mexican-American dog behaviourist: "Oftentimes, dogs will chase their tails because they are a bit bored; it’s a way for them to have fun and expend some energy."

"This is especially true for puppies, who may not even realize that their tail is actually a part of their body, but see it as a toy. Generally, as the dog age, this kind of play dies down."

If he is receiving positive attention from you by engaging in the act of chasing his tail, it may cause him to do it whenever he wants you to take notice and play with him.

If you notice your dog really going after her tail a lot and trying to nip at it and chew on it, you may want to schedule a trip to the vet. Sometimes dogs will chase their tails because they are being bothered by worms or fleas or experiencing some other kind of medical issue.

Why Do Dogs Do That Thing They Do? (FAQs For Dog Owners)

Why do dogs pee on car tires?

Patty Oelze of Wag!: "Dogs prefer to pee on things that are vertical, like poles, fire hydrants and tire wheels. When dogs pee on a vertical object, they’re putting their mark at nose level, which is much better than the ground."

"Leaving their mark this way communicates many things, but also how big the dog is. A vertical object will also hold a scent longer than the ground. A pee puddle in the grass will fade faster than a vertical object, like a tire."

Why do dogs love humans?

Ever stopped to wonder, does my dog really love me? You don’t have to be a behavioural scientist to see that there is something special about dogs. In fact, an excess of scientific training may obscure the facts lying in plain sight.

Can I get worms from my dog

Lying, for example, at my feet as I’m typing now; or later on the sofa beside me as I'm watching TV, writes Clive D. L. Wynne, a behavioural scientist at Arizona State University.

As I explain in my book ‘Dog is Love: The Science of Why and How Your Dog Loves You’, I spent a decade studying dogs before I realised that a simple truth about our canine companions – something that I had known as a child playing with my dog Benji, but which had become obscured by confusing scientific studies – explains their astonishing uniqueness. Dogs love humans because we've given them something that absolutely, perfectly suits their unique animal characteristics.

Read in full: Why do dogs love humans?

Why do dogs bark?

Unless you're the proud owner of a Basenji (the non-barking dog breed) there is every chance that once in a while your dog lets rip with a bark or barking session and you have no idea what they're trying to communicate to you, why do dogs bark?

Have they heard something you didn't? Do they need to go out?

Or are there aliens landing which we need to know about? Well wonder no more, we explain the common reasons behind 10 different dog barks...

Read in full: Why do dogs bark?

Why do dogs tilt their heads?

In our ongoing series on dog body language and, quite frankly, because our dogs just do some things that make us ask why? We take a look at the curious case of why dogs cock or tilt their heads to one side.

Why Do Dogs Do That Thing They Do? (FAQs For Dog Owners)

Come on, hands in the air, who hasn't laughed and giggled when observing their dog hear a strange noise and responded with a clockwise head tilt in their efforts to work out what's going on.

I'll bet there are even some of us who've gone out of our way to actually MAKE the noise that prompts the dog to cock its head. It's amusing to us. But why do they do it, why do dogs tilt their heads?

Read in full: Why do dogs tilt their heads?

Why do dogs chew their feet?

For many dog owners who've wondered why do dogs chew their feet, the query is born of frustration rather than mere curiosity. If you've witnessed your own dog chewing its feet it can be quite upsetting in cases where your dog is clearly healthy in all other ways but simply will not stop biting its own toes. So why do they do it?

Why Do Dogs Do That Thing They Do? (FAQs For Dog Owners)

When it comes to dogs chewing their feet, this is not all too uncommon a problem, but one that does require intervention and understanding.

Let's examine the various causes that lead dogs to chew their own feet and give you some solutions to try to help you identify the route cause of why your dog is chewing his feet and ways to help you help them to stop.

Read in full: Why do dogs chew their feet?

Do you have any 'why do dogs...' questions for us?

Hit the comments form below, we'll be happy to tackle your dog questions.


  1. The reason given for dogs eating grass is incorrect. There are 2 types of the same grass as can be felt if a finger is rubbed across it. The coarser one is to make dogs sick. The smooth one acts as an antacid to soothe the gut. I’ve found it to be better than medication for indigestion.

  2. PLEASE HELP….I rescued Cotton (white shepherd/husky mix) @ the age of 2 & he is now 8 years old. He JUST STARTED THIS & today was over the top. The last 2 episodes, he literally broke thru the glass in the front of our house window. Today, he ATE the entire back door in half (when I mean in half, the doggie door is no longer existent now. We do keep doggie door shut while we are at work because as a Husky, he loves to get out if he can).
    WHY WOULD THIS JUST NOW BE STARTING & ANY OTHER TIPS THAN TAKING HIM TO VET? (which I obviously will, but would love your professional opinion)

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