Dog behavior can be strange, but usually has survival origins.
The Origins of Bed Circling & Other Odd Dog Behaviors
If you spend a lot of time with your dog, you may have noticed your canine friend exhibiting some fairly strange behaviors! Even while just taking your dog on a walk, you can spot some evolutionary leftovers and chemical reactions taking place.
Doggy Dump Radar
For example, have you ever noticed the fact that your dog will face the same direction every time he or she defecates ("takes a dump")? Dogs will generally align their spine along the north/south axis in order to relieve themselves. After a study spanning 2 years, 37 dog breeds, and 70 dogs overall, researchers discovered that the reason for this comes from a dog’s ability to sense the Earth’s magnetic field. No one knows why this connection exists, or why dogs choose the north/south axis, but they are not the only animals to do so. Cattle and some types of deer have also shown similar levels of being “magnetoreceptive,” or able to sense the planet’s magnetic field. So the next time you’re lost on a walk with your dog, pay attention to which way he or she faces when it’s time to go!
Can I Get A Leg Up?
On a similar note, most people have seen their dog peeing with one leg hiked up, an image that, when next to a fire hydrant, has appeared in many a cartoon. What people may not know, however, is that this way of relieving themselves is linked to a survival instinct for dogs from long ago. The one-leg-up alignment makes a dog appear taller, and thus more dominant. Since peeing is often linked to a release of pheromones to claim a spot as one’s own, this vertical line posture is a kind of power play, warning other animals that your dog has no plans to be caught with his pants down.
The Rear-View Can Can after Going to the Can
After relieving themselves, many dogs may kick at the grass with their hind legs. For some, this is a way of being polite, and covering up the spot they just used. For others, however, this is a continuation of the leg-up posture and another effort to establish dominance. By further focusing their energies on the spot, a dog may be attempting to release the pheromones from their urine in order to further claim the property.
Eau de Derrière
The above two dominance-related behaviors also explain another common dog mystery—why dogs smell each other’s behinds. Many pheromones and chemicals are released through the rear end, and so a simple sniff can tell a dog many things about the newcomer. Remember, an average dog's nose is anywhere between 10,000 to 100,000 times more sensitive than a human’s!
Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep
Finally, one of the most famous dog mysteries—why exactly is it that dogs circle before lying down? Many scientists think the answer is also linked to evolution. In prehistoric times, dogs and many other mammals may have possessed this circling instinct. The reason for it is to make one’s own bed—to crush an area of grass with the circumference of one’s body, and to look out for or warn away any stinging plants, insects, or other beasts before lying down to sleep at night. The next time you observe them doing something that seems odd, make sure to take a note of it. It may make for a great science project for a kid, a topic for a study, or a way to find your way if lost. Which of these behaviors, or others, have you noticed your dog engaging in? And if you liked this, you may enjoy seeing some more weird behavior pics and animations over at Barkpost's Weird Dog Behaviors collection.