Dog behaviourist Q and A: weirdest questions you’ve ever wanted to ask

While we love our dogs, there’s no doubt that sometimes they do some seriously weird and yucky things. It’s easy to pretend your perfect dog never does anything like that – because let’s face it, it’s not exactly a topic for polite conversation. Plus, you might be too freaked out to even want to tell anyone! It’s time for a dog behaviourist question and answer session, where we’re going to lift the lid on some of those things that sometimes make you, just for a moment, reconsider your life choices…

We asked you what the most embarassing, weird or gross questions are you’d like to ask me as a dog behaviourist, and you didn’t disappoint!

Why does my dog sniff other dogs’ bums?

There are lots of things dogs do that are yucky or just downright embarrassing. One of the most common questions I get as a dog behaviourist is “why does my dog sniff other dogs’ bums?”

While we’re all about politeness and handshakes, our dogs are all about the bum sniffing. Yuck! For humans, this often transfers as crotch sniffing too… It’s hard to ignore a Labrador nose up your skirt – and it can make greeting important guests tricky. Especially those who aren’t dog-savvy!

For a dog, however, this is an entirely natural behaviour. Dogs find out about each other by smell – and with their incredible noses, they can discover all kinds of things! That includes another dog’s sex, reproductive state, age, and even their mood. Impressive, right?

Did you know they can discover if another dog is going to be friend or foe by sniff alone? Thing is, sniffing the front end where their 42 teeth are could be dangerous. And is thought of as rather rude too! But an area that’s as far away from the sharp end as possible? Much better and safer! Especially one with a great concentration of information-giving scents.

So while we think yuck – or want to hide under a duvet with embarrassment – actually, our dog is being very polite. Honest!

Why does my dog eat poo?

Pups with a taste for poo are another top dog behaviourist question I get asked. Many things that make us think ‘yuck’ about our dogs come down to their habit of eating gross things.

Eating poo – theirs or anyone/anything else’s – is definitely up there on things that challenge our love for them… There are several reasons for this behaviour – depending a lot on whose poo it is!

No matter how disgusting we find this, to our dogs: some poo is tasty. As an example, cat poo is almost totally protein and so comes out almost as it went in! Other animals’ poo (and I hate to say it, human poo) can be full of nutrients: undigested fats, proteins, or other delicious smelling delicacies that are irresistible. Especially to those permanently hungry breeds or individuals who err on the side of ‘eat now, ask questions later’.

Go back to the days of dogs’ early domestication, ‘cleaning up’ the village was one of the jobs that made them successful neighbours. If you watch a mother with her puppies, she’ll clean up after them by eating their poo to keep the nest tidy and avoid detection.

In other words, this is natural behaviour – even if yuck!

Other dogs who are looking for more toys or enrichment, or those who might’ve had a hard start without sufficient food, can get into the habit of eating poo because it’s the only thing to interact with in their environment.

Did you know owners can also accidentally encourage this? When you leap in immediately to stop them getting the poo, it becomes a comeptition to see who gets there first. This just adds stress and convinces your dog that poo is valuable!

On rare occasions, nutritional defiencies can cause your dog to eat poo. Always make sure to feed a nutritionally complete diet and consider talking to your vet.

As for eating vomit… Well, if it tasted good the first time…! (I know – yuck!).

Why does my dog hump things?

Picture this: you sit down for dinner with guests, only to be interrupted by your dog humping your soft furnishings… Embarassing, right? Even more so if it’s one of your guests’ legs!

While most dog owners laugh it off, others can be truly horrified by being treated to this kind of a show, and question me as a dog behaviourist on how to stop it.

Obviously humping is a natural behaviour – but despite what people think it mostly isn’t sexual. Puppies even as young as eight weeks (male and female) can show humping behaviours when they get excited, and often this is just at a time when they’re learning how their bodies work and “hey… this humpy thing is kind of fun… even though I’ve no idea why”!

Often dogs can use humping as a stress reliever. Dogs who don’t have an outlet for anxiety, boredom, frustration or just over-excitement, can turn to humping. And this can easily become a habit and a go-to behaviour, especially dependant on their owner’s behaviour in response. This is common in adolescents who are struggling with the physical and emotional changes their emerging adult state brings.

Other times – especially if a dog is bored, or wants more enrichment, exercise or social contact – they can find humping your cushions will get them the attention they’re after, as you jump up in horror to stop this ‘deviant behaviour’ or laugh at them. And they can get really good at discovering it has a far better effect when you have guests – especially important ones!

Other dogs just hump (even air hump) if they get so excited they just don’t know what to do with themselves!

Why does my dog love to roll in fox/deer poo?

Eau de fox poo – our dogs love it, but we don’t! Again, one of the most common questions I get asked as a dog behaviourist is “why does my dog roll in fox poo?” Or other nasty smelling things!

Like many ‘yuck’ dog behaviours, rolling in fox poo, deer poo, dead fish, or all manner of disgustingly smelly things is a behavioural hangover from their wilder days. Our dogs’ ancestors were hunters, and in turn, also had their own predators. This meant hunting was important to survive, so being able to disguise their scent allowed them to better sneak up on their prey undetected. Hunting was also dangerous, so ‘going undercover’ would hide their own scent from those that might rather fancy a meal of dog.

Border Collie after rolling in mud and other questionable substances sitting in a bathroom looking regretful of the impending bath

Fox poo may well be a particular favourite because the smell lingers… and lingers… and lingers…!

There’s also the possibility that eau de fox poo smells better to a dog’s sensitive noise than the shampoos or dog perfume sprays we sometimes like to use. And they’d really like to bring that lovely smell home with them to share with everybody else!

Your dog behaviourist questions answered

So, there are just four of the weird and yucky things dogs do. It’s always important to remember however disgusting we think these behaviours are, they’re just part of life with a dog and are entirely natural doggie things. It might be fun to think about what things our dogs think we do that are pretty yucky – or just plain weird!

Looking for more odd dog behaviours? Read more about why dogs stare, why they lick your feet after a shower and why they rub their bum on their floor.

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