How to Curb 4 of Fido’s Head-Scratching Behaviors

• 7 min read

Having a dog in your life often means having a front-row seat to some of the most adorable, hilarious, and peculiar behaviors. It’s easy to fill up your day — and your phone storage — watching them go swimming and boating, sledding and sliding, bouncing, snoozing, and snuggling.

It also means occasionally dealing with some of their less-appealing antics. But, the good news is you can teach any dog a new trick, so it’s not hard to help Fido find better ways to spend their time.

The Chewlympics

Your good work shoes! Your favorite socks! Your library book! Your couch?! Yes, living with a dog isn’t all belly rubs and tippy taps. Sometimes things — and by things, we mean your actual things — get a little … messed up.

Get a puppy, they said. It’ll be fun, they said. And it is! Plus, the puppy cute factor is a powerful force. However, puppy dogs come with puppy teeth. From the little ones falling out to the big ones growing in, little Fido’s sore gums will need some soothing, and chewing is just the thing. Give your dog chew toys that can’t be swallowed or break into dangerous pieces. Getting Fido chewing on the right things as a puppy will set up good chewing behavior for the rest of their life.

Dealing with an adult-sized chewer? It could be your dog’s way of saying he’s bored, stressed, or anxious. Maybe he doesn’t have enough to do or there’s too much going on and he can’t relax. Left to their own devices, chewing might be how he finds relief, so make sure he gets healthy physical and mental stimulation each day — even if you can’t get outside. Keep safe chew toys where he can find them. Treat-release balls are another fun way to give your pooch enrichment and soothing me-time simultaneously.

Think about protecting your home at the same time. It’s one more great reason to put shoes, clothes, toys, books, remote controls, hair brushes, wallets, watches, and everything else you care about away when you’re not using it. You may also want to consider impersonal correction. By spraying potential chewing targets with a no-chew spray, you can discourage the destructive behavior without directly addressing your dog.

Scoot-Scooting Away

Whether you find it amusing or embarrassing depends on whether you’ve got company when it happens, but when your dog lifts both back paws and scoots their cute little butt across the floor, it may actually mean that he needs your help.

If it only happens once in a while, this comic butt crawl may be nothing more than a harmless itch. But if you’re noticing it regularly, it could be the sign of a larger issue. Start by finding a gentle way to lift up their tail and check for signs of irritation. If you notice anything that doesn’t look normal, have your vet take a look.

Skin irritation around a dog’s rectum could be caused by allergies or possibly nicks or razor burn from being groomed. Yet if Fido’s back side isn’t properly trimmed, dingleberries could get stuck in their fur and prevent Fido from pooping, which also creates a scootable discomfort. Also, diarrhea can inflame the delicate skin there, creating soreness and/or itchiness.

Intestinal parasites, like tapeworms, are another culprit. They cause itching and irritation as they exit your dog, but fortunately they are easy for your vet to treat.

If your dog is dragging their bum across the rug frequently, it could mean that his anal sacs — the two little glands on either side of his anus — aren’t working right. These glands fill with a fluid that normally will empty when your dog poops, making elimination easier and helping your dog leave behind a distinctive marker for other dogs to sniff out.

If the ducts that release the fluid get clogged or impacted, the grape-sized glands will get uncomfortably full, and that’s when you’ll find your dog scooting across the floor, trying to make their bottom feel better.

Besides helping Fido keep things neat and tidy back there and making sure he’s getting a balanced diet, you may want to consider a supplement that supports gut health, with fiber for stool consistency and ingredients that help keep their anal glands healthy. 

Indulging in Backyard Cuisine

As a dog lover, you’ve probably seen — or smelled or cleaned up — it all, but you still may want to set down your snack while we cover this next topic. The cool sciency name is coprophagia, but that’s just a fancy way of saying that Fido eats poop . Or someone else’s poop. He may not be picky in this department.

There’s a reason no one talks about it, and it’s not because it’s not common, because a study showed that 16% of dogs are serious stool eaters and 24% have done it at least once.

So why do they do it? To some degree it’s instinctual. Mother dogs clean their pups all over and not with a washcloth. Sometimes puppies will do this too and just not grow out of it. Dogs that are hungry all the time — which could be their personality or possibly an illness — might just find that it tastes good to them. For other dogs, eating poop may come from anxiety, stress, fear, or attention-seeking.

Coprophagia could also be a sign of illness. If something different is going on inside your dog, it could change the consistency or smell of stool, which might entice your dog to eat it.

Yes, it sounds unappetizing, but fortunately, it’s not too if your pup is eating their own poop. However, bacteria and parasites from it can be transmitted to humans through his mouth and saliva. Plus, it doesn’t help his breath.

Once you make sure there’s no underlying health problem you can work on their poop habit. Keep it picked up so it’s not out in the yard and leave your dog on a leash while he’s going to the bathroom.

You may also want to consider a vitamin supplement. One theory of coprophagia is that dogs eat poop because they aren’t getting enough vitamin B. If the body isn’t absorbing the nutrition in food, you might want to consider a digestive enzyme supplement  to help. These supplements  can also help with ingredients that create a deterrent by giving stools a more unpleasant taste.

Traveling to the Zoom Zone

It may start with a bath. Or you may be issued a warning in the form of a play bow. Or it could just be the opening of a crate or a door that triggers the sudden, wild bursts of energy that scientists call Frenetic Random Activity Periods (FRAPs), but which are more commonly known as zoomies.

Usually lasting no more than a minute or two, zoomies are a normal release of pent-up energy. If your dog has been denied the chance to burn off energy naturally for a while, expect the excited eyes and tucked back-end posture that’s so common to these top-speed circular runs — around the yard, the house, or even a table.

On their own, zoomies aren’t dangerous, though make sure they’re done in a safe place — away from stairs and heights, slick surfaces and roads. It’s best not to chase a zooming dog, either. This will only encourage your doggy. Try calling him back with a treat or toy, or even running in the opposite direction. Regular exercise is already a good idea for your dog, plus it may head-off potentially dangerous zooming. 

While you may not be proud of all of Fido’s tricks, remember that if he’s doing something that doesn’t seem right, it might mean something bigger is going on. No matter what their body language is telling you, your dog doesn’t feel guilt because dogs don’t do things out of spite.

The tell-tale droopy ears and tucked tail are more likely a submissive response to your own reaction to the situation. As best as you can, try to control your emotions when little slip-ups happen. Then determine whether a check-up from the vet or positive encouragement from you is the best way to change behavior!

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