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Dog behaviors and health: the easy guide

By Sophie – on in News, Biology

It can seem at times like one needs a PHD to be able to figure out if their dog is happy. But no need to go back to college and take another student loan. There exist no dog language classes (that we know of) anyway! Fortunately, this simple guide will help you understand some of the behaviours related to their mental and physical health. You will, therefore, be spending less time trying to figure out what’s wrong with your pup and more time trading nose kisses.

1 Dogs’ behaviors explained: they sleep in your bed

Pexels | Pixabay

So you loaded your credit card to purchase your puppy the best day bed there is and he only ever sleeps on your bed instead? You even noticed that he seems to be spending time on your bed even when you are not home?

Whenever you are gone shopping or doing business, sleeping on your bed is the closest they can get to you. After all, no other place in your home has caught your smell like this one!

2 They look at you with cute eyes, leaning their head

Steshka Willems | Pexels

Sometimes you’ll lift your head from what you are doing and they’ll just be looking at you as would a teenager with bad credit begging their parents to co-sign their car loan. Except, it seems more sincere. Why are they so cute?

By trading sweet looks with you, they show you they care about you. If your dog gives you the puppy eyes, you are in business: it is a sign of trust. As to why they tilt their head when you speak to them, that’s simply to pay attention to you more.

3 They jump on you

Pixabay | Pexels

A dog jumping on you can mean multiple things. First, it could be because they want food. When they were puppies, they used to jump on their mothers to show her they wanted to be fed. Just like college students on a budget jumping on their parents’ fridge whenever they get home, this can be a way to show they are hungry.

Another explanation is that they simply want to greet you face to face as they do with other dogs. A puppy jumping on you means they are bored and need to spend their energy. Finally, if your dog reserves this treatment to strangers and jumped on the mortgage broker last time he came by, that’s because they are feeling insecure and want to show they are the dominating being in the situation.

4 They yawn

RogerMayhem | Pixabay

We might yawn when we are bored or tired because we spent the night worrying about our credit score rather than sleeping, but that’s not the case for our canine friends. In fact, dogs yawn for a completely different reason.

They actually consider yawning as some sort of peace sign. That’s why they’ll do that around other dogs, or even around you after you’ve been quarrelling about something to buy peace and you should probably give them credit for it. It’s a sure sign of friendship. Be aware that when a dog sees you yawning, that’s how they interpret it too!

5 They lie on your feet


Dogs often lie close to their owners or even directly on their feet. Let’s face it, in winter, it’s a pleasant behaviour, because the dog eventually warms us up. However, trading warmth is not why they do it!

Some may think that dogs do this to reassure themselves. Don’t believe this claim, it is quite the opposite. They are just trying to protect you! If you don’t want them to do this, avoid giving them attention when they do it and show them where to stand.

6 They run after their tail


That’s a very cute behavior, isn’t it? Did you know it was not exclusive to dogs? Some other animals do it too. Whenever they are let loose on your real estate, they start bouncing around and running after their tale.

We’ll see this more commonly among puppies. It’s actually a type of game where dogs can engage in their prey/predator instinct without fear of getting hurt. However, if a puppy does this very often, it means that they are bored and need to spend their energy more.

7 They chew your furniture


Your puppy ruins every pair of shoes you purchase, even the ones for which you almost had to take up a loan? This annoying behavior can be explained in various ways. First of all, in the case of puppies, they are probably trying to relieve the pain of their growing teeth. Baby humans also like to chew on things as they develop.

If your dog is an adult, chewing is actually a way to keep their teeth clean. Purchase them a bone or invest in toys that will be more tempting to chew than your furniture! Last but not least, if the chewing happens only when you are not home, your pet might suffer from separation anxiety. Go to the vet to see if a medication can help them.

8 They go around in circles before lying down

Sleeping puppy on dog bed

We’ve all seen a dog spending some time going around in circles before going to bed. Although it is believed that dogs are looking for the ideal position to lie down, the reason for this behaviour goes way back.

It seems that this sleep preparation technique dates back to the old days when dogs had to find a way to warm up by lying on the ground. As they turned around, they dug themselves a warmer space in order to sleep better. This behaviour seems to have transferred over the years. You might want to keep this tip in the bank for whenever your outdoorsy partner takes you camping in the middle of October.

9 Things humans do that dogs hate: all words and no body language

Daria Rem | Pexels

First is the habit to talk to our dog and expect them to understand everything we’ve just said. It’s a dog. Not another human. They did not go to classes as you did. Your dog might understand a few words like sit, fetch and wait, but they certainly don’t have the ability to understand a lot of words.

That’s why it’s important to associate words with movements or even just some looks in our eyes. Your dog will best understand what you want if it’s the case. It might be difficult to do at first, but you won’t need a master’s degree to succeed.

10 Walking up to an unfamiliar dog while staring at them

Steshka Willems | Pexels

Once again: would you like a stranger to look at you straight in the eyes while they walk up to you? That is so uncomfortable and creepy! So don’t spend too much time doing the same with dogs.

Dogs mirror our discomfort in this situation. They don’t like being stared at more than we do. So, don’t trading long looks with them. Don’t be that creepy person.

11 Check their eyes | Pexels

Dogs usually can’t remove something that’s bothering them from their eyes. That’s your job as their owner. Make sure there isn’t an eyelash or a hair that’s poking them. It could be extremely irritating if it’s the case.

While you’re at it, take the habit to notice your dog’s pupils and discharges. Pupils should always be the same size. Consult a vet if it’s not the case. Similarly, if your dog usually doesn’t have any eye discharge, their presence could be a sign that they are physically sick at the moment.

12 They dig the ground

889083 | Pixabay

You might have noticed some dogs are more prone to this behavior than others. Well, you already have part of the answer here. If you feel like your dog’s behavior is making the value of your real estate drop, you might be the one to blame.

Some dogs were bred to hunt. Moreover, some of the dog’s ancestors, like wolves and foxes, are animals that will dig to hunt or to give birth. Your dog might still have that instinct, depending on how long ago their line was domesticated. If you picked your dog’s breed, it is your fault that you pay a mortgage on a home with a yard full of holes.

13 They scream outside

David Besh | Pexels

A dog howling outside does not try to warn spirits or communicate with wolves. Although we like to believe in these old beliefs, screaming is simply a way to communicate an emotion. Don’t start a fundraiser to have your puppy exorcised.

Generally, howling is a sign of boredom or separation anxiety. If you leave the apartment you are renting for several hours, it will probably happen. They may also behave in this manner because a female is standing nearby or because they heard a noise and are trying to warn you.

14 They show their teeth

AdinaVoicu | Pixabay

A dog that shows its teeth doesn’t necessarily want to attack you. But they are not showing off their dental hygiene either. Before approaching a dog that gives you a fake smile, it is better to understand its intentions. You have bad days and so does your dog. It can show its teeth just because it’s not in the mood.

Dogs can also show them if they are not happy with a situation or, of course, if they feel threatened or in danger. Very territorial dogs will do this more often to show you that they are in control, but this is not always a sign of bad behaviour. It’s more of a way to communicate.

15 They lay on their back

Fran__ | Pixabay

A dog constantly rolling on its back can have two very different meanings. The first one is certainly the best known of all: he is happy! A dog who wants to get his stomach scratched will not hesitate to roll and put his paws in the air. Definitely buy into it and take a minute to scratch it.

However, this behaviour can also mean that he is very afraid. Experts say that a dog that develops phobias will demonstrate it by lying on its back very often. If you notice that your dog seems scared when it does this, it is not your business to pet it and he may react badly.

16 They lick you or other dogs

falco | Pixabay

This behavior can actually mean two different things, depending on where the licking is happening. A dog that licks your feet means he’s showing submission; they recognize you as the master and the leader.

On the other hand, if your dog licks your face, it means they are crazy for you and love you to a deep degree. The same goes for when they are licking other dogs’ faces.

17 Forcing your dog to interact with dogs/cats/people they don’t like

Free-Photos | Pixabay

That’s also basic human behaviour 101. You don’t like to interact with people you dislike. Clearly, your dog won’t either. Add that piece of advice to the how-to-make-sure-my-dog-is-happy bank.

Yes, socializing your dog is very important. However, that doesn’t mean they have to buy into the rule of engaging with everyone and every dog they meet. Let them select who they want to be with.

18 Going on walks but not letting your dog explore | Pexels

Dogs are just as curious if not more than us. You’ll have noticed every once in a while they like to stop at random places to smell things… Even private property. That’s not inappropriate, it’s only normal for them.

They really like smelling and exploring. Keeping them from doing so is really sad. Allow them to do that. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t walk obediently on a leash. Speaking of leashes, don’t keep them on a tight leash all the time. Go shopping for a longer one, they’ll be happier on a slack one.

19 Being tense

Charles | Pexels

Dogs feel your emotions. If you are tensed and stressed, not only will your dog feel it but they will probably mirror these emotions themselves. We understand that keeping a mortgage or paying back your loans can be stressful, but try not to transfer your stress onto your dog.

Do you both a favour and learn to relax. It can be through meditation, yoga, running, a soothing activity or by talking with someone.

20 Not providing structures and rules

Kat Jayne | Pexels

Most dogs are very loyal, loving and obedient. Moreover, a lot of dogs want to please you at all costs. Are you really that surprised dogs love to follow rules?

They enjoy having a structured life, and we could even argue that most of us do too. It’s more predictable and reassuring that way, isn’t it? Establish a routine when it comes to walks and feeding to help your dog thrive and be happy. One could say that keeping a good routine is almost like health insurance for your dog.

21 Checking your dog’s health: monitoring their energy levels

ivanovgood | Pixabay

Dogs can get sick, just like us. Whether it’s physical or psychological, there are signs to look for. If caught early enough, you could save a lot of money at the veterinary, or even your dog’s life. Of course, if you can, get pet insurance for your dog, that way you can afford frequent visits at the vet if need be.

One thing that is quite easy to monitor is your dog’s energy level. After all, you’ll notice right away if your dog is super calm when they are usually hyperactive or vice-versa. A dog with an abnormally low level of energy could suffer from a physical condition, such as food intoxication, dehydration or a parasite. They could also suffer from a psychological ailment, especially if they suddenly lack interest in things they once loved.

On the other hand, a dog that used to be calm and that is very agitated could be anxious out of a sudden, especially if something in their environment has changed recently. Your dog’s sleep could also tell you if they are doing ok.

22 Weight

Juan Gomez

A healthy dog will not be skinny nor obese. Of course, some dogs are naturally skinny, but make sure your dog is within the normal healthy weight limits of their breed.

It goes without saying that obesity will cause numerous health problems for your dog. It should really be avoided. That’s why keeping your dog on a steady and balanced diet is so important. Make sure you couple that with physical activity too. By doing so, you won’t have to spend your entire paycheck on veterinary visits.

23 Toilet habits

Pixabay | Pexels

We probably wouldn’t have needed to spell it out since you already take a look at your dog’s poop when you pick it up. However, monitoring your dog’s toilet habit can save you a lot of problems.

You’ll notice right away if they are suffering from diarrhea or constipation. Pay close attention to the presence of mucus or blood in your dog’s excrements. Immediately visit the vet if it’s the case. Finally, your dog’s urine can also be revealing of their health. If it’s dark or blooded, once again you should see the veterinary with your dog… Hopefully, you have insurance.

24 Check their mouth

Pixabay | Pexels

Many things should be checked in your dog’s mouth. First of all, have a look at their teeth. Are they clean? Loose? Second, check their tongue. Are there sores on it? Cuts?

Your dog’s gums should also be monitored. Normally, they are pink. Dark or red patches aren’t normal. Go to the veterinary to figure out what’s going on. At last, if your dog has abnormally bad breath, it could mean they have some sort of digestive problem. Have them do a dental health check up.

25 Check their nose

Bruno Cervera | Pexels

Sick people often have a blocked and red nose, and they sneeze more than usual. Well, when it comes to dogs, their nose is also a pretty good indicator of their health. It should always be cold and moist. The contrary is worrisome.

Just like with the eyes, watch out for abnormal discharges. Also, pay close attention to your dog’s breathing. Do they sneeze more than usual? Do they seem to have obstructed breathing? Once again, see the vet if it’s the case. And while you are there, purchase them a treat, poor thing.

26 They won’t stop barking

Robert Gramner | Unsplash

A dog that barks constantly is not necessarily bad. It should not be forgotten that yapping is their main way of communicating. He is therefore only trying to trade some information. By investing some time to understand what he is trying to express, you will be able to control his bark more easily.

Positive barking: A dog who wants to play or is overexcited will tend to demonstrate this by barking. You also notice it by its physical reaction, it will wag its tail and will certainly try to jump into the air as one does on payday.

Negative barking: Fear, anxiety and boredom can also cause excessive barking. If a dog feels in danger or uncomfortable in his environment, he will let you know through his voice. You should not buy into the idea that barking is bad, but rather figure out what causes it.

27 They stare at you before you leave home

moshehar | Pixabay

A dog’s eyes talk a lot and different contexts can explain why your dog is spending long periods of time staring at you. However, be aware that staring at a dog who doesn’t know you is not a good thing to try. They may buy this behaviour as a confrontation and may feel threatened.

If you have a beautiful relationship with your dog and he stares at you when you leave to go about your business, it’s probably because he wants to release emotion from your face and show you his affection. We have to give them credit for this one: it’s hard to leave when they make those sweet eyes.

28 They are leaning on you

Dog leaning on his master in the park

Have you ever noticed how sometimes your dog seems to put all its weight on you to a certain degree? If you have a big dog, you might even feel off-balanced if you are standing up, or smothered if you are laying down.

Well, your dog does so to get your attention. In dog language, this means they want more love from you. So feel free to transfer some affection back to them.

29 Hugging your dog

Daria Shevtsova | Pexels

Have you ever seen dogs hugging each other the way we hug each other? That’s probably why dogs don’t like to be hugged by us. For dogs, being hugged is a sign of dominance.

They might even feel threatened when they are hugged and violently react. That’s why it’s so important to teach children how to act around animals. You wouldn’t want them to get hurt, would you?

30 Eating habits

pug habits
Charles PH | Unsplash

You may have noticed your own appetite changes when you are sick or depressed. Well, it’s the same for your dog. Their eating habits can reveal a lot about how they are feeling, be it physically or psychologically.

If your dog hasn’t touched their food bowl for more than 24 hours, go to the veterinary with them immediately. The same goes for their water bowl. That’s especially important if your dog is normally a big eater. They might need treatment.

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Sophie holds a bachelor's degree in biology. She has always been passionate about literature and writing, which is why she likes to write scientific articles for Get-Science whenever she has the opportunity. Although her favourite subject is biology (of course!), she is also interested in astronomy as well as the environment.