Answers to questions you’ve always wondered about dogs

Why do dogs walk in a circle before lying down?

Do you ever wonder why your dog walks round and round before settling down in his doggy bed or favorite sleeping spot? There are several theories about why this occurs. One of the most common theories asserts that this behavior dates back to prehistoric times when dogs had to make their own beds. They would walk around in a circle to mat down the leaves and underbrush into a cozy nest. By flattening down the tall grasses, a dog would also be sending a signal to other dogs, telling them not to intrude, letting them know that this territory is taken.

Another theory suggests that by turning 360 degrees multiple times a dog can observe the environment around him to be sure the area is safe before settling down to go to sleep.

Finally, others contend that dogs use this bedding behavior to regulate their body temperatures. Digging a shallow hole and then circling it to assess how to lie in it is part of the process. A dog is seeking the optimal position in which to curl up and keep his body either warm or cool. If your dog digs at the blankets or moves anything else around, that is also part of the process to get the bedding just right, similar to how we humans might fluff or arrange our pillows before crawling under the covers.

If, however, the circling and digging continues beyond a few minutes, it could indicate a health problem, such as arthritis. If it looks like your dog is restless or has any trouble getting up, take your dog to the vet to determine if there is an underlying health problem.

Why are dogs’ noses wet?

A dog’s nasal glands secrete fluids. Some of the glands are near the opening of the nose, but it’s unclear how the secretions make their way to the exterior tip of the nose. One theory is fairly simple: it’s because a dog has used his tongue to lick the top of his nose.

What is clear is that there are benefits to having a wet nose. The nasal glands help the dog dissipate heat, and some experts believe that dogs can smell better with a wet nose.

Usually, if a dog’s nose isn’t wet, it’s because he has been in a warm room, or has covered his nose with his paws for an extended period of time.

Why do dogs like sticking their heads out of car windows, but hate having you blow in their ears?

Many people believe that dogs like sticking their heads out of moving car windows because they’re visually curious and want an unobstructed view. Other believe they’re enjoying the wind. If that is the case, however, why don’t dogs like getting even the slightest puff of air blown into their ears?

One might think it’s because of nerve sensitivity. But actually, it’s due to the sound of the blowing. To a dog, the sound of blowing in the ear is analogous to humans and the sound of microphone feedback - it makes us recoil and back away. Because dogs are so sensitive to this sound, veterinarians often use ear blowing as a technique to test for deafness.

Another theory is that avoiding air in the ear helps prevent debris from flying into the ear canal. This is why dogs who stick their heads out of moving car windows often end up with ear infections.

Why do some male dogs lift their legs when they pee while others do not?

If you think that when a dog lifts his leg to pee he is marking his territory, you are right. By lifting his leg, he is able to be direct the urine farther out, thereby extending his boundary. However, just because a territory has been marked by one dog doesn’t mean that other dogs will respect the boundaries. Most male dogs will disregard the first-come-first-served rule and claim that same area as their own by doing the same thing and urinating in the same spot.

The lifting of the leg also seems to be linked to the testicular hormone. Thus, puppies who have been neutered before four months of age tend not to lift their legs since their testicular hormone didn’t have time to be adequately produced before castration.

Are dogs born disliking cats?

In a word, no. Cats and dogs don’t instinctively hate each other. When kittens and puppies are born, they go through a socialization period. For kittens, it’s between 4-8 weeks of age, for puppies, it’s 5-12 weeks. If puppies and kittens get along during this socialization period, then they will likely get along for the rest of their lives because the dog won’t see the cat as prey and the cat won’t see the dog as a threat.

So, why do cats and dogs who haven’t been socialized as youngsters often dislike each other? One belief is that because they are different species, they communicate in different ways. For instance, dogs greet each other by smelling each other’s butts, but cats do not do this. Therefore, if a dog tries to sniff a cat’s butt, the cat will not only not appreciate the friendly overture, but will probably find it threatening.

Another cause of antipathy between the species is due to dogs’ predatory instincts. When dogs were first domesticated, many were bred to chase and hunt small furry animals. Therefore, when a skittish cat runs from a dog, the dog’s instinct is to chase the cat. This, in turn, instills a fear of the dog in the cat.

Can dogs tell what time it is?

My dog knows exactly when it’s time to get up in the morning. He knows when it’s time to be fed and when to expect his evening treat. He has the routine all down pat – almost to the minute. So yes, my dog can tell time. Of course, he doesn’t use clocks and timers to do this. Instead, he tells time by differentiating between long and short periods of time. After we wake up, he knows he will receive his breakfast in a short period of time. After I leave for work, he knows that a long stretch of time will pass before he receives his next meal.

Another way a dog can tell time is by the subtle cues you make through your body language. For instance, if you direct your gaze to the place by the door where the leash is hanging and you have a certain expression on your face, a dog will pick up that that particular look means it’s time for a walk and will start anticipating it.

Dogs can also associate between events. For instance, they figure out that when the garage door closes, it usually means their human is about to walk through the door.

Just as humans tend to naturally wake up with the sun or go to bed shortly after nightfall, dogs do the same. If you feed your dog breakfast and dinner during these times, they will predict when they are going to eat based on the intensity or lack of sunlight.

One fascinating theory suggests that dogs tell time with their sense of smell, especially when it comes to knowing what time their humans will be home. Your scent is strongest when you’re home, but it remains even after you’ve left, and dissipates over time. If you follow the same general routine every day, your dog learns that just as your scent has gotten to a certain level you tend to come home.