Pet Behavior: 101
The actions of dogs and cats can be mystifying. Why does your dog bite the hand that feeds him? Why does your cat rub up against your leg? These answers may surprise you.
Pets often do things that look strange to us: chewing on themselves, turning around in circles before lying down, eating grass and garbage. Believe it or not, your dog or cat has a reason behind every action. It probably goes without saying that your pet views some of your activities as odd, as well. What if Fido could talk? What would he say about you brushing your teeth or ironing clothes?
Dogs and cats act mostly out of instinct. The majority of their daily actions are performed naturally, just because it feels right. They're preconditioned, if you will, to act a certain way in certain situations. So, even though certain actions may not make sense to you, your pet knows exactly what they're doing and why.
CIRCLING BEFORE LYING DOWN It is common for dogs to circle three or four times before lying down. It is also normal for a sleeping dog to wake up, begin circling and lay back down. The action of circling is how your dog gets the circulation going, especially after waking. Dog's limbs "fall asleep" much like ours'.
HEAD FACING NORTH? Most canines will instinctively point their head to the North when lying down for long periods of time. Studies have shown that when your dog does this, he is naturally improving his circulation and metabolism. This position also allows your pet's heartrate to slow, giving him a more restful night's sleep.
CHEWING ON THEMSELVES Many dogs will chew their paws until they bleed or gnaw on a piece of their fur until their skin is red and raw and irritated. Generally speaking, this means your pet is due for a trip to the Veterinarian. Dogs with hotspots, fleas, ticks and skin allergies will often try to heal themselves by getting rid of the source of discomfort.
CHEWING ON YOU When a dog takes your hand into his mouth, it's actually a sign of trust and affection. Your pet will not do this to strangers or even acquaintances. Pets will often perform this action for a variety of reasons, including nervousness, playfulness and as a simple act of affection. Your dog's mouth is very sensitive. Much like you would hold the hand of someone as a sign of your love, your dog grabs on to your hand the only way he knows how.
EATING GRASS This is a common behavior by both cats and dogs. Some pets chew grass when they are ill, knowing that it will make them vomit and they will be able to make themselves feel better. Other pets chew grass out of boredom or missing nutrients in their diet. Eating grass is not harmful and no cause for alarm. (Be certain that your yard has not been sprayed or treated before allowing pets to eat grass, however. Simple pesticides and insect treatments are highly toxic to both cats and dogs.)
RUBBING If you have a cat, you already know that cats love to rub themselves up against your leg, the sides of furniture and walls. As much as you'd like to believe that your cat rubs up against you as a sign of affection, that's usually not the case. Cats have sebaceous glands in their cheeks, chin and the base of their tale. By using those areas to rub up against you or someone else, they are in a sense, leaving their mark on you.
HYPERACTIVITY Most cats (and dogs) go through stages of what appears to be hyperactive behavior. They could be sitting still one moment and dashing through the room at record speeds the next. This is just your pet's way of being playful. Veterinarians encourage you not to scold your animals for having a sudden burst of energy, but rather, feel thankful. Your cat or dog is showing you their "silly" personality because they know you love and accept them.
There are some things that your pet does that will always remain a mystery (like eating garbage). Still don't understand it. Your local veterinarian however, can often explain certain repetitive behaviors if curiosity has gotten the best of you.