Why Do Dogs Growl?

The Growl – What is Your Dog Saying? 

Coming across a growling dog is a frightening experience, as any mail carrier can tell you. The sound of a growl heralds the menacing possibility of sudden attack. Our first instinct – to leave the dog alone – is a good one.

But there are different qualities of growls used in different situations. Growling is one of the few forms of “verbal” communication dogs possess. Most forms of growling serve one purpose – to get someone or something to back off.

Before explaining what the various tones and pitches may mean, it’s helpful to understand why dogs growl in the first place. One theory is that most creatures (including humans) instinctively associate pitch and tone to convey the message they want. A larger animal is more intimidating than a smaller one – and a lower tone is associated with a larger animal. So a growl – a low, throaty noise – makes an animal appear more menacing.

People react the same way. If you hear a deep, gravely voice, you probably assume that the speaker is more massive. In reality, he may be a 150-pound weakling. (People are often surprised when they meet disc jockeys after hearing them on the radio – they rarely match up to their voices.)

The reverse is true, by the way. A high-pitch voice is associated with a smaller frame. Among dogs, that high-pitch is usually a whine, which is sometimes paired with submissive signals.

The Bottom Line About the Growl

Growling is usually meant to intimidate someone or something to leave property or valued resources (food, toys) alone, or to indicate that the dog is scared and may bite. In other words, growling is meant to repel.

  • A high-pitched throaty growl usually means the dog just wants to be left alone. It doesn’t normally indicate that an attack is imminent – it’s a warning.
  • A medium-pitched, growl resonating from the chest indicates the dog is prepared to do battle. If pushed, the dog may attack.
  • A low-pitched, “belly growl” or growl-bark indicates that the dog is about to bite.

    Why a dog growls depends on the dog and the situation, but it is usually associated with aggression. There are different types of aggression. 

    A dog may growl when he is scared (e.g. fear-aggression) or because he is asserting his status as the alpha dog (dominance aggression). On his own property, he may growl to protect his turf from encroachment (territorial aggression) or to guard some valued resource (food or toys). He may also growl or bark when chasing or cornering some small varmint as part of a predatory sequence (in which the object is not to intimidate, but to obtain food). The dogs may also growl at people who approach them or touch them when they are in pain (pain-induced aggression). Bitches may show maternal aggression, involving growling to warn off people or other dogs after delivering their puppies or if experiencing a false pregnancy.

    Dogs sometimes growl during play, such as during a rousing game of tug-of-war. A growl in this playful context is not generally meant as a threat. However, if the play gets too rough and the dog is growling, it may be better to stop playing and let everyone calm down.

    How Breeding Shapes Your Dog’s Personality

    What Shapes Your Dog’s Personality? 

    Have you ever wondered why your toy poodle follows you around the house like a shadow? Or why your beagle can’t resist going over to your neighbor’s backyard and exploring? Or why it seems that your golden retriever could play fetch with a stick for hours on end? You may not have encouraged these behaviors. In fact, you may even have tried to discourage them. But somehow they persist: Your dog naturally seems to have certain personality traits. The reason is selective breeding.

    Simply put, this means breeding an animal for a certain purpose or trait. Suppose, for example, you have a litter of puppies and you need dogs to herd sheep. “The first step would be to take that litter and without any training whatsoever, put them around the sheep and see which dog pays the most attention to the sheep,” explains Rolan Tripp, a veterinarian in La Mirada, Calif., and an affiliate professor of applied animal behavior at Colorado State Veterinary School. “The second step would be to breed that dog to another with the same natural talent.” Chances are, the next generation would also have these tendencies.

    Animals are also selectively bred for physical characteristics. For example, you might breed only the biggest dogs to the biggest dogs, or only longest-haired dogs to longest-haired dogs. “You would start by breeding two animals together that have a certain look,” says Sarah Wilson, pet behavior consultant and co-author of Paws to Consider (published by Warner in 1999). “Of their offspring, you select the puppy or kitten that is closest to your goal. Then you would breed that animal to another with similar characteristics. With each generation, you’ll have less and less variation.”

    What Your Dog’s Heritage Means to His Personality

    Traditionally, dogs were bred primarily for certain functions, such as hunting, retrieving or herding. Bernese mountain dogs, with their thick coats and strong limbs, were bred to guard herds and flocks in the mountains. Bloodhounds and basset hounds, with their natural talent for following a scent, were bred for scent-tracking jobs. Greyhounds, with their slim bodies and long legs, were capable of great speed and thus were bred for racing. Rottweilers, with their strong bodies and naturally assertive personalities, were bred as guard dogs.

    The key to understanding selective breeding in dogs, Tripp says, is to look at the instincts of dogs’ ancestors, wolves. “During a hunt, certain wolves specialized in different aspects of the hunt,” he explains. “Through selective breeding, dogs that performed only certain aspects of the hunting ritual were derived. The best smellers were bred together, those with the best sight were bred together, those that ran the fastest were bred together, and this resulted in distinct dog breeds.”

    Sighthounds are best at pursuing prey animals by sight. Scent hounds, such as bloodhounds, lead the hunt by sense of smell. Pointers and setters select and indicate specific targets. Shepherd dogs herd sheep using instinctive hunting instincts. Terriers dig up prey animals that attempt to escape underground. Retrievers specialize in retrieving and bringing “prey” back to the den. Each breed has a specific job to do, and each has had its innate level of aggression inhibited.

    Certain wolves, however, were responsible for the actual killing of the prey animals, and these characteristics are the ancestors of dogs such as Rottweilers, chows, pit bulls and akitas. These breeds are genetically programmed for aggression – which may be just what is needed for a police dog or guard dog.

    Of course, many of these breeds have been in existence for hundreds or thousands of years, as is the case with bloodhounds, greyhounds and Rottweilers. Over the last century or two, there has been a lot of fine-tuning, though, especially for physical appearance. “A hundred years ago, dogs were bred primarily for performance, but today they are being bred more for their appearance,” says Dr. Karen Overall, director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine. “Today we’re breeding mostly for size and shape: we’ve shrunk dogs, we’ve made them bald, we’ve made them hairier, we’ve made them fuzzier, or we’ve made them giants.”

    Dog Breed & Personality Traits – What This Means to You

    As a pet owner, it’s important to understand your dog’s roots. “If you know what the tendencies are for the breed, you’ll be able to anticipate what type of behavior problems you may have to deal with down the road,” Wilson says. For example, if you’ve got kids and you’re considering getting a border collie, a breed with a tendency to “herd” children, you’ll know to watch for these tendencies in the dog and be able to get control of the problem early on. 

    Knowing what your dog naturally likes to do will also help you play with him. If you’ve got a Dalmatian – a dog that was bred for running 30 miles a day as a carriage dog – you might take him out jogging with you. If you’ve got a Labrador retriever, a game of fetch is an obvious choice. “But if the dog isn’t a retriever, fetching isn’t in their repertoire, and you may just get frustrated trying to teach the dog to fetch,” Overall says.

    Keep in mind, though, that each individual animal is different. “Don’t be surprised if your dog doesn’t fit every single breed characteristic that you’ve heard about,” Wilson says. “You may well get a Labrador that does not like to retrieve or a terrier who watches a squirrel go by without chasing after it – but the likelihood of encountering such indifference is less with either of these breeds than if you had a breed that didn’t have such interests in the first place.”

    In addition to genetics, two other factors that influence your dog’s personality are his experiences during his socialization period as a puppy, and what happens in his environment as an adult dog. “Obviously, you can’t change your pet’s genes,” Tripp says, “but even if you have a dog that tends is genetically programmed to be very aggressive, if you handle him correctly during puppyhood, and steer and shape his personality, he may still turn into a reasonably good pet.”

    Why It’s Important for Dogs to Play

    Canine Play Time: Why It’s Important

    Ask dog trainer Gail Fisher what benefits a dog gets by playing, and the answer is direct and simple: “What benefits don’t they get?” Fisher, who has been in the business for the past 30 years, has taught animal behavior at the University of New Hampshire and in 1993 opened All Dogs Gym, an activity retreat for pooches in Manchester.

    “Playing for dogs is no different than playing for humans,” she says. “It’s a good mental break, good physical activity, a good stress reliever. Physically, mentally, and emotionally, it’s healthy.”

    Whether chasing a ball in the yard or using canine treadmills, exercise or play is vital in helping dogs expend pent-up energy. Without that outlet they may show behavioral problems that can range from destructive tendencies to attention-seeking antics. Just as surely as a couch potato would benefit from a trot around the block, a dog prone to chewing the couch or digging up a garden will find a much-needed release valve in play and exercise. Often, such physical activities form an important part of resolving behavioral issues.

    “Play is a phenomenal outlet for the dogs’ natural behaviors,” Fisher says. “Dogs very often don’t get an opportunity to express what comes naturally to them.”

    Schedule 15 Minutes of Dog Fun

    Lack of playtime opportunities can be a common problem for dogs that are part of a family in which both “parents” work. Yet, as Fisher explains, helping your dog to get exercise through play does not always mean time-consuming walks or a canine Olympic workout: Any level or manner of activity serves a positive purpose.

    For the average dog owner, Fisher recommends retrieving as a good game, especially if it involves rewards for the dog. Retrieving is not a terribly time-consuming pursuit – few dogs last more than 15 minutes strenuously chasing a tennis ball or Frisbee.

    Dog Rule: Don’t Get Too Physical

    While it would be nice if a healthy dog could run 5 miles with his owner, Fisher says, it is not necessary that the animal’s play be interactive with either the owner or other dogs. Indeed, there are potential downsides to interactive play involving two dogs, or even one owner and a pent-up pet.

    “Playing with other dogs can be pretty rough. When we play with the dog the way a dog plays with another dog, it very often gets us in trouble,” Fisher says. “Dogs like to wrestle and use their mouths. When they are playing with another dog and use their mouths, this mouthing doesn’t appear to hurt the other dog but it sure hurts us. I don’t recommend that owners wrestle with their dogs for this reason.”

    For interactive play with a pumped-up pet, it’s important to set strict ground rules. “I particularly like tug-of-war as a game, but it has to have very specific rules because it can be dangerous,” Fisher says. After all, it should come as no surprise when a dog new to the game gets so excited about winning that his owner becomes part of the contest – resulting in a wrestling match to the bitter end. If you stick to retrieving, though, there is less potential for the game to get out of hand.

    Owners who want their pet’s play to be more than mere energy burning can help their dog develop coordination and “body awareness” through agility classes. “It’s an activity that most dogs love,” says Fisher. Agility training is centers around an obstacle course for dogs. It is patterned after show jumping for horses, and involves the dog navigating the correct path through a series of barriers and tests. “Dog agility is becoming very popular – maybe the most popular pursuit ever,” Fisher says. Most agility classes require a commitment of several weeks.

    For all the obvious physical and emotional benefits of play for a dog, is there then such a thing as bad play? Maybe, Fisher says. “Play by definition isn’t bad but it can go over the top and become bad.” The trainer knows what she’s talking about: Every day her daycare program sees up to 70 dogs playing together, a spectacle that she confesses amounts to a crash course in crisis management.

    Start With a Good Diet for Your Dog

    All physical activity prescribed for dogs is based on the assumption that the dog is healthy. The ability to indulge in strenuous play begins with the dog’s diet, Fisher says: “In my experience, there are dog foods that will contribute to hyperactivity and, conversely, lethargy. The better the dog’s diet, the healthier the dog will be.”

    How to Protect Yourself From Dog Bites

    How Common Are Dog Bites to People?

    It sounds hard to believe, but dog bites comprise the second most common childhood injury requiring emergency-room care. This is because 60 percent of the 4.7 million people bitten each year are children, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

    In fact, about half of all children 12 and under have been bitten. This places dog bites ahead of playground accidents, which rank third according to the American Medical Association. (The most common cause of emergency room visits is injury occurring during baseball or softball games).

    Other categories of people who are frequently attacked include elderly folk and delivery people, such as mail carriers. The image of a dog chasing the mailman is not a just a stereotype. Most attacks occur at the dog’s home or in a familiar place. The attacking dog usually belongs to the family or a friend of the family.

    The increasing number of dog bites has led the CDC to label dog bites as “epidemic” (dog bites are addressed toward 2 percent of the U.S. population annually) Fortunately, most bites are not fatal. About 10 to 20 people die each year as a result of dog bites.


    Why Do Dogs Bite?

    There are many reasons why a dog may bite: fear, to protect territory, or to establish their dominance over the person being bitten. Some dog owners mistakenly teach their dogs that biting is an acceptable form of play behavior. Sadly, every year a number of newborn infants die because dogs seem to regard them as “prey.” Because dog bites occur for several different reasons, various aspects of responsible dog ownership – including proper socialization, supervision, humane training, neutering, and safe confinement – are necessary to prevent dogs from biting. To learn more about aggressive dogs, see Aggressive Dogs and Society.

    If you’re bitten, it is very important to identify the dog that bites you. If you don’t know anything about the dog, you may have to be treated for rabies as a precaution. Also, you will want some action taken to prevent future attacks. Whether your doctor recommends rabies vaccination for you after you have been bitten will depend on how prevalent rabies is in your area (i.e. the circumstances).

    Tips on How to Avoid Dog Bites 

    • Never approach a strange dog, especially one who’s tied or confined behind a fence or in a car.
    • Don’t pet a dog without letting him see and sniff you first.
    • Never turn your back on a dog and run away. A dog’s natural instinct in this situation is to chase and catch you.
    • Don’t disturb a dog while it’s sleeping, eating, chewing on a toy, or caring for puppies.
    • Be cautious around strange dogs. Always assume that a dog sees you as an intruder or potential threat.
    • If a dog approaches to sniff you – remain still. In most cases, the dog will go away when it determines that you’re not a threat.
    • If you encounter a potentially aggressive dog, never scream and run.
    • Remain motionless, hands at your sides, and avoid eye contact with the dog. Once the dog loses interest in you, slowly back away until he is out of sight.
    • Be cautious around strange dogs and treat your own pet with respect. Because children are the most frequent victims of dog bites, parents and caregivers should:

      1. Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog.

      2. Be on the lookout for potentially dangerous situations.

      3. Teach young children, including toddlers, to be careful around pets.

      4. Teach children not to approach strange dogs and to ask permission from a dog’s owner before petting it.



    What to Do if Attacked By a Dog 

    • If the dog does attack, “feed” him your jacket, purse, bicycle, or anything that you can put between yourself and it.
    • If you fall or are knocked to the ground, curl into a ball with your hands over your ears and remain motionless. Do not scream or roll around. The face is the most common area for attack, particularly the lips, nose, and cheeks.
    • Some people, such as mail carriers, carry protective devices, such as pepper spray, to ward off attacks. One deterrent product that does not physically harm the dog is called the “Dazer.” It produces ultrasound that can ward off a dog within a 20 foot radius.


    Why It’s Best to Remain Still During an Dog Attack?

    Dogs attack for one of three basic reasons:

    • Dominance and territoriality – the will to control and protect resources
    • Through fear – for reasons of self-protection
    • Fear predatory reasons – when the so-called “prey drive” is activated

    Why Don’t Dogs and Cats Live as Long as Humans?

    When you’re a vet, it’s not uncommon for an owner with a sick or dying pet to look at you, usually with tears in their eyes, and tell you they wished their dog or cat could live as long as they did. Why is it that the lifespans of dogs and cats are so much shorter than those of humans? Why can’t they stay with us longer?

    To answer this, consider that everything about a dog or cat’s life, from their growth to their ability to learn, is accelerated.

    Tooth development is a great example of this. Puppies and kittens are born with no teeth, begin to acquire their baby teeth in as little as 3 weeks, and have all their baby teeth by 45 days. Puppies and kittens generally have all of their adult teeth by the time they are 6 months old. Compare that to the development of humans, in which it can take 4 to 7 months for the immature (baby) teeth to start coming in.

    Another way that growth is accelerated is in reproduction. Dogs and cats can be reproductively active as young as 6 months. When a dog or cat gets pregnant, they deliver their young in 60 to 65 days, often producing a litter ranging from a few to over a dozen offspring.

    All of this expedited growth means that the bodies of dogs and cats do an immense amount of work that can hasten the aging process. Consider, too, that the processes involved in day-to-day life also require a lot of resources. Humans have a normal body temperature of approximately 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (F), but dogs and cats maintain normal body temperatures in the 100.5 to 102.5 degrees F range. Those extra few degrees mean your dog or cat’s body is working extra hard every day, even when they are fully grown. In addition, the metabolism of dogs and cats is much higher than that of humans, who burn calories at about half the rate of the most common animal companions.

    With all this acceleration, the senior years start early. For cats, it may be as early as age 8; for dogs, the senior age frequently starts at 4 or 5 years for large or giant breed dogs or 8 or more years for small breed dogs. The lifespan of some large breed dogs can be as little as 7 years, such as the case with Great Danes.

    This still doesn’t totally answer the question of why the lifespans of dogs and cats are so much shorter, though, so we spent hours of research and called a number of professors and professionals. As it turns out, when all was said and done we learned that no one really knows why this happens.

    Scientists suggest that a combination of genetics, inbreeding, metabolism, and evolution are all components of why a dog or cat’s life span is so much shorter than a human’s.

    A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by
    Professor Herman Pontzer of Hunter College, New York, helped to give us some insight. Pontzer and his associates worked with 17 primate species to determine how the body used energy and to characterize their overall metabolic rates. The results of their study showed that the lower metabolic rate of primates, and thus humans, was associated with a prolonged lifespan (compared to those of dogs and cats).

    Current research does not have a definitive answer to the question of why dogs and cats don’t live as long as humans. However, it has enabled us to enrich the lives of our pets so they can enjoy every moment to the fullest. We may never be able to give our animal companions the same length of life that we have, but we are better equipped than ever to make every minute special for them.








    Why Dogs Turn Around Three Times Before Lying Down

    Why Dogs Turn Around Three Times Before Lying Down

    According to American humorist Robert Benchley, a dog teaches a boy three things: fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down.

    If you’ve ever wondered why dogs turn around several times before flopping down on the floor, the answer is simple genetics. They’ve been genetically programmed to trample their sleeping areas in the wild so that the grass is tamped down to make a comfortable resting place.

    Although your dog have the finest dog bed money can buy, he still feels the urge to circle before lying down, even in the comfort of the modern home. It’s nature at work. Nature is the reason dogs gobble their food. The most successful survivors were able to eat fast before other members of the pack could grab a share. Wild dog cousins didn’t know when his next meal would come, so being the fastest gorger was a real advantage.

    A fair question to ask is whether these innate traits will ever disappear? The answer is, only if we want them to. The natural evolution of dogs has been superseded by centuries of deliberate breeding. Dogs exhibiting strong retrieving instincts, high intelligence, and friendliness, for example, have been selectively bred with other dogs showing the same traits to create the retrievers of today. Likewise, undesirable traits can be bred out of dogs, if we so desire.

    Because there’s no reason to eliminate the habit of turning around three times before lying down, dogs will probably keep making sure their doggy beds are tamped down to their satisfaction, even though the practice is now unnecessary.

    Is Your Dog Suffering from Anxiety?

    Do Dogs Get Anxiety?

    In a high-paced world with high-stress jobs and lifestyles, everyone is learning the effects of stress and anxiety. Appetite and weight changes, headaches, depression, digestive problems, nervous behavior, and loss of sleep are a handful of symptoms human anxiety-sufferers experience. Do dogs have anxiety? Is it similar to human anxiety? Can it be prevented?

    The Answers: Yes, Yes, and Yes! Dogs Get Anxiety!

    Dogs absolutely experience anxiety. It is the owner’s responsibility to be in tune to the dog and pick up on changes that might indicate that their dog is struggling with stress. Dogs experience anxiety because of psychological, physical, and environmental struggles. Without intervention, the results of a dog’s stress may have detrimental affects on your home, your family, and the dog’s overall health.

    Signs of Anxiety in Dogs

    Every dog shows signs of anxiety in his own way. If you are noticing a change in your dog’s behavior, it is important to evaluate the situation, put yourself in your dog’s collar, and determine if something is bothering him. Some possible signs of anxiety are listed below:

    • Changes in appetite or weight
    • Excessive vocalizing
    • Changes in elimination habits
    • Self-mutilation (Excessive licking or chewing, lick granulomas, etc.)
    • Disobedience
    • Aggression
    • Health changes
    • Lethargy
    • Depression
    • New destructive behaviors (such as chewing)
    • Trembling
    • Restlessness
    • Excessive panting

      If your dog is showing signs of stress and anxiety, it is extremely important to see your veterinarian to rule out medical problems. If your dog is physically healthy, your veterinarian will help you take the next step in treating his stress.

    Canine Anxiety and Parallels to Human Anxiety

    As you know, being stressed and anxious is unpleasant. If you feel your dog or cat is having a psychological struggle, relate it to your emotions and work hard to help your dog through his problem. As with human anxiety, without intervention your dog’s immune system can become compromised, he may become severely depressed, and/or develop behavior problems. Eliminating the cause of the stress or helping your dog handle the situation is the key to relieving the anxiety.

    Causes of Canine Anxiety

    Determining the cause of your dog’s anxiety can be a difficult task, as dogs cannot communicate to us what is bothering them. Begin by evaluating your dog’s daily life. Could any of the following be a problem for your dog?

    • Separation from family
    • Boredom
    • Lack of exercise / play
    • Fear (Loud noises, other dogs, certain people or objects, etc.)
    • Inadequate nutrition
    • Health problems / pain
    • Inadequate living quarters
    • Changes to daily routine
    • Loss or addition of family member or dog


    Prevention and Treatment of Anxiety in Dogs

    There are several things you can do to minimize stress and anxiety in your dog. Making your dog’s well-being a priority is the first step to preventing anxiety. For example, turn your dog’s mental wheels through toys, games, and obedience and trick training. Exercise your dog’s body through walks and/or playtime. Offer emotional support by giving your dog your time and love. Nurture his body by providing a high-quality, nutritious dog food, fresh water, and the shelter of your home.

    Treating anxiety in your dog can be a long, tedious process, but be persistent and you WILL help your dog find relief. Rule out medical causes of stress, eliminate other potential causes, enrich your dog’s life with all the essentials, and explore PetPlace for articles on helping your dog handle the situations that make him anxious.

    Like humans, some animals are naturally prone to stress and some have serious struggles with past traumas. These dogs may need the assistance of a veterinary behaviorist or anti-anxiety medications prescribed by a veterinarian.

    The bottom line is that animals DO experience emotional stress, and it IS something to be taken seriously.

    Why Do Dogs Smell Other Dogs’ Butts? The Real Answer!

    Why Dogs Smell Other Dog Butts

    You know the scene: you're out with your dog when you come across another friendly canine. There's the initial sniff, and a circle around. Now, another moment and another sniff, right on the rear end. Then it's time for another loop around and yet another butt sniff. Why do dogs do this?

    As a pet owner, the natural thing is to want to pull your dog away from the other dog when they are performing this ritual. After all, it is a little embarrassing when your dog starts smelling the butt of a friend or neighbor's dog while you are having a conversation.

    It seems pretty weird, especially considering how humans communicate, but it's actually an important part of canine behavior. Here's why.

    Butt sniffing is a very natural, instinctual, and basic form of dog-to-dog communication. Strangely enough, it is how dogs greet and get to know each other. Even dogs that know each other will sniff butts to “see what's new” and reinforce their bond and communication.

    The dog butt sniff is the canine equivalent of “hello, how do you do?” and similar to how humans use a handshake when meeting and being introduced to someone. Dogs communicate with each other using their strong sense of smell and detect signals in the chemicals in smelly oil from the anal glands.

    What a Dog Sniff Can Reveal About Another Dog

    To understand what a sniff can tell a dog, it is important to understand how dogs are different. There are four main differences in the ways that dogs communicate in comparison with human communication.

    1. The first difference between dogs and humans is a dog's amazing sense of smell. They are reported to have approximately 40 times more smell-sensing cells in their nasal passages than we do (and some reports suggest an ability as much as 1,000 to 100,000 times greater than that of humans). With such a super ability to smell, dogs rely on this sensory information far more than humans. Some experts believe it consumes over 30% of a dog's brain function as opposed to about 5% in humans. It's so strong that a dog entering a room can perceive if another dog previously in the room was happy, stressed, scared, or in heat. Although it is difficult for humans to completely understand exactly how this works, the “sniff” can somehow also tell the dogs if the encounter is likely to be friendly or not friendly.
    2. Dogs have prominent and active anal glands. These apocrine glands, which sit on each side of a dog's rectum, produce strong-smelling secretions intended to send chemical signals about that dog's identity to other animals. These signals include information like the sex of the dog, what the dog is eating, and even some clues about a dog's emotional state.
    3. The third difference of note is the presence of the Jacobson's organ (also known as the vomeronasal organ). This is a small piece of olfactory nerve tissue filled with extrasensory receptors that perceives odors transmitted through the air. Also present in many animals including cats, snakes, and even elephants, it transmits information to the brain from its position just inside the nose and mouth. You might notice a dog is activating their Jacobson's organ when they make a funny face called the "Flehman response." Dogs will often tilt their nose up and curl their lip to optimize their ability to "smell" in this way.
    4. The last big difference is that unlike humans, dogs will reintroduce themselves frequently, sometimes several times in a day or even an hour. Any change or stimulus will often lead to the butt sniff. Some believe the “sniff” can actually relieve tension and stress by helping an individual feel more comfortable about the other dog. Two dogs living in the same house may smell each other when one comes in from the outside or comes back from the vet to confirm information about the dog's state including diet, stress, availability for mating, and mood.

    What You Should Do During Dog to Dog Butt Sniffing

    Behaviorists suggest that because the butt sniffing routine is a normal part of dog behavior, it's best not to interrupt it if the dogs seem friendly. Interrupting this behavior is equivalent to you stopping a friend from shaking hands with someone they are meeting: it can annoy or upset the friend and can make the introduction awkward. In fact, lack of this butt sniffing communication between dogs can create stress between the dogs.

    Why Dogs Eat Feces

    Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?

    Over the last few thousand years, we’ve narrowed the gulf of understanding between humans and dogs more than we have with any other species – until we witness dogs eating feces, that is. An owner is left scratching his head while the dog, inexplicably proud, runs up to give him a kiss.

    What could possibly be the attraction to eating feces?

    It may be hard to believe, but stool-eating is not unusual nor abnormal for dogs. In fact, coprophagia – the medical term for stool-eating – might even be beneficial. Mothers routinely consume the feces of their puppies, a practice that keeps the nest clean.

    The puppies may consume feces because of their natural curiosity. Like children, puppies go through a phase in which they explore their world by mouthing it. Most puppies lose the habit in a few months to a year. By then, they’ve figured out that the world offers a lot tastier choices than poop.

    If the behavior persists into adulthood, it could indicate a problem. The dog may not be getting the right amount of nutrients in his food or he may be fed on an irregular schedule (which means he doesn’t know when his next meal is coming). Or he may not be getting enough food as a whole. Or, he may be bored, and coprophagia is one way to pass the time.

    Naturally, if the behavior is caused by some nutritional deficiency, it’s important to correct the imbalance. The dog may need to be fed on a different schedule, and perhaps more often. Dry food may be more effective in curtailing the habit than canned food, especially high fiber food.

    Some people suggest adding Tabasco® sauce, meat tenderizer, or some other dietary supplement (e.g. Certs®) to make the stool unpalatable. The tactic is rarely successful; if stool itself isn’t unappetizing, it’s hard to imagine what is.

    One of the best ways to discourage the habit is not to give your dog the opportunity to consume feces in the first place. The yard should be regularly cleaned up and the dog’s access to feces-rich areas should be curtailed. For a more detailed account of coprophagia and what you can do about it, see the article Coprophagia.

    Does Eating Kitty Litter Make Dogs Sick?

    A common cause of dog owners’ frustration is when their pooch gets into the litter box or litter pan and eats the kitty litter. Many dogs absolutely love doing this and may even “stalk” the cat box, waiting for the cat to exit. In fact, it is so common for dogs to eat cat feces that many dog owners jokingly refer to it as a “doggie Tootsie Roll.”

    Why do dogs eat litter?

    You might think that dogs who eat cat waste and litter might be missing something from their diet, (a nutritional deficiency), but this is usually not the case. If a dietary problem isn’t the culprit, why do dogs get into the litter box?

    The reason most dogs eat kitty litter (usually the clumping kind) is that the feline feces in the litter tastes good to them. This may sound disgusting, but it is what many dogs like. Cats are carnivores and require a higher protein diet than dogs. This means that their feces contains richer material than that of dog waste, and it can be very attractive as a snack depending on what the cat has been eating.

    Coprophagia, the practice of eating poop, is common in dogs and a normal behavior in certain situations. For example, the mother dog will naturally consume their own pup’s feces to keep the nest clean. In addition, many puppies go through an oral phase when they explore everything with their mouths, sometimes ingesting a variety of non-food items, including feces. As time goes by, the majority of pups eventually learn that food tastes better than feces and stop however some dogs just like feces and will continue to eat it.

    For most dogs, ingestion of the cat poop in the litter pan the goal, the ingestion of the actual cat litter is secondary.


    Is eating cat litter dangerous to dogs?

    The next question is usually “Does eating kitty litter make dogs sick?” Some owners have even wondered if kitty litter can kill their dog. To answer this, it’s important to understand just what your dog is snacking on.

    There are many types of cat litter on the market. They include:

    • Nonclumping clay litter
    • Clumping or “scoopable” litter (sometimes in lightweight formulas)
    • Pine-, corn-, or wheat-based litter
    • Newspaper-based litter
    • Silica bead or crystal litter

    Based on our research, none of the ingredients in these kitty litter products are technically considered “toxic” to dogs. However, eating kitty litter can be quite dangerous to dogs in a number of ways.




    How can cat litter make my dog sick?

    How sick a dog can get from eating kitty litter depends on how much litter they eat, how frequently they eat it, how “digestible” the litter is, whether they have any allergies, how sensitive a dog’s stomach and gastrointestinal tract are, and finally, what perfumes and dyes are contained in the litter.

    Here are a few examples of the ways that kitty litter can make dogs sick.

    • Upset stomach: A great deal of a dog’s reaction to litter is determined by how sensitive their gastrointestinal tract is. Some dogs can eat just about anything and be fine, while other dogs experience vomiting and diarrhea with the smallest change in food. The dyes and perfumes in litter can cause problems for some dogs, such as gastroenteritis, vomiting, and diarrhea. These symptoms are usually self-limiting and will get better in 8-12 hours, but can cause significant distress if they occur frequently.
    • Intestinal obstruction: Many litters, especially clumping clay-based formulas, are not digestible and can cause a bowel obstruction if enough material is consumed. This means that the litter forms a clump that gets caught in the dog’s intestine and doesn’t move through the body like normal digestible food. Although uncommon, some dog will require surgery to remove the litter material.
    • Constipation: Many kitty litters are very dry and it takes a lot of fluid to move them through the intestine. Ingesting large amounts of litter can cause severe constipation in dogs. Signs of problems include bowel movements that are less frequent or contain less material, straining to defecate, or a reluctance to defecate. This can resolve on its own in mild cases, but more severe incidents may require the use of enemas or laxative-type medications from your veterinarian to resolve.
    • Dental problems: Consumed litter can collect around a dog’s teeth and gums, “sealing” germs around the sensitive tissues. Urine can erode the outer layers of the tooth, and chewing on litter can cause teeth to chip or break. This can result in infections, tooth decay, foul breath, and eventual tooth loss, especially if regular brushing is not part of your dog’s hygiene routine.

    Because kitty litter does not contain any known toxins, however, it is unlikely that eating litter will cause toxicity damage to your dog’s major organ systems.