Why Does My Dog? Merrick Pet Foods Helps Decode Dogs


By Steve Dale

Merrick Pet Foods conducted a contest via Facebook, asking readers to ask me  “Why does my dog…?” The first 20 responders received a copy of   “Decoding Your Dog: The Ultimate Experts Explain Common Dog Behaviors and Reveal How to Prevent or Change Unwanted Ones” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, NY, 2014; $27) authored by members of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, and co-edited by myself, and veterinary behaviorists Dr. Debra Horwitz and Dr. John Ciribassi. Now, it’s my job to answer some of these questions, the exact sorts of questions we answered in “Decoding Your Dog.”

Q Why does my dog eat cat poop? N.J., Cyberspace

A: Three reasons.

Number one: It tastes good.

Number two: Because they can.

Number three: It tastes good.

For dogs, there’s no better condiment.  Cat poop is rich in protein. Also, consider canine sensibilities, delicacies may even include their own stool.

The problem with eating cat poo, aside from the fact that it grosses us out, it can throw off a dog’s housetraining, there’s a potential for parasite transmission. And there are many calories in cat poop.

Another issue is that some cats are offended when smelly canines investigate and invade their meticulously cared for litter boxes – potentially causing some cats to avoid their boxes and have accidents.

There are all sorts of methods to encourage dogs to keep out. Sometimes, it’s merely a matter of litter box positioning, angling the box where cats can hop right in, but dogs can’t stick their noses in. But most dogs won’t be so easily deterred.

There are various baby gates on the market with a little open door that a cat can go through, but a mid-sized or larger dog can not. Or you can buy a baby cut and cut your own hole through it. Beware, some persistent dogs will knock over gates.

You can install a doggy door which electronically opens when a cat approaches wearing a “magic collar” which opens the door. Check out cathole.com or petdoors.com.

Or you can control how far a door to the room with the litter opens with the Peek-a-Boo latch

So, now one of these options works! Hooray! If you’re a softie and think your pup misses eating those cat turds, check out dog treats shaped like cat poop.


Q: Why does my dog roll around on cat feces when she finds it in our backyard? C. R., Cyberspace

A: Same reason dogs we dab perfume or cologne on us. which many dogs find as repugnant as we find their habit of rolling in cat or deer poo, or dead fish, even dead critters. I suppose you can chalk this up to a cultural difference.


Q: Why does my dog snatch dog treats out of my hand and run off with them? It’s like he’d rather eat them in private? C. C., Cyberspace

A: If your dog runs off and chows down the treat in private, there’s definitely a decreased risk of food theft. Even today, many dogs are hard-wired to eat as their ancestors may have in place where the food can’t be pinched by another.


Q: Why does my dog always walk up to me and poke me in the eye with her nose. K.M, Cyberspace

A: Are you a dog? I’m sure you’ve observed dogs who greet one another, extending their nose first. It’s not too different, I suppose, than people who greet each other with a hug or handshake.

But why is your dog saying “hi” to your eye? Perhaps, she did this once, and you laughed therefore reinforcing the behavior – I’m not sure. I am sure, that if you simply didn’t allow it – for example, by looking the other way, your dog couldn’t so easily poke you in the eye.


Q: Why does my dog cock his head when I talk to him? S. B., Cyberspace

A: I don’t know – no one does. One thought is that we train dogs to do this. They cock their heads just a tad as a puppy, and our tone of voice changes instantly because it is, after all, so darn cute. That tone is rewarding, and over time we train our pups bit by bit for a more noticeable head cock, like the RCA Dog.

Since that head cock has been endearing to people for hundreds, maybe thousands of years, perhaps the behavior is today hard-wired in some dogs – which is my belief.

Another thought is that the dogs are thinking really hard about what the heck we’re saying – and in the process cock their heads.  Interestingly, this theory is supported by my wife’s similar confused response to me when I talk, as she attempts to understand what the heck I’m saying.


Q: Why does my dog drag her bottom on the carpet?
 L. P., Cyberspace

A: Oh, oh the most likely issue are impacted anal sacs. Veterinarians have told me they suspect it must feel like walking around with a bag of marbles stuck up your rear. No wonder, they rub. See your veterinarian.

If your pup is obese or overweight, the possibility exists that he or she just can reach back there to clean –  I will say no more, except that I suggest you clean your carpet.

There are other possibilities, depending what that dragging looks like, which you can perhaps videotape with a smart phone, and then play the movie (with popcorn) for your veterinarian.

©Steve Dale PetWorld, LLC; Tribune Content Agency