Walt Disney didn’t name one of his creations Goofy for nothing. Sometimes dogs can appear that way. Dogs can exhibit a virtual smorgasbord of strange actions, such as spinning in circles, eating their feces, chasing their tails and overeating. These behaviors are usually from a behavioral or medical condition. Once you learn more about your dog’s strange antics and receive a diagnosis from your veterinarian, you’ll know better what to do.
Some dogs develop compulsive disorders, which some folks compare with obsessive-compulsive disorder that humans can have. Compulsive behaviors in dogs such as excessive barking, staring into space, spinning and tail chasing are usually caused from stress or frustration, according to veterinarian Lisa Radosta at petMD. Compulsive behavior serves to make the dog feel better. Take your dog to the vet if he has a compulsive behavior; he might have a medical condition. If not, your vet might suggest you give your dog anti-anxiety medications teamed with a behavior-modification program where you help your dog substitute other behaviors for the compulsive ones.
Dogs often eat nonfood objects such as socks, panties, rocks and feces. This is called pica. It’s not good for your dog -- not to mention your articles of clothing -- because nonfood objects can cause blockage in your dog’s intestines. The exception is feces; eating that is not dangerous to your dog, but you probably aren’t too happy about the behavior. Pica could stem from instinct -- mother dogs would eat their puppies’ feces so predators wouldn't know the pups existed -- or it could be that your dog lacks a nutrient or that he’s anxious.
Many dogs like to eat, but if yours is constantly begging for food and appears to be starving all the time, he might have polyphagia. This could be from a psychological or medical reason. Polyphagia could be from old age, diabetes or a medication you might be giving your dog. Once your vet determines the reason, you can treat it. If it’s behavioral, you will be taught how to control your dog’s food intake. You might need to feed your dog several small meals throughout the day.
Some Common but Strange Behaviors
Dogs like to roll around in smelly substances, covering their bodies with the stench. It could just be your dog loves the smell or that he wants you to share the odor he found so intriguing. Your dog also might twirl around several times before lying down, or dig when not burying a bone. The twirling behavior is likely instinctual -- wild dogs did that to check for snakes and to pat down a grassy area before bedding down. Incessant digging could just be an urge, again instinctual. Dogs dig to make dens, to bury food and just because it’s fun.
Dogs can contract rabies if bitten by an infected wild animal, usually a fox, raccoon, bat or skunk. The two forms of rabies are furious and paralytic. Both cause strange behavior. The furious kind makes a dog aggressive and prone to attack; the paralytic kind makes the dog appear drunk -- loss of coordination and then paralysis. Your dog needs to go to the vet immediately if you suspect rabies. Other conditions can cause aggressive behavior and are often confused with rabies. A laboratory blood test will confirm what’s wrong. If your dog has not been vaccinated for rabies and gets it, he will not survive.
Laura Agadoni has been writing professionally since 1983. Her feature stories on area businesses, human interest and health and fitness appear in her local newspaper. She has also written and edited for a grassroots outreach effort and has been published in "Clean Eating" magazine and in "Dimensions" magazine, a CUNA Mutual publication. Agadoni has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University-Fullerton.