What is normal dog behaviour?
It’s our natural tendency to project human traits and emotions onto dogs, yet we come to expect daily dog zoomies as normal dog behaviour. And while we can pick up on things like dog anxiety from dog body language, and understand why dogs howl, some dog behaviours – like rolling in stinky things or barking at nothing – are truly baffling.
What’s classified as normal dog behaviour might surprise you. Here’s what canine experts have to say.
Barking at delivery drivers
Every day when letters and packages are delivered to your door your dog barks. Does this dog behaviour mean your four-legged friend hates delivery workers? “Barking at people outside is a protective behaviour,” says vet Gary Richter. “Dogs see their house as their territory, and anyone approaching or [coming] near their territory is a potential threat, so they bark to ward off the intruder.”
Think about it from your dog’s perspective: a mail carrier delivers mail, the dog barks to ward off the intruder, and the mail carrier goes away. It creates a pattern that is reinforced over and over. “From the dog’s perspective, they are saving the house from invasion every day by driving away the invader. We never appreciate their efforts,” Dr Richter says.
Nipping and biting
Little love nips from your puppy are sweet and adorable, but if you don’t nip this dog behaviour in the bud, it’s a puppy-training mistake you’ll regret when your pet’s adult teeth come in. “Dogs may bite playfully at their owners’ hands or feet because they know it results in them getting attention, even if it is negative attention,” says vet Jo Gale. Playful biting can quickly become more serious as dogs become excited or overstimulated.
Biting can also be a result of a dog’s anxiety and stress, or a warning sign your dog is in pain, especially if it nips at you when you touch or move it. As for biting as a form of aggression, you can usually identify it by paying attention to a dog’s facial expression and body language. “Always seek veterinary and behavioural advice for biting behaviour due to the risks of human injury,” advises Dr Gale.