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Is My Dog Normal?

Photo: webmd

Photo: webmd

Dogs can act strange, sometimes. They hump pillows, they eat their own poop and they chase their own tails. We may look at them and wonder if they’re normal. “Are dogs supposed to do that? Is my dog normal?” Well, a “yes” or “no” answer may not be adequate when it comes to explaining dog behavior. Some behaviors are quite normal whilst others may be the result of a problem. In order to understand which behaviors are normal and which aren’t, we need to make sure we have the correct definition of “normal”.

A behavior is considered normal when it offers the animal who displays it an evolutionary and adaptive advantage; when it allows the animal to cope and deal (in a more effective way) with its surroundings. However, when such behavior is used in an inadequate situation, intensity or frequency and it jeopardizes the animal’s ability to maintain his homeostasis, it can be classified as abnormal. For example: imagine a dog who is licking his own paws. Is it a normal behavior? Well, yes, dogs may lick their paws for a number of reasons: maybe they’re itchy or wounded. However, if the dog licks his paws to the point where the fur starts to come off and the skin becomes red and inflamed, it’s no longer a normal behavior: it’s not adaptive and it’s harming the dog’s health and well-being.

is my dog normal book

Here are a few examples of normal and abnormal behaviors in dogs:

  • Coprophagy. It can be normal or abnormal, depending on the case. For most dogs, it’s quite normal! When females have puppies, they’ll eat their offspring’s feces in order to keep the area clean and disease-free. Some dogs may eat their own poop simply because it tastes good to them; for others, it’s just a way to avoid being punished. However, it can be considered an abnormal behavior when it’s caused by a pathology or a nutritional deficiency. Some diseases, such as malabsorption or pancreatic insufficiency can cause coprophagy; it can also happen when the dog is fed a poor-quality food.
  • Humping pillows and other objects (including human legs). When dogs reach their sexual maturity, they may start to display this behavior. Male dogs exhibit it more often, due to the increase of testosterone in their bodies. However, this behavior isn’t always related to sex. Sometimes, it’s used as a displacement behavior. Imagine the following scenario: a dog is given a football. He wants to interact with it but he has no idea how; eventually, he starts to hump it. This behavior can also be used during play sessions, since play is a way to rehearse real-life behaviors.
  • Tail chasing. This behavior is often the result of stress and it can easily turn into an obsessive-compulsive behavior. Dogs may chase their tales once or twice, occasionally and we shouldn’t be concerned if we see it happen. If it’s being displayed more frequently, we need to do something. Some dogs will chase their tails for hours and this is definitely not normal nor healthy.

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Marilia Domingos
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