Why Do Dogs Lick? Funny Dog Behaviors Explained

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Why Do Dogs Lick? Funny Dog Behaviors Explained

Dogs are creatures of habit, and some of those habits seem mighty weird to humans. Though their behavior seems silly to us, there’s a reason behind dogs’ funny little quirks, and it often has something to do with their wild instincts. Let’s cover some of the most interesting behaviors they exhibit!


If you own a dog, chances are you’ve caught him eating mouthfuls of grass from the lawn. Dogs, like people, don’t possess the right enzymes to digest grass and sometimes throw up the grass a few hours after eating it. Some dogs even eat so much grass that they block their digestive tracts and need surgical treatment. So why do some dogs engage in this unhealthy, counterproductive behavior? There are a few theories.

One of the most popular theories is that the dog is sick and trying to make himself throw up. Though this seems the most likely cause for most dog owners, this theory is unproven. Another theory is that eating grass is a leftover habit from their wolf days, as wolves tend to consume grass-eating prey and likely consumed grass along with the meat.

Really, the most probable reason your dog is eating grass is purely because he’s bored and he likes the taste! You can try to stop this behavior by entertaining your dog with a long-lasting rawhide chew or by giving him some more exercise or playtime.


Dogs howl for a variety of reasons. A howl, which is longer and louder than a monotone bark, can travel longer distances by moving through a wide range of pitches. Dogs may howl when they are lonely, in the hopes that their owners will hear them from far away.

Howls are also a way for dogs to communicate with each other. Anyone who owns more than one dog, or who has dogs in their neighborhood, can tell you that howls are contagious—when one dog starts howling, the rest join in! Sometimes dogs confuse howl-like mechanical sounds, like firetruck sirens, for other dogs, which is why they howl back. Dogs may also howl as a way of imitating howl-like mechanical sounds, like fire truck sirens.


Dogs lick your face as a way of saying hello! A playful lick from your dog when you come home is usually a sign of affection. Mother dogs lick their puppies often in their first few weeks of life, so dogs associate licking with love and caregiving. If your dog loves to lick your face, consider it a compliment! Not everyone loves the idea of a dog saliva-covered face, though. Train your dog not to lick you by walking away or leaving the room when he starts to lick. The earlier in your dog’s life you start to teach him, the easier it will be for him to learn.


Wagging their tail is all part of a dog’s body language! While we usually associate a wagging tail with happiness or excitement, a tail wag can actually mean a few different things. It can mean anything from “Oh, boy! I’m about to get a treat!” to “Back off, I’m uncomfortable.”

Telling the difference between a happy wag and an angry wag can be difficult and can vary depending on the dog. Usually a tail that’s high in the air indicates a happy, confident dog, while a tail that’s wagging low to the ground could mean the dog is nervous or afraid. Likewise, a looser tail wag is typically a happy wag, while a stiff tail can mean your dog is feeling tense.

You can also use your dog’s ears to determine their mood. Relaxed, floppy ears are usually a good sign, while ears pinned backward can be a sign of aggression.


Most dog owners will be familiar with that salty, corn chip smell that occasionally wafts from their dog’s feet. There is a common misconception that this smell comes from the corn in cheap dog food. The smell is actually the scent produced by the natural bacteria that live on dog’s feet. Dogs have sweat glands on the pads of their feet, and when they sweat, this smell becomes more noticeable to humans. It’s perfectly natural and nothing to be concerned about!


In short, dogs smell each other’s butts as a way of getting to know each other. Dogs have extremely strong noses, up to 100,000 times more sensitive than human noses. With 225 million olfactory receptors in their snout, they are able to detect different hormones in another dog’s butt that can tell them everything from the dog’s mood, their overall health, and whether or not they are willing to mate.


Dogs don’t necessarily like the smell of poop—they just don’t dislike it. For dogs, poop is just another substance with an interesting smell. Dogs can learn a lot from the smell of poop, including the gender, reproductive status, and health condition of whoever left it. Really, dogs like the smell of poop because it is a great source of information!


Dogs pant to cool down. Panting helps to circulate air through their bodies. Contrary to popular belief, dogs panting is not their way of sweating. Dogs sweat through their noses and the pads of their feet.

In some cases, heavy panting can be a signal of a more serious health problem: overexertion, heatstroke, pain, or an allergic reaction. If a dog is panting heavily, he may need medical attention.

Dog Basics