32 amazing things dogs do without even trying

Dog on a hike with their owner
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Dogs are amazing, instinct-driven animals with some truly awesome abilities. With so many breeds and so many jobs that dogs do, it's unsurprising that dogs can be talented in a variety of areas. 

As well as the amazing things they're trained to do, some of the things dogs do are just naturally cute and cool. Dogs have been walking side by side with humans for thousands of years and over that time they've developed some great ways to communicate with us. 

Whether it's a heroic dog working to rescue people after disasters, or your family pet comforting you when you're down, read on for a collection of some of the amazing things dogs do.

32 amazing things dogs do

1. Licking

dog licking paw

dog licking paw (Image credit: Getty Images)

It's fairly amazing that dogs can help to look after themselves and keep themselves clean through grooming, but this behavior is also a great form of communication. Your dog may lick you to tell you they love you or just to get your attention. It's also used to bond with other dogs and is just another way for them to express themselves. 

2. Comfort you

Woman cuddling her dog

Woman cuddling her dog (Image credit: Getty Images)

Dogs can be amazing therapists, as they are very attuned to their owner's emotions and will often keep you company if you're having a rough day. Dogs are very good at reading human faces and body language, which makes them excellent at detecting our moods and offering comfort where it is needed. If you've ever been sad and received an unexpected whiskery kiss, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

3. Fetching

Man playing fetch with dog in forest

Man playing fetch with dog in forest (Image credit: Getty Images)

Fetching is another talent that many (but not all) dogs have. A combination of prey drive and a talent for retrieval combine to make a great game for you and your dog to play together. Whether its a frisbee or a stick that your dog prefers, the act of chasing after a flying object must bring them as much joy as it brings us to watch them.

4. Guide dogs

Guide dog

Guide dog (Image credit: Getty Images)

Some breeds are so amazing that they can be assistance dogs to the blind and disabled. Labradors in particular are great for this job and can be trained to help their owner navigate around sometimes dangerous obstacles. Other dogs can be trained to detect low blood sugar, seizures, and anxiety in their owners and alert them to get somewhere safe before they become unwell or overwhelmed. 

5. Chasing 


Greyhound (Image credit: Getty Images)

Some dogs are better at this than others, but sighthounds in particular are great dogs for chasing down prey (or frisbees). The fastest dogs in the world, Greyhounds have a top speed of 45 miles per hour, which must be very frightening if you're a squirrel. What makes these dogs particularly amazing is that they can spot moving prey and zero in on it, going from a standstill to a full sprint in a heartbeat.

6. Digging

Dog digging

Dog digging (Image credit: Getty Images)

Digging might not be a particularly desirable behavior, but dogs are great at it. Whether they're burying something valuable or trying to chase down some prey underground, this instinct is strong in many dog breeds and is a great example of what those claws can do. Some dogs dig for the pure enjoyment of it, and others are more industrious, digging in order to catch something. 

7. Howling

Basset hound on the beach

Basset hound on the beach (Image credit: Getty Images)

Something that dogs do that might be a bit annoying for their humans is howling. No matter how irritating it may be, dog communication and the range of noises that they can make are fascinating and a great reminder that they're close relatives of the wolf. When your dog harmonizes with a passing siren, it might be a bit strange to you, but he knows what he's doing for sure — he's offering his support.

8. Barking

Dog barking

Dog barking (Image credit: Getty Images)

While their barking might be annoying to you, dogs are great communicators and their bark has served many purposes throughout history. Guardian dogs and herding dogs use their bark as a part of their job and even a lap dog can raise the alarm with a bark when there's something wrong. Barks are also useful for dogs communicating that they want to play, are scared, or just don't like something.

9. Wagging

Happy playful dog running between flowers in spring

Happy playful dog running between flowers in spring (Image credit: Getty Images)

It's great that dogs have such a clear way of telling us they're happy. A wagging tail (while sometimes a sign of something else) is often a clear signal that you're doing a good job as a dog owner and that your dog is having the best time! Forward-pricked ears and a high flying, wagging tail are all signs that your dog is happy and enjoying their life.

10. Playing

Dog running along pavement with ball in mouth

Dog running along pavement with ball in mouth (Image credit: Getty Images)

If you've ever watched a dog play, you can appreciate the wonderful sight that it is. Whether they are playing to hone skills, bond with pack mates, or simply let off steam, it's great that we can join in and play with them. It is also a great way for puppies to learn both social skills and practice using the skills and muscles they'll need as big adult dogs.

11. Bowing

Play bow

Play bow (Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're ever wondering what your dog is thinking, bowing is a great piece of doggy communication that tells us a lot. Whether it's a play bow to engage another dog in a game or a big stretch ending in a bow to tell their owner that they're ready to move, a bow can speak a thousand words.

12. Ears foward

Dog with pricked ears

Dog with pricked ears (Image credit: Getty Images)

Dogs can let us know that they hear something or that they're listening to us with pricked ears. If a dog's ears are forward, they are likely focused on something, be it their owner, a sound, smell, or something they've seen that they might find interesting. A dog with their ears forward is engaged in what they are doing, keen and listening. 

13. Sniffing

Dog sniffing in a grassy field

Dog sniffing in a grassy field (Image credit: Getty Images)

Dog's noses are amazing, picking up smells that we humans can't detect and tracking them down to their source. Not only are dogs great at sniffing things out on their own, but they can also be trained to do this on our behalf to work in airports or as sniffer dogs looking for contraband. Dogs bred for their noses often have the extra superpower of long ears that funnel smells into their noses and help them track down even the most elusive quarries.

14. Sled dogs

Siberian Husky

 Siberian Husky  (Image credit: Getty Images)

Some breeds are true superheroes and help transport people and supplies across vast tundras by dragging a sled. Huskies in particular are famously known for their abilities as sled dogs, although there are several other breeds with a talent for team pulling too. In the summer, these dogs stay fit with bike racing, and new dogs are introduced to the team as it's a great time to teach them commands and see how they fit in with older, more experienced teammates.

15.  Sleeping anywhere

sleeping dog

sleeping dog (Image credit: Getty Images)

One of the fairly amazing things that dogs can do is fall asleep pretty much anywhere, in any position. While that patch of dirt might not look comfy to you, to your dog it's the equivalent of a memory foam mattress. If you don't mind your dog snoring, we thought this was a pretty great talent to have. A secure dog will also sleep in a variety of poses that would put even the most seasoned yogi to shame.

16. Rolling over

Dog rolling around in grass

Dog rolling around in grass (Image credit: Getty Images)

If you've ever wished you could reach a spot on your back to give it a scratch, your dog is quietly laughing at you. A good roll is a great way for dogs to scratch an itch, really get into a smell, or just express their joy at being alive. They may also roll over and show their bellies as an act of appeasement and submission or simply to ask for belly scratches.

17. Retrieval

Golden Retriever

Golden Retriever (Image credit: Getty Images)

While some dogs are more talented in this department than others, it's mind-blowing that you can train a dog to go and collect something edible and bring it back to you instead of eating it themselves. Retrievers make great gun dogs and their low drive to resource guard means that they'll bring things back to you and happily give them up in exchange for a reward or some praise.

18. Running

Greyhound playing in the snow wearing a winter jacket

Greyhound playing in the snow wearing a winter jacket (Image credit: Getty Images)

Many dogs can easily outpace a human, particularly breeds of sighthound that are built to run. A dog in a full sprint is a picture of athleticism and grace and some dogs have admirable endurance, able to cover long distances at pace. Herding breeds, while not as fast as sighthounds, can often change direction on a dime with talents in agility as well as speed.

19. Swimming

Dog swimming

Dog swimming (Image credit: Getty Images)

While this isn't the case for every dog, some dogs, particularly retriever breeds, are great swimmers. Whether they're diving into a lake to bring back a frisbee, or just enjoying a nice paddle in the shallows, many dogs take to water like fish and let their instincts take over. Some breeds even have curly coats to help with buoyancy and make them even more advanced swimmers. 

20. Smiling

Dog looking up at camera and smiling

Dog looking up at camera and smiling (Image credit: Getty Images)

We can go back and forth on whether a smiling dog is actually smiling, or just looks like they're smiling, but we can all agree it's cute as anything. Whether or not the intention is a happy face, it's amazing that dogs can look so cheerful.

21. Panting

Puppy running over grass

Puppy running over grass (Image credit: Getty Images)

Panting is normal behavior for an active dog and serves to help them cool down after exercise or a stint in the sun. While it may seem a bit drooly and messy, the mechanism that your dog uses to cool down - inhaling, humidifying the air, and then exhaling - is pretty neat.

22. Leaning against you

Happy dog

Happy dog (Image credit: Getty Images)

While any dog can lean up against their human without the need for any particular talent, it's what this means that makes this amazing. It's a pretty clear signal that your dog loves you, as they only do this to people they care about. They are social animals and they're taking time to bond with you and let you know how much you matter to them. A lean and a sigh is a sign that your dog is content and loves you very much.

23. Nudging with their nose

dog nose

dog nose (Image credit: Getty Images)

Dogs investigate the world around them with their noses and mouths. While we might pick things up to investigate them, dogs primarily do this with their noses, poking things with them to see what they are. It's also a way they can get your attention, as a wet nose is difficult to ignore. 

24. Big sighs

sleeping dog

sleeping dog (Image credit: Getty Images)

A dog can communicate a lot with a sigh. While you may find yourself wondering what worries a dog has to be sighing so deeply (it's not like they are a bill-paying family member), sometimes it means they are bored or upset about something. They also sigh when happy, content, or sleeping, so it's worth noting the context to figure out what that big huff might mean.

25.  Zoomies

Dog running along forest trail

Dog running along forest trail (Image credit: Getty Images)

Zoomies may make your dog seem barking mad, but they're actually a pretty neat thing some pets do and they're known as Frenetic Random Activity Periods (FRAPs). Your dog has excess energy and needs to burn it off somehow, so they have a funny five minutes tearing around until they're ready to settle down again. Zoomies can just be pure expressions of speed or can involve playing with a toy or digging frantically in the yard.

26. Stealing shoes and socks

Dog steals sock

Dog steals sock (Image credit: Getty Images)

Probably one of the slightly more annoying things dogs do is steal socks and shoes. But why do they do this? The reasoning is quite sweet. Generally, your shoes and socks smell quite strongly of you and your dog wants to keep them because of this. When you're out, the smell reminds your dog of you, when you're at home it might be a way your dog can feel bonded to you. There is also a theory that if you can't put your shoes on, you can't leave them behind, but we're not sure that most dogs can achieve that level of reasoning.

27. Recognizing their name 

Happy dog

Happy dog (Image credit: Getty Images)

It's amazing that even though dogs can't speak, they can learn human words and what they mean. Dogs learn their own names very quickly and can even learn the names of other family members and other pets. 

28. Learning your name

Two Rottweiler dogs

Two Rottweiler dogs (Image credit: Getty Images)

Dogs learning their own names is pretty impressive, but a smart dog can also learn your name and might recognize it when you come up in conversation. If you're out of the house and other family members are talking about you, your dog may notice and go looking for you or prick up their ears. Many dogs can be trained to go and fetch a family member or another pet once they have learned their name.

29. Herding

Border collie

Border collie (Image credit: Getty Images)

Some more intelligent breeds can make great farmhands, particularly when it comes to herding livestock. It's amazing to watch a smaller dog, like a heeler, herd cattle over three times its size, getting by with attitude and a loud voice. They are generally particularly agile dogs, as this is a skill needed when herding flight animals that might rush you or attempt to bolt at any time.

30. Disaster rescue

Two Belgian Malinois sitting in field

Two Belgian Malinois sitting in field (Image credit: Getty Images)

All dogs are heroes, but some are a little more heroic than others. Disaster rescue dogs that search for people after earthquakes, avalanches and fires are highly trained and very good at their jobs. Where humans and technology struggle, dogs step up.

31.  Military dogs

Military dog

Military dog (Image credit: Getty Images)

Military dogs are often multipurpose, due to their high levels of intelligence. These dogs are usually used to detect explosives, track, or patrol with their handlers. They do potentially dangerous jobs alongside their handlers, making them some of the most amazing dogs in the world. Breeds such as the Belgian Malinois and German Shepherd are often used for these jobs due to their smarts and bravery. 

32. Pest control

Dog running down hallway

Dog running down hallway (Image credit: Getty Images)

Dogs are used less often for pest control these days, but many breeds of terrier still have the instinct to chase, catch, and kill pests like rats. This can be a little disconcerting if you live in a nice neighborhood and don't need your dog to catch rats, but the fact the drive to do so runs so deep in these dogs is pretty amazing. 

Lou is an experienced writer and keen dog lover who works at PetRadar's sister site, LiveScience. When Lou isn't covering health and fitness, she's busy spending time with her family dogs or growing all kinds of veggies and flowers on her allotment.