Frustrated by your dog’s behavior? Trainer reveals eight things dogs do that are completely normal

Jack Russell Terrier digging a hole in front lawn of suburban home
(Image credit: Getty Images)

From chewing and barking to digging and chasing, there are many behaviors that our dogs do that we don't enjoy.

However, as frustrating as some of these things can be, they're completely normal and instinctual behaviors — so learning to let your dog be a dog is super important.

If you've been investing a lot of time and energy into trying to figure out how to deal with a badly behaved dog, rest assured that your pup isn't deliberately trying to drive you mad. They're simply doing the things they're wired to do.

For a run down on eight behaviors you can expect to see from your dog, keep reading as expert trainer and behaviorist Nikki Mather reveals all...

1. Butt sniffs

If you've ever stood there awkwardly while your dog sniffed the butt of another dog, rest assured, you're not alone! And the good news is, it's completely normal.

"When one dog greets another at the rear end, they're taking in the scent molecules and pheromones to put together a biography of their potential new friend," explains Mather. 

"From the sniff, your dog will learn vital information about the other dog, such as their health, reproductive status, gender, diet, and age."

2. Crotch sniffs

Have you ever had the rather embarrassing experience of going up to a dog only to have them decide to say hello to your crotch? Us too!

"Our dogs only mean to take in the scent of pheromones when interacting with an animal (humans included), explains Mather.

"In humans, the apocrine sweat glands that secrete these pheromones are in various locations, but the closest location for our dogs is our crotch."

3. Digging

The question 'why is my dog digging?' is one frequently asked by frustrated pet parents who are tired of their garden being filled with holes. But again, digging is perfectly normal.

"There are many reasons our dogs like to dig, but for many dogs, digging is an instinctual behavior," Mather says.

"Understanding why your dog is digging is the first step to living with this behavior. As it is instinctual, we can't fully prevent our dogs from digging, and nor should we want to.

"Provide outlets for this behavior, such as 'legal' digging pits, to prevent your dog from tearing up your garden."

4. Chasing

Two Springer Spaniels running in a countryside setting

(Image credit: Getty Images)

"Many dogs have an innate instinct to chase," says Mather, "this is their prey drive kicking in. Some dogs/breeds may have stronger drives than others.

"While we cannot train a dog's desire to chase out of them, we can satisfy this behavior by incorporating certain outlets into our dog's routine."

Learning how to play with your dog using the best dog toys, such as flirt poles and chaser toys, is a great way to fulfil their need to chase. 

5. Rolling in stuff

There's nothing worse than taking your dog out for a walk only to discover they've rolled in something smelly and are then in need of a good bath!

And while it's not completely clear why they do this, doggy experts have a few theories.

"One theory suggests this is an evolutionary trait to mask their own scent by way of hiding from their prey," explains Mather.

"Other theories suggest this behavior was to bring a certain scent back to the rest of the pack to trade information about the environment.

"Whatever the reason, it's a normal canine behavior that we need to embrace."

6. Chewing

Whether it's a puppy trying to relieve the pain of teething or an older dog trying to see their teeth and jaw strong, chewing is another normal canine behavior which can also combat and relieve stress.

"If your dog enjoys chewing, ensure you have plenty of 'legal' chew items for them, such as bones, chew toys, enrichment boxes, etc," Mather advises.

For safety reasons, always ensure you are present when your dog is using these items.

7. Humping

"There are multiple reasons why a dog might mount," says Mather. "These include excitement, play, anxiety, hormones, boredom, or as a stress reliever.

"Humping is a self-rewarding behavior, which means it is just simply enjoyable for your dog.

"Understanding why your dog is humping is vital in order to reduce the behavior in unwanted situations, such as when guests come over!"

8. Barking

There are lots of reasons why your dog barks at everything and while it's a common complaint amongst pet parents, a certain degree of barking is to be expected — after all, that's how a dog communicates.

"Dogs may bark to call out other dogs, express emotion, for attention, being territorial, or out of fear," explains Mather. "There are many factors that may stimulate a barking response.

"While a certain amount of barking is normal, excessive barking can indicate an underlying behavioral problem."

So there you have it — eight doggy behaviors that can sometimes feel frustrating to deal with but that are completely normal.

However, as with all things, normal behaviors can turn obsessive or compulsive if there's an underlying mental or physical health issue going on that needs to be addressed.

If you're at all concerned about your dog's behavior, we recommend speaking with a vet who will be able to offer expert advice and guidance. 

Kathryn Williams
Freelance writer

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.