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  • Writer's pictureCeleste

The Weird Facts I Learned About Dogs

Dogs playing in backyard snow Toronto
Boomer and his friend Lola courtesy of @no_dog_too_small

As a pet owner, you regularly question their unusual behaviour (with cats in particular, but that will require its own post, possibly its own novel). Here are some things I googled about dogs that were interesting to learn.

When a dog's hair stands up on his back, it isn't necessarily because he's angry. "Raised hackles, the hair on a dog’s back and neck, confuse many pet parents. They may see them as a sign of aggression, but that isn’t always the case. Raised hackles do not qualify as a behavior, as they are an involuntary reflex triggered by something that put the dog into a state of arousal. There is actually a medical term for the reaction: piloerection (pilo referring to “hair” in medical terms)." Source:

When a dog barks or howls when you arrive home, he's trying to help you! "In the wild, part of the canine pack stays home while other members scout the area for food. Howling is a form of communication that helps members of the pack find each other. Dogs that remain behind vocalize to signal the location of home base and guide scouting members back to safety. After being left home alone, a dog may howl when they hear you drive up to your house or when they spot you climbing the steps in an attempt to guide you safely back to them." Source:

When a dog shakes your hand when you get home, he's saying "What's up?"

"The canine touch also serves as a way to initiate communication. Think of the times you’ve begun a conversation by saying, “Uh,” or “But,” or raising your hand in a formal group setting. Dogs use a foot to bridge the communication gap. Your dog quickly learns that handing you their paw receives a positive reaction." Source:

When a dog rolls in a dead or smelly thing, he's (probably) not just being a jerk. "The most popular theory is that it’s a holdover from their wolf ancestors: dogs roll around in smelly (to us: the most disgusting) things to camouflage their own natural odor. Masking their scent would have helped wolves sneak up on prey, enabling them to be more effective hunters. Another idea is that dogs cover themselves in odoriferous substances to signal to other dogs that they’ve found something interesting. As you know, dogs sniff each other not only to “say hello” but to gain information about each other. Thus, your dog will be communicating: “Exciting news! There’s something deliciously dead nearby!” Still another idea is that dogs have a primal instinct to thoroughly roll on dead things from their past as hunters: scent-marking the scent-maker (the dead animal) is a good way to publicly claim that carcass and keep any other scavengers away. Even though a bowl of organic, gourmet dog food may be waiting for him at home, he isn’t going to pass up the opportunity to signal “this is mine!” Source:

When dogs play in the snow, it could be the novelty of the unfamiliar. "Seasoned sled dogs rarely show the enthusiasm for fresh snow typical of novice players. This suggests that the value of novelty is critical. Just as they do for the dog visiting the beach for the first time, the joys of opportunity and exploration abound for the virgin snow dog. Fresh odors to sniff, novel tactile experiences to enjoy, unusual outlines to mask familiar objects and even the prospect of hiding within the very fabric on one’s surroundings. What’s not to love?" Source: Paul McGreevy, PhD

Two dogs playing in the snow Toronto
Boomer and his friend Lola courtesy of @no_dog_too_small



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