Pooch psychology: What is going on in your dog’s head?

From following you to the toilet to excitable sneezing, Canine Cottages has teamed up with accredited dog trainer Joe Nutkins to help pet owners understand their dog’s quirks and unique behaviour.

With life returning to normal, it can have an unusual effect on our furry friends who have been so used to having us at home. In fact, searches for ‘dog behaviourist near me’ and ‘how to stop separation anxiety in dogs’ have increased by 250% this year.1

We all love our dog’s unique traits and quirks, but why do they do it? To help understand why our pooches sometimes behave this way, dog-friendly holiday lettings specialist Canine Cottages has teamed up with accredited dog trainer Joe Nutkins to take a closer look at the psychology behind dog’s behaviour to help uncover what is going on in your furry friend’s head.

Why do dogs love humans?

Dogs are naturally giving and trust the humans they are with. When they have a person or family that cares for them and protects them, they very much want to be part of that family for safety and affection. Dogs can sense Oxytocin, which is the ‘love’ or ‘feel good hormone’ you release when interacting with a dog that makes you happy. In fact, in our recent study, we found that when we told dogs we love them, their heart increases by 46%! Then, when snuggled up against you on the sofa, their heart rate decreased by 26%, showing just how much your dog trusts you and relies on you for safety.

Why do dogs beg?

Dogs tend to beg when they want something, however, dogs actually learn this behaviour from our own reactions. By responding and giving attention to a dog’s actions, such as petting them when they’re looking at you when you’re eating, you help the dog understand that begging usually means reward and attention of some sort. Giving your dog attention and any food from the table only gives the dog confirmation that its begging works, and that’s why they’ll continue doing it!

Why does your dog follow you to the bathroom?

Who hasn’t experienced their dog being a bit too nosey and following you to the bathroom, or lying down right outside the door? Our dogs love to know what their humans are doing. Fearful of missing out, your dog will follow you into whichever room you go to, as they don’t know what you’re up to and what you’re planning to do. Separation issues are also something that can cause your dog to follow you anywhere since they do not know when you’ll come back from the bathroom if the door is shut.

Why does your dog sneeze when excited?

Has your dog ever sneezed when they got excited? In smaller breeds, there’s a palate in the back of their throat that can become irritated when it’s excited or having fun. When it becomes irritated it narrows, which causes the dog to sneeze and wheeze.

Why does your dog bring you their toy?

Dogs love spending time with their humans. This means they’ll even try to bring you a toy, or something else to get your attention to make you interact with them. Simply put, they might bring you their toy to make you play with them or get some extra cuddles!

What are the signs of separation anxiety now that we are returning to normal?

It is normal for dogs to experience separation anxiety at least once in their lives. Some dogs take it well, while others might suffer more. The problems with separation anxiety can occur when the dog experiences changes, such as you returning to working full-time after having spent the last year-and-a-half at home with your pooch. Dogs can display anxiety by barking, howling or chewing on furniture and their toys to calm their stress. This is an inherently worried reaction from the dog’s side, and not something done in revenge.

Do dogs understand we are different from them?

Dogs understand you are slightly different from them, and that their fellow canine friends are similar to them, no matter the size and appearance. They will sometimes use dog language to interact with you, but also knows there are mannerisms reserved for other dogs that you will not understand.

Commenting, Shannon Keary, Digital PR Manager at Canine Cottages, explains, “Dogs are naturally attention-seeking, loving creatures and will do anything to gain their owner’s attention, whether this is bringing you their toys or being interested in everything you do – even going to the toilet! It is important to understand a dog’s behaviour in order to give them the best care, and love, we can offer them. This is imperative now that more people are being called into the office, and dogs will be left alone for a longer period during the days.”