Millennium Post

Wag the dog

Wag the dog
Why do dogs hide their bones?
You may find your dog’s bones hidden in the back corner of a closet, under a pillow on the sofa, or some other out-of-the-way place. It is not a game to your pet. It is a survival instinct. Before dogs became domesticated as household pets, they were wild animals who hunted in packs. The advantage of hunting in packs was that they could often bring down a much bigger animal. But even a large pack might not be able to eat all the prey. Even when the pack had cleaned the prey down to the bones, the wild dogs knew they had to save surplus food for times when prey was harder to find instead of leaving it for other scavengers. The claws and paws of dogs are well suited to digging, and over thousands of years they learned that burying the bones of their prey would reduce the possibilities of other animals taking their food away. Even though bones do not have a great deal of nutrition, the meat clinging to them and the marrow in them, when the dogs cracked them open, was often enough to sustain them through lean periods. Not only did burying make the bones harder for others to find, but it masked the smell and kept them out of the air and sunlight, which would speed the spoilage of the bones.

Modern domesticated dogs are less likely to revert to their ancient genetic behaviour and hoard their food. But if you feed him too much or if mealtimes are not consistent, your dog may start to plan for the future and hide some food for the time when he is hungry and the food bowl is empty. Sometimes dogs may hide food and bones and never go back to them, because the behaviour to prepare for lean times is still strong in them, but the lean times never come.

Why do dogs lick ears?
To show affection. One of the methods in which dogs communicate with each other, and with us, is by engaging in ear-licking. When a dog licks another dog’s ears, it may be simply an act of grooming. Two dogs who live side by side and consider each other part of one pack will feel comfortable grooming each other. Since a dog cannot lick his own ears to clean them, another in his pack will do so. Licking ears sometimes is a dog’s way of demonstrating he is submissive to the person or dog receiving the ear-licking. The dog that is getting his ears licked is the dominant dog, and the pack mate doing the licking is showing him respect. A dog that licks his human’s ears is showing that human affection and respect, and communicating the bond he feels with his human.

What does it mean when the dog pushes the food bowl with her nose before she eats it?
If the dog starts pushing the bowl around with her nose, this play-like behaviour has several meanings. Some animal psychologists say she is simply re enacting the hunting skill, the excitement of chasing and catching her prey. Some say it’s to break up the monotony of eating at the same place. Before she eats, she may push her bowl to an area that’s more acceptable to her. Maybe she wants to be closer to you, doesn’t like the sound the bowl makes when it slides across the floor while nibbling or simply wants to get her dish out of that blaring sunlight. If she always relocates her dish to the same area, it might be time to make that a permanent feeding spot. Clearly she prefers it. Some vets say that pushing around a food bowl can be a sign of vision problems. She’s moving around her dish to make the kibble stack up higher so she can see where it is. Or she has a hard time locating the exact spot of the dish each time she bows her head down, causing her to bump it with her nose each time she takes a bite.

Personally I think she hates her food and has to make up her mind to eat it because she realises she has no choice. She is hungry but she is sending you a signal that she would like something else. Try changing her diet and see if this pushing stops.

What causes dogs to keep their tails down?
Dog’s tails are sophisticated communication devices so pay attention to them.
If your dog’s tail is dangling down in a loose manner and not hidden between the back legs the dog may be feeling calm, cool, relaxed and content, But, when the tail is down and concealed between his back legs, it denotes a canine who is feeling unsure of himself, and rather anxious, vulnerable, weak and submissive, and defensive. A dog may keep his tail down as an expression of pure shyness and timidity. If a dog feels meek and wants to blend into the background, not only will he keep his tail down, he also may avoid eye contact, periodically flip out his tongue and keep his ears pushed back.

If you notice that a dog’s tail is lowered, but not pushed in between his rear legs, he may be expressing some sort of physical malaise. Whether he’s suffering from a bellyache or an injury somewhere on his body, this dog is not at the top of his game for the moment.

A lowered tail also sometimes is a sign of a scared canine in serious defence mode. Although this dog is indeed frightened, he also is fully prepared to protect himself. Be on the lookout for other indications of defensiveness, such as shivering of the tail, growling, rigid looking ears and exposed teeth. Leave him alone and let him cool off.

Can my dog eat carrots?
Carrots make a rather healthy snack option. If you want to reward your pet with a “people” treat, carrot sticks may be the way to go. Just make sure to always chop the carrots up into small, chew-friendly bits. But give only two or three pieces of carrot, rather than a whole bowl.

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