Have you ever had your pooch do something strange that had you asking ‘Why is my dog acting weird all of a sudden?’. Believe me, you’re not alone.
There are a number of seemingly peculiar dog behaviors that will make you think your dog has suddenly started to act weird, but trust me when I say that these are all perfectly normal.
What makes you think that the dog is acting strange is when that sudden change in behavior hits, be it your dog barking at nothing or running away, or similar acts.
The surprise is what gets us, but slowly we learn it’s par for the course.
There are plenty of different causes to these odd behaviors from your furry friend and, as an experienced pet parent, I’m here to tell you all about them.
So, read on to find out why exactly do our dogs have these sudden behavioral shifts, what they mean, what causes them and what you can do when these things occur to defuse the situation.
17 Odd Dog Behaviors And Their Meanings
As mentioned earlier, there are a great number of different ways that your dog can act strangely in, and it varies from pet owner to pet owner to determine what strange really is in that case.
Of course, there are many reasons behind these as some of them even point to a potentially bigger problem under the surface, but more on that later.
Here are some of the most common dog behaviors that startle most dog owners:
1. Your Dog Starts To Yelp For No Reason
We’re all well aware of how our dog cries out in pain if someone accidentally steps on his tail or his paw or if someone hits him on accident, but what if there’s no apparent source to it when the yelping occurs?
Don’t worry, it’s no incorporeal ghost attacking your fur baby, it’s just very likely that there’s something wrong with him internally, much like how us humans can get a flare-up in an organ or feel a sharp internal pain.
It’s the same with your dog in this case, and, if you can’t locate any outside source of potential pain or distress for your doggo, then it’s best to call the vet and schedule a check-up as soon as you can to find the root of the problem.
2. Sudden, Unprovoked Or Constant Barking
Another sudden occurrence that may take you for a loop is your dog getting up and barking all of a sudden.
Dogs have a keen sense of hearing, one that’s much better than ours by several magnitudes.
They’ll often sense or hear someone or something nearby that we won’t and will start to bark, but if there’s nothing out there it just ends up feeling downright creepy at the moment.
This is especially true if this act ends up repeating itself or is concentrated on one part of the house or apartment or similar.
Though, while these make for great Youtube videos on faking the paranormal, in the case of dogs, they’re normally caused by some form of anxious response for your canine companion and this is their way of dealing with the stress.
It could also be that they’re afraid of something that we simply cannot perceive, be it a funny smell, a small tremor or any other potential reason.
Finally, it could also be a sign that the dog may be suffering from some sort of illness, especially if we’re talking about a senior dog whose mental stability isn’t as great as it was before.
3. They’re Afraid Of People All Of A Sudden
Dog’s are creatures that are friendly by nature, but there are some that take on a different default state to the standard.
There are some of the more aggressive ones, sure, but, on the other end of the spectrum, we have the more frightful, timid dog breeds or individual dogs in general.
Sure, he may seem playful now, but he may just end up flipping the switch and growing distant or simply avoiding any human contact, even your own.
This can be due to a variety of reasons depending on his upbringing, but it’s usually tied in the way you approach him.
It may have just been a bit too aggressive for his liking and he’s opting to shy away from you.
On the other hand, especially if he’s an adopted doggo, a possible reason could be that your canine companion has lived through some trauma and that it still has trust issues with humans.
It could be that what would normally be perceived as a normal act was seen as somewhat of an attack on him or a potential trigger that got him to lock up.
In that case, it’s best to try and identify this trigger and get your dog some help either through some specialized dog training or through the advice of a pet behaviorist.
This way you get to win your dog’s trust over time and can help him get out of his bad place and overcome his trauma.
If, however, he’s just doing it to a completely new person, that’s nothing unusual, he may have just gotten a bad vibe from them and doesn’t trust them until he gets to know them better.
4. Your Dog Is Licking His Paws Too Often
While this can be classified as completely normal behavior, should it happen a bit too often, you may want to inspect your dog’s paws for any signs of redness or potential irritation.
It could be that he has gotten himself injured though a splinter of some kind, some unexpected impact or a cut that may have occurred in a more vulnerable area.
Give his paws a thorough look to determine the issue.
If you can’t spot anything, it could also be some form of allergy, or even a parasite that’s keeping his paws tingly or antsy which is causing such a reaction from him.
If you doubt any of the latter reasons, take him to a vet so he can determine whether or not parasites or allergies, or something else are the cause for concern and follow his steps in order to remedy the situation.
5. Your Dog Is Hiding From… Something
Another thing that may seem off in a dog would be him starting to hide for whatever reason when he didn’t used to do so before.
The behavior certainly raises a few concern flags, but is usually easy to suss out.
You see, dogs are afraid of some strange objects, be it umbrellas, vacuum cleaners or similar, and the reason why is either their unusual nature, or the loud noise that they produce which scares the dogs.
It could also be newcomers to the household which send him running to his safe place and is one of the possible ways he can react to it as well as the aforementioned yelping or barking.
Give them some time and they should adjust to the behavior in question. If not, you may need to call upon a specialist to help your dog overcome this fear.
6. Your Dog Is Rubbing His Butt Across The Ground
While this may be unusual to new dog owners, it’s a rather common sight to see a dog do this visually strange act.
When you see him scooting across the floor, it means that something has irritated his anus, or anal sac to be more precise and he’s trying to scratch it.
The usual culprits are allergies, a poor diet, accidental injury or even worms that irritate the anal sac in question.
In the worst of cases, he may end up rubbing poop into your carpet, so it’s best to get him checked immediately so you can nip the problem in the bud, literally.
7. Your Dog Is Acting Overly Aggressive For Seemingly No Reason
Being afraid isn’t the only sudden shift that can happen in a dog, sudden bursts of aggression are a big cause for concern too.
Nobody wants their dog to have uncontrolled bouts of aggression as that may lead them to attacking another dog or a person and can lead to dangerous consequences in a lot of ways.
If you see him acting aggressively in any way toward a passing dog or other individual, make sure to keep the grip on that leash tight and pull him closer to you so he doesn’t suddenly jolt at them and cause an incident.
If, however, he’s being aggressive to people in the household, you’ll want to take it easy to not provoke any unwanted reaction.
While the source of aggression often isn’t you, but a number of other things.
If you’ve moved recently, the new environment may still be unknown to him and he still may be adjusting which is causing these outbursts.
Another reason could be fear again and this is his defensive mechanism. The same reason could be some sort of pain sustained recently that the source of may be the person he’s being aggressive towards.
Such a source could be a visit to the vet, especially after a spaying or neutering which could set his hormones out of whack or simply have him look at you with a resentful glare. Understandable, after all, but don’t worry, it should pass.
Another reason for aggression could also be if he’s busy with his food and someone is trying to approach him, at which point he’ll look at them and growl, signaling that this is his territory and that these are his spoils.
8. Your Dog Appears To Be Lethargic Or Unmotivated
It’s not uncommon to find your dog on the opposite end of that aggression spectrum, to be lacking energy and just not wanting to do anything.
Sure, there are some dogs who aren’t as active as others, but almost any dog wants to play.
It may be less noticeable in the more complacent doggos, but if something like a Golden Retriever or a Border Collie is lounging around sluggishly, it’s definitely a lot easier to spot and most unusual.
The cause could be a variety of different triggers.
The aforementioned spay or neuter could be one as the aim of the procedure is to lower hormone production, which it usually ends up accomplishing, and this is one of the potential results, short-term depression.
Though a bout of depression on its own could be the cause too without the need for any other precursor.
In that case, it’s best to either try to cheer him up by being next to him or trying to figure out the source of the problem with a vet or a pet behaviorist.
Other things that could cause this lack of energy are various internal issues, be it some form of illness or disease, other underlying health issues or potential parasitic infection.
Anything that drains him or interferes with his digestion is usually the biggest culprit, but one can never be too sure, so it’s best to check with a certified professional on the matter.
9. Loss Of Appetite
Another of the many strange cases for a dog’s sudden weird behavior could be a surprising loss of appetite for no apparent reason.
There’s no dog that wouldn’t jump at a steak or some other tasty treat without hesitation or at least observe it with ravenous intent, but, there are times when it does happen.
It can even be as severe as your dog appearing repulsed by the idea of eating food.
The answer to the problem is usually tied to his gut in this case, namely some form of parasite again or simply a severely upset stomach.
An illness could be the culprit too, or you simply may have recently tried introducing a new food without gradually adjusting your canine companion to it and he’s just refusing it.
Another could be the loss of trust because he may have found that medicine you tried to sneak into his munchies.
Whatever the case may be, if this continues for the whole day, a visit to the vet is definitely in order.
If eating isn’t the cause for your concern but rather your dog’s refusal to drink liquids in general, especially water, then it could be a more serious problem.
Usually it’s stress related, once again the shift to a new environment being one of the main culprits, but it could also be some form of illness which is causing his loss of the thirst quenching instinct.
And, unlike food issues, this one can have worse side effects a lot quicker, especially if this happens during the Summer.
If you notice your dog not drinking water at all, not even after a long walk, then phone your dog’s vet immediately and schedule a check-up to determine the cause of the problem and eliminate it as soon as possible.
10. Aggressive And Excessive Chewing
A common trait among younger and more untrained dogs is that they tend to be more aggressive chewers than most and will try to get their hands on anything.
While not a problem when they have an outlet like a chew toy or similar, it does become a rather unusual sight when you come to a few pillows being destroyed by your doggo or a set of slippers.
Though, if you’re not a new dog owner, it’s not as unusual as it may first seem.
You see, a lot of dogs can start suffering from separation anxiety if their owner isn’t present around the house too often and they’re left alone, causing a build-up of stress.
Dogs try to eject this build-up by chewing on stuff, and, if they haven’t been trained properly, they tend to develop more destructive tendencies, which is why you can sometimes return to a wrecked couch.
This type of behavior is also common in puppies when they’re teething (although a lot less destructive).
This, however, is easily abated by making sure there’s always someone around with your dog to keep him company or by helping him develop less destructive behavior through the use of chew toys or a plush cuddle buddy.
11. Your Dog Is Drinking Too Much Water
A contrast to the second half of #9, taking too much of anything is bad for you, water included.
If you see your dog constantly heading to the water bowl to slake his thirst, but seemingly failing to do so as he keeps coming back to it and guzzling unnaturally high amounts, then there’s some sort of problem at hand.
The most common culprits are, once again, tied to potential health problems, be it low electrolyte count which isn’t letting him retain water or a heavy case of diarrhea which is leaving him dehydrated.
If you notice frequent urination as a follow-up to it, it could be related to a potential liver or kidney disease.
Whatever the case may be, call your vet for advice on how to proceed. It should normally be simple enough, but if the problem is more severe, you’ll likely need to get him checked out properly.
12. The Dog Is Too Clingy
One may think that your dog following you everywhere you go and constantly vying for your attention would be flattering and within the norm, but sometimes even dogs can get a bit too clingy.
The cause for this may again be a mix of fear, stress and anxiety, especially separation anxiety.
Your dog may have gotten scared by something recently and needs his pet parent by his side to make him feel better and overcome whatever had caused this anxiety to spike up.
Whenever you leave, you’re likely to hear a lot of whiny barking or attempts to leave with you or similar as they’re afraid to be left alone again, be it from a past trauma or simply a temporary scare, depending on the situation.
Help teach your dog how to deal with separation anxiety by giving him something to occupy his mind with while you’re away and there should be a lot less trouble and your doggo may not be as clingy.
13. Your Dog Is Humping Your Leg
Tying into #12, your dog may also end up being a bit too affectionate because he’s sexually frustrated and you’re the nearest and dearest thing to him so he begins humping you.
This is normal behavior when a dog is in heat.
However, should it start becoming too much of a problem, you may want to look into ways of curbing that ‘enthusiasm’ or into spaying or neutering your dog so he doesn’t jump other dogs outside in the same way.
14. Your Dog Is Experiencing Frequent Shaking Fits
It’s not uncommon that you can see a dog shaking, though normally it’s due to excitement of going out for walkies or getting to eat his favorite food.
In this case, however, it’s unusual due to its potential origin which is either a form of kidney disease or simply caused by overexertion, some form of internal pain or nausea as well as generalized tremor syndrome or distemper.
Of course, it could tie into one of the prior causes of your dog just being afraid of something, and it’s prompting a more cowardly reaction rather than an aggressive one.
Whatever the case may be, locating the source is going to help him out an awful lot.
15. Your Dog Is Afraid Of Random Things In The House
By things I mean household appliances, various objects and the like. For instance, I’ve mentioned the vacuum cleaner and the umbrella specifically as being one of the more notorious ones.
However, anything unusual and new for the dog is going to cause a lot of caution and may lead him to choose flight when the fight or flight reflex kicks in.
If your dog is a rescue though or has gone through some traumatic experience after suffering mistreatment from his prior owners, the cause of his fleeing could also be an object used to enact violence upon him.
If possible, move the object out of his sight until the issue resolves itself, whether naturally or by visiting a pet behaviorist.
16. Your Dog Can’t Control His Urination
Younger pups are exempt from this one as them having some issues with keeping it in is normal.
It’s older dogs having incontinence issues that’s a cause for concern.
For adult dogs, the cause is usually some form of illness or underlying health issue.
Of course, it could be the ultimate culprits, stress and anxiety as your dog is no more resilient to it than you are.
For senior dogs, incontinence may become a commonality as they age and they may end up leaking around the house.
It might be wise to look into some potential solutions unless you want your house to start smelling real bad.
17. Your Dog Is Coughing Constantly
Hearing a dog cough or hack can be unusual, but it’s nothing to worry about if it happens every now and then.
Though, if it starts happening more often and for longer periods of time, there may be a few possible causes to such strange behavior.
On the more mild side of things, he could just be having a bit of a cold and is dealing with a sore throat.
It could be some piece of food lodged in his esophagus or even his windpipe, in which case you may need to give him some help in getting the thing out.
Sometimes, it’s followed by him dry heaving or trying to induce vomiting to get rid of it too, so be prepared to clean a spot up in case you’re dealing with an inside dog.
On the more severe end, it could be a sign of tracheal collapse which is more frequent in smaller dog breeds than it is in large ones.
Kennel cough is another potential culprit which starts off small, but progressively worsens and can even lead to pneumonia or similar.
If the coughing persists or sounds concerning in any way, you know the drill, phone your dog’s vet and ask for advice on dealing with the issue, or schedule a check-up as soon as you can.
What Causes Dogs To Act This Way?
As can be seen from the list prior, there are a variety of reasons that can affect a dog’s mental state and induce some of these surprising outcomes for whatever reason. Here are some of the most commonly logged ones:
1. Stress And Anxiety
While stress and anxiety at normal levels are a good tool at helping animals survive split decisions, this is certainly not one of them.
While everyone in the US gets more and more affected by these two silent killers, our dogs aren’t exempt from them either with almost 3/4 of all dogs in the US suffering from some form of anxiety.
Separation anxiety is one of the most prevalent ones in dogs everywhere, affecting well over 10% of dogs in the US and it leads to various issues like fear, incontinence, constant barking and destructive behavior.
Stress is even worse as it introduces unwanted… well… stress on your dog’s body which oftentimes ends up being detrimental to your dog’s overall health.
A lot of the problems mentioned earlier are tied to it in fact, like incontinence once more, general fear of certain things, shivering, excess barking, clinginess, etc.
Thankfully, for trained dogs, there’s a way to reduce stress and anxiety levels by making them do what they know to get rid of the uncertainty.
Have them perform some basic commands to help get their mind off whatever is troubling them at the moment.
Of course, playing with them helps to abate that stress too, but may not always work..
Should the problems persist even after the aforementioned attempts at clearing it up, be sure to check in with your dog’s vet about the situation to see what further steps can be taken.
Fear’s yet another major contributor to these weird behaviors.
Various things like barking at random, foreign objects that make loud noises from vacuums or thunderstorms, going to the vet, a new place with new people, a trauma from the past, etc.
All of these are valid sources of fear that should be identified if they exist within your dog and should be treated if at all possible.
The more of them that you’re able to resolve, the better your doggo will feel and the better his quality of life will be.
3. Poor Treatment
Obviously, a big issue with poor dog owners or just rescue dogs who’ve lived in some hellish conditions, this can be a major factor for ticks and odd behavior like running off to hide in safe spaces, aggressiveness, barking etc.
And there’s no better cure for a poorly treated dog than lots of love, patience and understanding.
4. Illness, Parasites And The Like
Another major factor for many of the problems like your dog rubbing his but along the carpet or the floor, lack of mood or appetite and others can be attributed to various health problems like illnesses, worms and other parasites.
It usually revolves around the digestive system, but can be due to kidneys, liver, the heart and many others depending on the problem.
As always, make sure to call the vet if there’s anything off about your dear doggo or if he just looks sick in any way.
If your dog’s diet isn’t providing him his daily nutritional needs, then that may be the cause for some of these weird behaviors like sluggishness, lack of energy or bouts of depression.
If that ends up being the case, try adding something extra to your dog’s diet to make up for it, either through treats or a better food brand.
6. Various Allergies
One of the most common reasons for some specific behaviors can also be allergies like the dog running his butt along the carpet, the hacking and coughing and even loss of energy can all be attributed to it.
While it may seem a bit extreme, allergies are dangerous in any animal, not just humans, especially ones related to dog food that could potentially be deadly.
7. Shifts In Routine
Dogs are creatures of habit and love doing things on a routine basis. If something shifts in their routine, they may end up getting a bit confused.
Routine changes can be anything as small as when he goes out for a walk or when he wakes up to bigger things like when you come home or what brand of food he’s eating.
While changes in his daily routine won’t affect him too much in the long term, having to adapt his routine around these events can cause some anxiety and stress for the dog which can lead to the aforementioned problems.
Try to keep your routine as same as possible to keep your dog as comfortable as possible.
8. Environmental Effects
Loud ambient noises are one of the most common reasons for your dog to act up in a strange way.
Remember, their hearing is a lot better than ours so what is but a mild inconvenience for us can be a nightmare for them.
They’re also a lot more sensitive to weather changes and other shifts which may lead to shifts in their mood, for better or worse.
This does lead to one of the creepiest behaviors though which is the whole barking at nothing bit as they may be hearing something you simply can’t that won’t pose any danger to you.
9. New Environments
Swapping locales is one of the bigger challenges as having to get used to a new environment with new people and pets can leave a dog confused and somewhat scared at times.
After all, his territory is nowhere near and he’s surrounded by the territory of others as well as a bunch of strangers.
It’ll likely take time for him to adapt, but until he does, to expect some level of fear, confusion, excess barking or even aggressiveness.
Of course, not all dogs get confused like that. Some even adapt on the spot and are enjoying themselves the moment they get to their new place.
10. Different Types Of Injuries
Finally, getting injured is one of the biggest detriments to a dog’s health, be it mental or physical.
In a physical sense, it can affect his overall body shape and structure depending on the severity of the injury.
Meanwhile, in a more mental sense, it can ruin his confidence to know he had gotten injured in the first place which can lead to a build-up of fear, anxiety and even aggressiveness.
Of course, not all injuries are that severe, but can lead to different behaviors, be it rubbing their butt across the carpet or the floor to scratch it, or licking their paws to help get rid of the pain of a splinter or a cut.
If you suspect that your dog is in some sort of pain or discomfort from his injury, approach him carefully and inspect the suspected area, going slowly so as not to hurt or discomfort him further.
What Can You Do To Help Your Dog In These Scenarios
While I’ve already talked a bit about the reasons throughout the article, it’s worth listing them out as a lot of them are universal in their application:
The first thing you want to do is to locate the source of the underlying problem. This can be easier said than done, especially when dealing with a strange behavior caused by a mental issue.
Regardless, give the dog a thorough surface check-up first. If you find nothing, then try and remember if there were any potential behavioral changes.
Once done, it’s time to move on to the next step, calling up your dog’s vet or a pet behaviorist.
A behaviorist can help better pinpoint your dog’s potential problem if it’s related to his behavior and can guide you with further steps on how to potentially resolve it.
A veterinarian on the other hand can assist with both sides of the spectrum, though they’re more specialized in the physical side of the issue.
They’ll help you figure out if it’s some sort of disease or parasite that’s got your pooch acting all weird and will help you out in eliminating the source of said problem as best they can.
Once you have the required information it’s time to move on to the final step which is applying the treatment.
It may sound crude, but it is what it is, a cure.
Depending on the source of the problem, you’ll obviously need to apply different methods.
For physical problems like illnesses or various infections, you’ll likely be asked to buy a specific type of dog food to put your furry friend on a specific diet or to get some cream or lotion to help fight the pests invading him.
If his skin is the problem, the dog food option is likely still going to be there, but you may also be offered some form of hydrating cream or dog-friendly moisturizer to help reduce the redness or irritation.
If the problem is more mental, you’ll be given advice on the necessary steps you’ll need to take to help mitigate such behavior and how to hopefully get your dog back to his normal, happy self.
These vary greatly based on behavior, so listing them here would be pointless.
We often ask ourselves “Why is my dog acting weird all of a sudden” at specific behaviors that they may exhibit during playtime or simply while lounging around.
Some of these behaviors can come off as odd to downright creepy depending on the type, however, there’s no need to fear because they’re all usually caused by some internal factors.
Try to determine the cause yourself or call for professional help right away to figure out what the issue is and what can be done to curb such weird behavior if at all possible.
Just please, don’t punish your dog over these as he can’t help himself. Be patient with him until the problem is solved and he’ll be as grateful as ever.
I’m sure you’ll make the right decision for your canine companion. Until next time.