It can be scary when your dog is acting strange. But don’t worry…
Here you’ll discover the answer to:
‘Why is my dog acting weird?’
By the end of this article you’ll know:
- Why your dog acts weird (and what you should do about it).
- 5 simple tips for when your dog is acting weird or strange (make sure to check out tip #1).
- What science has to say about taking your dog to the vet (I was shocked when I discovered this).
- And more…
Table of contents
Why is my dog acting weird?
Reasons why your dog is acting weird include suffering from a health issue or a physical injury, reacting to external factors such as noises, getting old, having an allergy, being mistreated, being bored, stressed, depressed or having the wrong diet, having a cold or eating something bad for them.
‘Acting weird’ could mean anything, really. That’s why I’ve crafted a list of examples of how a dog can be acting weird.
Check it and see whether your dog exhibits any of the below-mentioned behaviors.
Examples of how your dog can be acting weird
You can click on an example for more information.
Vomiting is something common with puppies as they’re very curious and often eat things they find on the ground.
This shouldn’t concern you as they usually will either poop what they’ve eaten or vomit it.
But if you have an adult dog vomiting several times during the day and they haven’t been eating or drinking, it’s time to go to the vet.
Caution: If you notice blood in your dog’s vomit, it could mean there’s something blocking the intestines, or your dog might have an ulcer.
If you see diarrhea from time to time, it’s a sign that your dog has eaten something not meant for them. This type of diarrhea goes away fast.
Another possibility is that you have recently changed your dog’s food. In case you haven’t done it gradually by mixing the old brand or type with the new one, your dog will most likely have diarrhea. This is expected.
Diarrhea could be alarming if your dog has ingested something poisonous. You should then take the dog to the vet.
Tip: Ensure your dog has always access to fresh clean drinking water. You could also add probiotic to your dog’s food to return the balance in their digestive system (consult with your vet about the dosage).
#3: Reluctance to eat
Puppies and adult dogs tend to enjoy eating a lot.
That’s why if you notice your dog hasn’t expressed interest in eating anything at all for a period of 24 hours, you should have them checked out by your vet.
The vet can then run X-rays and do a blood test to determine the exact cause.
Bear in mind that some dogs are more capricious than others though. If you have such a dog, there’s no need to worry that they’re being picky (as usual).
When you should be concerned
If there hasn’t been any change in your dog’s diet or routine and they’ve stopped expressing interest in food all of a sudden, it’s time to head to your vet.
#4: Refusing to drink water
You should be more worried for your dog if they refuse to drink water than if they refuse to eat.
That’s because reluctance to drink water could lead to dehydration.
The process of dehydration could begin 18 hours after your dog has not drunk any water.
How to tell if your dog is dehydrated
Gently pull up the skin on the back of your dog’s neck. A healthy skin should resume its previous position immediately.
If the skin stays up for a moment, then your dog needs water.
In addition to that you could also check the gums. If dehydration is present, they will be sticky and dry.
#5: Difficulty moving
Have you noticed your dog being stiff?
You could spot if your dog is stiff by the way their hold their head, how they get up from lying down, how they walk and sit.
When a dog has difficulty getting off the ground, they might troubles with their hips or spine.
Other conditions that can led to stiffness are hip dysplasia, arthritis, torn ligaments or displaced discs.
Ejy (my previous dog who was a Pomeranian-Mini Spitz) had gotten a stiff neck after sleeping next to the window one night.
The next day he walked with his head slowly tilted to one side.
Continuous coughing is unpleasant both for you and your dog. It could also sound pretty scary.
Occasional cough on the other hand is nothing to worry about as all dogs experience it more or less.
Constant cough could be caused due to a heart or another underlying health condition. It could also be connected to a respiratory issue.
Caution: When your dog coughs, try to notice if they’re out of air. Note down all the details and share with your vet so your dog could receive appropriate treatment.
#7: Runny eyes
Runny eyes with a combination of excessive licking and scratching could be the sign of an allergy.
What you should know about allergies is that they’re pretty common and unpleasant for your dog.
#8: Scratching often
Scratching is normal. Not when it happens too often though.
Often scratching could indicate a mite, tick or a flea issue.
Tip: You could use a special powder to remove the parasites from your pet’s body. Besides that there are special medical shampoos that can help you combat unwanted guests.
Other causes of excessive scratching include skin issues caused by environmental factors or allergies.
#9: Acting grumpy/yappy/snappy
Is your dog normally a cuddler?
Maybe they even come to you and paw at you so you could stroke them.
But… all of a sudden, you try to touch them as usual and they snap at you! What gives?
Whenever you see your dog being snappy/yappy or acting grumpy, this is an indication something is off.
Most often this is a reactive response caused by your dog being in pain.
So, it might not have that much to do with behavioral issues as much as it has to do with their overall health.
This might be happening without any additional behavior accompanying it.
Reacting to certain noises – for example to an ambulance.
Some dogs would mistake the sound of police or ambulance sirens with dog howls and respond accordingly.
This is exactly what my previous dog Ejy would do. It’s important to note that he started reacting like that while he was getting older.
Other things to consider, besides age, are if the windows are opened while this happens. Maybe there was wind blowing and your dog picked up the sounds.
#11: Having seizures
Seizures are sometimes tricky to detect because you might not be with your dog while they’re experiencing one.
Luckily, there are ways thanks to which you could recognize whether your dog has suffered from a seizure and that’s what’s causing them to act out-of-character.
Be on the lookout for:
- A twitching eye.
- Jerking legs.
- Blank stare.
- Rolling tongue.
- Jaw snapping.
Seizures could be an indication of an epilepsy.
Also, if your dog is diabetic, their blood sugar will be low or high which could lead to a seizure.
The above-listed signs point to your dog having a mild seizure.
Caution: Some dogs could become aggressive after suffering from a seizure, so you need to be careful – no rapid or loud movements while approaching your dog.
Is your dog pacing back and forth?
If so, they could be feeling restless or experiencing anxiety.
Restlessness could be caused by pain.
As to pacing, it’s a coping mechanism so your dog can deal with anxiety.
#13: Frequently adjusting its position
Your dog tries to lie down and then almost immediately stands up. Or, they roll to lie on their side but several seconds after, they turn and twist.
This means they’re feeling uncomfortable for a reason.
Maybe they were exposed to an air current at home and had become stiff. Or maybe they’ve had a physical in jury.
#14: Sleeping more or less than usual
How much your dogs sleeps is based on factors such as their lifestyle, age, overall health condition.
A dog that’s sleeping more could have a medical issue or depression.
The amount of sleep your dog takes is bound to influence the food intake. Meaning – the more your dog sleeps, the less food they will eat.
In case you have noticed your dog having problems sleeping, this could mean they’re in pain. That’s what could be keeping your dog restless at night.
When your dog suffers from sleep deprivation, they are likely to be:
- Lacking energy.
- Whining or crying at night.
- Unable to perform basic tasks.
When should I be worried?
If your dog doesn’t get much exercise throughout the day, you shouldn’t be worried they’re sleeping less.
Events such as travelling, changing the environment or being too excited about something, could steal a couple of hours from your dog’s sleeping patterns.
In the end, several lost nights of sleep isn’t something troubling. Not being able to sleep can become an issue when it happens for weeks in a row.
#15: Barking for no reason
Does it look like your dog has started barking at thin air?
Maybe this behavior doesn’t seem reasonable to you but trust me, there is a reason.
Your dog could be reacting to a sound that’s annoying them but you’re unable to hear.
Things to look out for to see if your dog is reacting to a certain noise:
- Are there any renovations going on?
- Does this bark occur more or less at the same time during the day or night?
- Can you pick up on any noises coming from your neighbors’ apartments (such as TV, radio, etc.)?
According to a study made on dogs, 72.5% of the tested dogs showed problematic behavior. 32% experienced anxiety caused by noise sensitivity.
This serves to show you how much exactly a dog could be bothered by a specific noise.
#16: Urinating too seldom or too often
Excessive urination could be a sign of diabetes, kidney or liver issues or a problem with the adrenal gland.
You can recognize if your dog urinates too often if they have started urinating in the house. Your dog could also have problems holding their pee and wet their or your bed.
On the other hand, when your dog urinates too seldom, this could be a signal of an urinary tract infection. It could also be due to bladder stones.
Caution: In case you notice blood in your dog’s urine, bring your dog for a vet check-up immediately.
The reasons for shaking vary and the cause could be accurately determined when you take other factors into consideration as well.
Common reasons for shaking include:
- Being cold.
- Being in pain.
- Being anxious.
- Having an adrenaline rush (due to excitement or fear).
18 reasons why your dog is acting weird or strange
#1: You took your dog to the vet
Most people don’t like to go to the hospital or to the dentist. And most dogs don’t feel any different about going to the vet.
A study shows that between 10% and 78.5% of dogs become stressed after a visit to the vet.
This can be a reason why your dog is acting weird.
When at home your dog probably shows it’s belly because it’s comfortable. While at the vet it’s more likely that your dog shows their teeth 😉
#2: Could have eaten something strange or bad
Dogs are curious by nature. Some are also more wild than others. And although domesticated, they could still have some habits that might get them in trouble.
This applies to eating food found on the street that was dropped by humans.
Examples of that include pizza crusts or whole slices (bad if there are spices left on the peace), chocolate (attention – toxic to dogs), onion (also toxic).
#3: Stomach ache
You can tell whether the stomach of your dog is aching by looking out for these signs:
- Lip smacking.
- Grass eating.
- Licking different surfaces (the floor, the couch, the carpet, etc).
- Stomach noises.
- Being protective of the belly.
- Being less active.
Whatever the sign(s), the cause should be treated by your vet.
#4: Stomach bloat
Does the tummy of your dog appear bigger?
It could be due to overeating.
Or there might be a serious medical condition causing it. Such ones are gas bloating and constipation.
Usually, if the reason for this is a health condition, it will most likely be accompanied by other factors.
Such ones are lethargy, vomiting, or gums that appear blueish, whitish or yellowish instead of having a healthy pink color.
If your dog had caught a common cold, they might start acting unusual in a number of ways, namely:
- Be lethargic.
- Have a dry nose.
A dry nose could also indicate fever. A healthy dog’s nose should always be wet.
There are a variety of allergies that your dog could be suffering from.
Fort example, runny eyes could be caused by different factors such as:
- Dust mites.
Your vet can find out whether your dog has an allergic reaction or not by running an allergy test.
Some of the most typical injuries in dogs include:
- An eye injury.
- Spinal injury.
- Limb injury.
- Oral injury.
- Skin injury.
- Toenail injury.
- Tail injury.
- Joint dislocation.
An injury could occur due too a dog fight, mistreatment from another human being, genetic predisposition or a car hitting your beloved pet.
#8: Change of environment/routine
Dogs are fans of routines. If the consistency of your routine has been interrupted, that could’ve upset your dog.
The same goes for the home environment. Have you recently started a relationship with someone?
Dogs are more sensitive than you think. Introducing a new person in the household could make them jealous, insecure or depressed.
A dog can show you they’re stressed in many ways such as:
- Avoiding you.
- Trying to escape.
In addition to that, some dogs shed more thanks to being stressed. Look out for that combination if you notice any of the above-mentioned signs.
If your dog experiences separation anxiety while you’re away, they’ll start tearing down objects in the house.
While a lot of people tend to believe that the dog is ‘getting back at them’, the fact of the matter is your dog is trying to escape. They’re trying to get to you.
Separation anxiety could be seen in rescue dogs. As these dogs have been abandoned once, some of them become uneasy when left alone.
An example is Zoye’s story:
Part 1: The encounter
In April 2020 while I was strolling around the Dog Park with Lissa, we met the kindest stray.
She had honey-colored eyes and looked at me with so much tenderness…
I couldn’t help but fall in love with her. I gave her dog cookies and she gave us her company. She started tagging along during my daily walks with Lissa.
At some point I couldn’t take it anymore and decided I should do something to help that dog. I couldn’t keep her so I tried to find someone who could.
Part 2: The foster
Through the help of another dog lover I managed to find Zoye a foster. Before giving her to the foster, I was under the impression that Zoye would cause no trouble at all.
She was kind with smaller dogs and never attempted to play by jumping at them. She played with dogs who were her size only.
Zoye had didn’t show signs of aggression towards any human or dog. She got along with kids and older people. She seemed like a dream dog…
Part 3: The separation anxiety
Except for her separation anxiety.
When the foster would leave her home, Zoye would start eating the lamp switches, tearing down the curtains and even destroyed the foster’s sunglasses which she had forgot at the kitchen table…
Zoye had been living on the streets for 3 years. She had great social skills but couldn’t deal with being left alone in an enclosed space.
Part 4: The happy ending
In the end we managed to find a long-term foster who lived in a house with two other dogs.
This was the best solution in Zoye’s case as she felt more relaxed and less restricted.
A falling object
Barking or screaming out of fear could appear when your dog gets scared by a falling object at your home.
While you were at work or away, your dog could have knocked down a certain object. As a result they could’ve became scared of it.
Then, even though the object isn’t moving or threatening them anymore, your dog could still have negative associations with it and bark at it occasionally.
A household object
Or, they could encounter an object that hasn’t been even close to hurting them but looks threatening in some way. Such one could be the vacuum cleaner.
Your dog has seen it in action. So, if you leave it in their room for a while while cleaning they could get scared even if it’s turned off.
Lissa (my long-haired Chihuahua mix) once had me scared beyond words…
While I was in the bedroom I heard a strong smashing sound from the kitchen. Then Lissa started screaming like crazy!
The seconds which took me to reach the kitchen seemed like a whole eternity… I imagined the worst…
When I opened the door I saw her standing in the opposite end of the room. She looked okay but why the scream then?
Me and my boyfriend immediately started checking her paws and mouth for any glass pieces that might have stuck there and hurt her.
We couldn’t find anything and she didn’t scream while we were slightly applying pressure on the paws.
We came to the conclusion that she must have gotten really scared.
If your dog lacks mental and physical stimulation, they’re likely to find a new interesting activity to occupy their time with.
This might be the primary cause of your dog doing something out of the ordinary.
Tip: Try to increase the amount of exercise your dog gets per day. Secure at least 1 hour a day when your dog gets active exercise. Then, keep an eye whether your dog continues to act weird at home.
#13: Wrong diet
Just like with us humans, diet is a big part of how dogs feel on a general basis.
Maybe the diet of your dog is not suitable for them and hence your dog lacks certain nutrients.
How to recognize if this is the cause of your dog’s weird behavior?
You’ll have a reason to think so if there’s been a change in your dog’s diet recently.
Next time you go to your vet, make sure you can tell them the food brand and possibly some specifics of the food you’ve used before and the one you use now.
Your vet should be able to give you more insight on why this might be happening.
#14: Positive reinforcement
Interestingly enough, you could be the main reason why your dog is acting weird. This could be the case if you’re rewarding your dog whenever it does something ‘funny’.
Maybe you’ve petted them or attempted to cuddle them to try to make them feel better.
Or, you could’ve given them a treat to see if they’d have a healthy reaction and don’t lack appetite.
What you should always remember is that dogs are smart creatures and could take advantage when an opportunity is presented.
So, next time your dogs does something unexpected, make sure you’re not rewarding it by giving them toys, extra attention, treats or affection. Check of the behavior continues after that.
Is there the possibility that someone had mistreated your dog?
Have you left it alone with kids at home or have you given your dog to be dogsitted by someone?
Someone might have mistreated your dog in your house while you had guests. Or while you had your dog being taken care by somebody else.
This would be the cause if you notice your dog avoiding a particular person or acting scared when they’re in sight.
Tip: Reassure your dog by speaking with a mild tone. Apply positive reinforcement and monitor their behavior. If they continue to act scared even in your presence, yous should speak to a dog behaviorist.
A dog might show submissive behavior if they are afraid you’re mad at them.
A very common case is submissive urination. What happens is that some dogs would lie down on their backs and start urinating as soon as they see you.
Another giveaway is that your dog might be avoiding you. As weird as that might sound to you, this is also a sign of submission.
#17: Your dog is getting old
In general, senior dogs are more fragile – they catch colds easier for example.
Joint pain and arthritis are quite common conditions in old dogs. This can make even the slightest of movements painful.
Due to that your dog’s movements could be limited. Same goes for their sight and smell.
Bear in mind that a senior dog is also likely to get more anxious.
Another thing that could happen is that your dog becomes disoriented. They’re old after all. It’s normal to forget certain rules.
Don’t be too harsh on your beloved furry friend for that.
#18: Your dogs is asking for attention
Sometimes your dog might get creative and do something out of the ordinary just to get some extra attention from you.
More questions answered:
#1: Why does my dog sometimes hide in the closet?
Two possible reasons are:
Out of instinct
Wild dogs would hide in dens. This is their shelter from enemies and bad weather.
You might think that a domesticated dog is way different than a wild one but truth is their instincts are still present even if suppressed. And sometimes, they come out.
Maybe the closet is the thing that come closest to a den as far as your dog is concerned.
Also, does your dog do this on a certain occasion?
A lot of domesticated dogs seek a hiding place whenever they hear fireworks for example. The same goes for thunderstorms.
An example: My friend’s dog likes sleeping in the bottom drawer of the closet. But how come?
Well, he has probably claimed it as his own dog bed. There’s a soft blanket inside and he loves curling up on it.
This is just one example of how a dog could make their own ‘den’ at home 😉
When your dog is sick
Dogs who are sick tend to feel vulnerable and hence want to protect themselves by retreating to a safe shelter.
#2: Why could my dog be screaming for no reason and acting strange?
If your dog yelps or screams for no apparent reason, it could be because they’re in pain.
So, they could be actually screaming in an attempt to stop you from touching them at a certain place because it hurts. It’s a typical defense mechanism by dogs in pain.
Screaming could indicate a serious health condition such as kidney failure. This is connected to severe pain.
Caution: If your dog screams while you attempt to get close or touch them, don’t lose any time and go to the vet.
5 tips if your dog is acting weird or strange
#1: Have a vet examine your dog
It’s best to note down the times you’ve noticed your dog act out of the usual. Also, don’t forget to pay attention to the circumstances that might be influencing the behavior.
All of this information can help you and your vet put the puzzle together and come to a conclusion why your dog is acting weird.
If for some reason you are not able to afford a vet at the moment, you can reach out to an ASPCA outlet or your local dog shelter. The people who work there could direct you to a low-cost vet or a clinic.
Don’t postpone this and don’t neglect the well-being of your dog, as they’re your family. Act as if you would if any of your parents exhibited strange behaviors.
#2: Consult with a certified professional behaviorist
After talking to your vet and ruling out any possible medical conditions, it’s advisable to speak to a dog behaviorist.
They can help your dog become more confident and fight any anxiety issues.
A behaviorist can also give you an action plan how to strengthen the bond with your dog.
#3: Careful to not encourage the behavior
When you see your dog doing something funny, don’t be too quick to interfere.
First check if their behavior could signal a medical emergency (like the ones listed above). If unsure (and in any case) consult with your vet.
If it’s urgent, head to the vet’s office. But if your dog’s behavior is just a quirk, do observe and see whether it continues when you stop giving your dog attention.
#4: Secure the right type of diet for your dog
Before you settle for a dog meal plan, you should take into consideration your dog’s:
- Energy levels.
- Individual nutritional needs.
Speak to your vet and rule out any food allergies or health conditions that could limit your dog’s food choice or intake.
#5: Use a crate to make your dog feel secure
The importance of a crate comes down to keeping your dog safe at home and making your dog feel secure.
With a proper crate training, your dog will be ready to enter the crate whenever they feel they need to.
Sometimes it could be because they want to rest in a quiet place undisturbed by anyone.
Or, the dog could feel frightened due to a loud noise and feel the need to protect themselves by running away and hiding in a place they’re familiar with.
By getting a crate and investing the time to train your dog to go inside you’re ensuring your dog’s comfort.