NotABully.org is reader-supported. We may earn a small commission through products purchased using links on this page.
There are certain aspects of your dog’s behavior that you just grow accustomed to. When those behaviors suddenly and unexpectedly change, it can leave you feeling worried and upset.
Maybe your dog has suddenly stopped running to the door to greet you when you come home from work. Or perhaps your pooch is, shaking, avoiding a certain part of the house, having accidents, or just showing a general lack of interest in anything.
Dogs can act weird in many different ways, but all of them can invoke the same alarming feelings in us.
So, why is your dog acting weird?
There are many reasons your dog could be acting weird, including illness, injury, boredom, anxiety, problems with their diet, or changes to their environment. Allergies, changes in your dog’s routine, new people or pets in the household, stress, and fear are also among the many potential causes of your dog’s weird behavior.
Your dog’s weird behavior may only be a sign of a minor problem, though in some cases, it’s an indication of a major underlying issue that needs to be discovered and resolved. For that reason, it’s vital to understand the causes of dogs’ weird behaviors, as well as what those weird behaviors might entail.
Every dog owner can benefit from knowing this, so we’re going to discuss both at length below. By the end, you should be able to tell if your dog’s behavior is actually weird or not and even some possible reasons for the behavior.
Ways Your Dog Can Act Weird
Weird behaviors your dog might exhibit can vary almost as drastically as the causes behind such behaviors.
In fact, there are so many strange behaviors your dog could exhibit that we can’t list every single one here, but the following weird behaviors are some of the most common odd conduct dogs display.
One common weird behavior you might see in any dog is hiding. They could be hiding in a closet or behind a piece of furniture.
Granted, some dogs are just naturally fearful, and they might hide often for security. But if your dog didn’t hide before and they’re suddenly starting to, then this behavior is definitely out of the ordinary.
If your dog is hiding, then it might be due to loud noises, environmental factors, fear, or new people and pets in the house.
Yelping or Screaming
If you’ve ever stepped on your dog’s foot by accident, then you’ve heard it yelp or scream in pain. This is, of course, expected when something painful occurs. But if nothing painful seems to be happening to your dog, at least as far as you can tell, then this is an odd and often upsetting behavior to see.
In most cases, if your dog is screaming or yelping, it’s probably experiencing severe pain. If you can’t find the source of the pain, then you should take your pooch to the vet for a more thorough examination.
Whining or Crying
Whining and crying aren’t as loud as screams and yelps, instead, offering a more subtle clue as to a problem with your best buddy.
If your dog is continuously whining and crying, then several things could be the culprit. Your dog might be stressed, bored, in pain, stressed, or even anxious.
It’s normal for a dog to bark when they sense something like a person outside the door or they hear a truck pass close to the home. However, it’s not normal for a dog to bark all the time or to continuously bark when there’s nothing to cause such a reaction.
This behavior could be caused by fear, boredom, anxiety, stress, or even underlying illness.
Shivering, Shaking, or Trembling
Fear is another common reason for dogs shaking or shivering. It might even be due to loud noises like slamming doors or fireworks going on outside.
Shying Away from Contact
These shy and scared dogs may have been abused or overly stressed in the past at some point. But if your dog is usually a friendly, affectionate pooch and has only recently started to shy away from contact, then there’s probably something else going on.
It’s possible that you’ve been rougher with your dog while giving them love and attention than you realized and they’re now a bit scared. Your dog also could be stressed out or scared of something else entirely.
If your dog is only acting this way around someone new, then it’s likely that your dog just isn’t comfortable with that person yet and might need some time to get used to them.
Also, make sure that people approach your dog properly when trying to pet it. If the person brings their head down towards your dog’s head from above, your dog could be taking this as an aggressive behavior and it might be scared.
Licking Their Paws
In many cases, paw licking is an ordinary behavior and it’s nothing to worry about if your dog is licking its paws on occasion.
There are cases though when your dog’s paw licking is due to something less ordinary. Allergies or parasites tend to be the main culprits of excessive paw licking since they can make your pooch’s paws very itchy.
Another common cause of paw licking is injury. If you notice your dog is licking just one paw, then it’s quite possibly due to a cut, abrasion, or even a thorn or cactus spine that’s stuck somewhere in your dog’s paw. Thoroughly inspect the paw and see if you can find any signs of what’s causing the irritation.
Rubbing Their Butt on the Floor
It’s actually quite common to see a dog scooting along the floor, rubbing its butt along the ground. Just because it’s commonplace doesn’t mean it’s a good thing though.
Often, this behavior is caused by an issue with your dog’s anal sac, which could be clogged or injured. Unfortunately, it’s an easily injured and clogged piece of your pooch’s biology. Hence, why this behavior is seen so often.
Some things that can lead to anal sac issues that cause your dog to drag its butt across the floor include allergies, irritation of the skin from grooming, parasites in the intestines, and trauma to the area.
Few things are more alarming than when your beloved dog suddenly seems to turn on you, acting aggressively towards you in a manner that you’ve never seen before. This type of behavior can be caused by several underlying factors.
For instance, your dog might be in pain, it might be afraid, or it might even be displaying territorial aggression. This could happen if there have been major changes in your dog’s environment recently or if something traumatizing has occurred such as a trip to the vet.
Lack of Energy and Activity
As you’ve probably seen before, some dogs are simply low-energy pooches from the start. They love to lounge around and don’t really want to expend much energy.
On the other hand, you’ll also find dogs that have boundless energy stores and they don’t seem to ever want to sit still! When one of these dogs suddenly lacks energy and starts acting lethargic, it could be a negative sign that you definitely need to key in on.
Like most strange canine behaviors, this can be caused by many different things. Underlying illnesses are a big one, and some of the diseases and sicknesses that can cause lethargy include parasites, diabetes, liver problems, heart problems, and infections.
If your dog is taking medication currently, it’s also possible that their sudden lethargy is a side-effect of the medication. This behavior could also be due to trauma, poison, or even depression.
They Stop Eating
Have you ever known a dog that didn’t like food and especially treats? Most dogs will do anything for a few extra table scraps and will generally clear their bowls out quite quickly once they’re filled.
Still, a dog’s appetite can suddenly seem to vanish. Your dog might even appear to be turned off by its food.
If you’ve recently made changes to your dog’s food, then this could easily be the culprit, but there are other possible causes as well, including underlying illness that your vet should be able to diagnose.
They Stop Drinking Water
Often, when a dog stops drinking water, it’s because they’re suffering from large amounts of stress. This could be caused by a recent move or a major change in your dog’s lifestyle or environment.
If your dog is just drinking a bit less than usual, it’s probably not a cause for concern. Your dog is likely to drink less water when the weather cools off and drink more during times of hot weather.
On the other hand, if your dog appears to have ceased drinking water altogether, you could have a serious problem on your hands.
Clearly, there’s something very wrong if your dog isn’t drinking water at all. Worse, this cessation of drinking can lead to other health problems, and dehydration can set in rapidly when your dog refuses to drink.
They Start Drinking Water Excessively
As they say, all things in moderation. Excess is usually bad for dogs just like it is for us.
If you notice that your dog is heading to the water bowl far more than you feel is normal, it could be a sign of underlying health issues. Dehydration will cause your dog to drink excessively, as will illnesses like kidney disease and liver disease.
Acting Overly Affectionate
Many pets are extremely affectionate, and this is nothing that should cause alarm. But if you notice that your dog is suddenly far more affectionate than normal or is always excessively affectionate right before you leave, then it could be caused by anxiety or stress.
It’s quite common for canines to suffer from separation anxiety, which could cause your dog to act overly affectionate and even whiny when you leave. They might claw at the door, cry incessantly, or even attempt escape.
Hacking and Coughing Continuously
Just like humans, dogs will occasionally cough, and even a coughing fit once in a while is no reason to worry. Should your dog start hacking and coughing and seem unable to stop though, it might be time to start being wary.
So many different things can cause your dog to have continuous or repeated coughing fits. On the milder end of the spectrum, your dog could just be suffering from a sore throat or there might be something stuck in their throat that’s bothering them. Your dog could even be choking on whatever is stuck in their throat.
The cause could be much worse than these options though. Kennel cough can result in mild to severe coughing fits and can lead to worse illnesses such as pneumonia.
Tracheal collapse can also cause severe coughing that sounds like your dog is honking. Smaller breeds are at higher risk of tracheal collapse.
Dogs don’t have hands to use for interacting with the world. Rather, their main manner of interaction involves their mouth.
Because of this, chewing is a common and completely normal behavior for dogs to display. That said, some dogs start to chew an excessive amount, and this can have identifiable underlying causes.
Dogs might start to chew intensely when they’re hungry, teething, or stressed. Separation anxiety can also lead a dog to chew on everything and anything.
Running from Particular Objects
You never know what happened in your pooch’s life before they become a part of your family. For many dogs, there’s trauma in the past that can be suddenly brought up by the emergence of a particular object.
Of course, some dogs are just afraid of certain things without any past trauma to cause it.
For example, many dogs are freaked out by vacuums! This does make some sense though since vacuums tend to be large and loud and your dog has no idea what it is.
But if you pull out something that seems entirely benign to you and your dog runs from it, there’s a possibility that your pup has experienced mistreatment involving a similar item at some time in the past.
They’re Suddenly Having Accidents in the Home
When your dog is still a puppy undergoing house training, accidents in the house or in the crate are to be expected. Once your dog is fully housebroken though, you don’t expect accidents unless your dog gets truly sick.
That’s why the sudden occurrence of accidents in the house can be such an alarming and strange behavior to see your dog start displaying. This can often be a sign of major anxiety or stress, though underlying medical causes are just as likely.
Of course, the other big exception here is if you’ve had to leave your dog alone for longer than usual since dogs can only hold their bladder for so long.
What’s Making My Dog Act Weird?
As you’ve seen, there are a number of ways your dog could be acting weird, and there are just as many causes of these weird behaviors.
We briefly touched on a few of these while discussing the different behaviors your dog could be exhibiting, but now we’ll go into a bit more depth regarding each of them.
If your dog is hurt in some way, it could cause all sorts of strange behaviors.
The location of your dog’s injury will have a major effect on the type of behavior they display. For example, when your dog’s paw is hurt, they will tend to lick their paw. If there’s an injury of the anal sac, then your dog will probably be dragging its butt on the floor.
You have to be careful when checking your dog for an injury since they’re already in pain and likely don’t want the injured area to be touched.
Still, you can look for notable signs of where the injury might be such as biting, scratching, licking. Another clue can be when your dog just doesn’t want you to touch them in a certain place. They could also be limping or favoring a particular limb.
This is a rather broad category as there are a plethora of diseases and illnesses your dog could contract, ranging from parasites and infections to cancer, heart disease, and more.
The strange behaviors that might result from these illnesses are just as diverse as the illnesses themselves. It all depends on what your dog is suffering from.
If you believe your dog is acting weird because of an underlying medical condition, then you should consult your veterinarian right away. It could potentially be a serious issue, and these are often time-sensitive.
Changes in Routine
Any sort of major changes in your dog’s life can result in weird behaviors as your pooch tries to cope. These changes come as a big surprise to your dog, and changes to your dog’s routine can feel very disruptive to their lifestyle.
Dogs are creatures of habit that tend to be healthiest when they have a reliable daily routine. They like to eat at the same time, go on walks at the same time, and even play at the same time every day. It doesn’t take long for a dog to adopt a schedule and get used to it.
But when you suddenly change part of that routine, it can feel a lot more serious to your dog than it does to you.
Changes to routine should be made slowly and incrementally when possible.
Of course, that’s not always possible.
Maybe your schedule at work changes or you’ve just had a baby and everything changes. Your dog will adapt in time, but at least in the beginning, the shock and stress of such changes to your dog’s routine can cause them to act out in strange ways.
Changes in your dog’s routine aren’t the only changes that can have a marked effect on their behavior. When you change your dog’s food regimen, behavioral changes can also occur.
Dietary changes are one of the most common reasons for dogs to suddenly stop eating. This is especially true if you try to change your dog’s food too quickly. They might entirely turn their nose up at it and refuse to eat it at all!
But changing dog foods can also have other consequences. It can cause your dog to lose or gain weight, for instance, which can have major effects on your dog’s energy levels and can even raise or lower their susceptibility to various diseases.
Even a change in the nutrients eaten when switching dog food brands could affect your dog’s energy levels or even cause gastrointestinal problems that lead to odd behaviors like lethargy, whining, cessation of eating, or refusal to drink water.
If your dog has been lazy, lacking energy, or acting depressed and down, then insufficient nutrition could be to blame.
When your dog isn’t getting enough calories or nutrients, their body will be lacking in energy. This could be due to a dietary deficiency or simply because your dog isn’t enough food overall.
Nearly 40 million adults in the US are affected by anxiety disorders. According to a survey of dog owners, anxiety is even more prevalent in dogs with 72.5% of dogs exhibiting anxiety-related behaviors.
Dogs can experience several types of anxiety, with the most common types being age-related anxiety, fear-related anxiety, and separation anxiety. Around 14% of dogs are affected by separation anxiety alone, which can lead to behaviors like chewing, destroying furniture, excessive barking, and even having accidents in the home.
Excessive levels of stress can cause many reactions in your dog, which isn’t really that much different than what happens when we get overly stressed. I think everyone can relate!
Dogs will often shake and shiver when they’re stressed. They may also bark, whine, or vocalize in other ways. Licking, hiding, and even having accidents in the home are all possible indications that your dog is stressed out.
You can try to help your dog calm down when it starts to act stressed. Many dogs will become calmer when made to perform routine commands like sit and stay. Exercise can also be a great way to help your dog alleviate stress, especially if it’s fun exercise like a game of fetch.
If you’ve tried providing more exercise and playtime and you’ve tried getting your dog to perform commands when they’re stressed but none of it’s having the desired outcome, then you might need to see your vet who can check for an underlying medical cause of your dog’s condition.
Environmental factors that can affect your dog’s behavior include things that cause loud noises like a construction crew working next door or changes in the weather and seasons. Your dog is more sensitive to many of these changes than you are, and for some dogs, this means a much more noticeable reaction.
In some cases, your dog may be reacting to something you just can’t hear or see.
You could technically consider allergies to be an environmental factor, but not all allergies are caused by pollen, dust, and other environmental conditions. Aside from environmental allergies, food allergies and flea allergy dermatitis are the most common dog allergies.
Canine allergies can cause skin problems that make your dog itchy, which can result in scratching, biting, chewing, and other strange behaviors that you don’t generally see from your dog. Paws and ears tend to be the most common places for allergic reactions.
Allergies can also result in lethargy, sneezing, coughing fits, and other symptoms that could be perceived as strange behavior.
New People or Pets
We’ve already discussed the serious impact that major changes can have on your dog’s behavior, and new people or pets in the household certainly count as major changes.
It’s always hard to tell how your dog will react to a new person or pet. They could become fearful, stressed out, anxious, or they might be totally fine with the new addition right away!
Each pet will react differently to this scenario, so you’ll have to watch your dog’s behavior for clues as to how they’re feeling about the new person or pet.
When dogs are bored, destructive behaviors often result, though you can also depressed behaviors, excessive whining, chewing, and more. It’s easy to forget that while you’re away at work, your dog is at home all day, sometimes even in a small crate.
It’s easy to get bored without much to do, but you can help to alleviate boredom with various toys or by adding in more exercise and playtime each day.
Some dogs are naturally fearful and skittish while others don’t seem to be afraid of much at all. Exhibiting fear at certain things is natural, but even so, it can result in behaviors that you’re not used to seeing from your dog.
Interestingly, dogs can also have phobias just like humans. But your dog doesn’t need a phobia to become fearful. They can be afraid of loud noises like fireworks, sirens, and thunderstorms.
It’s also very common for dogs to be afraid of the vet! After all, no one likes visiting the doctor, and your dog probably doesn’t think anything good ever comes out of those vet visits.
To help your dog, you’ll have to try and find the source of their fear. This could be something new in their life, loud noises, objects they don’t like, or many other things, which is what makes it so hard to determine.
Even though you’ve never mistreated your dog, they might have still been on the receiving end of mistreatment at some time in the past. This is less likely if you got your dog as a young pup and becomes more likely the older your dog was when you got them.
It’s an unfortunate fact that many people mistreat their dogs. Your dog might be more likely to have suffered mistreatment if you adopted it from a shelter or humane society. Whatever the case, it can be difficult to overcome the behavioral patterns caused by mistreatment, and it will take a lot of patience on your part.
What to Do When Your Dog Is Acting Weird
We’ve discussed many of the weird behaviors your dog could be exhibiting, along with quite a few causes of such behaviors. But what are you supposed to do when your dog is acting in such a manner?
Try to Identify the Reason
The first thing you should do is attempt to determine the reason for your dog’s strange behavior. Take a look at the behaviors on this list and see what causes are often associated with them.
Seek Professional Help if Necessary
Remember, a single cause can result in a variety of strange behaviors, and many behaviors can be symptoms of several different underlying causes. If you find that you’re lost and unable to determine the cause of your dog’s behavioral changes, then you should contact a vet for a professional and experienced opinion.
Attempt to Remove or Mitigate the Cause of the Weird Behavior
Whether you needed professional help to figure out what’s causing your dog’s behaviors or not, the next step is to attempt to reduce or eliminate the source.
For instance, if your dog is constantly scratching and biting at themselves, you might determine that their skin is itchy and red in that area. Then, you might see that they have fleas. Alternatively, you might take the dog to a vet and find out that the itchiness is being caused by allergies.
If the cause was fleas, then flea medication might be your solution. For a dog suffering from allergies, the solution could be medication or a change in their diet.
You’ll have to tailor the solution to the cause of your dog’s behavior. These same solutions would be ineffective if the behavior you wanted to stop was your dog dragging their butt on the floor.
It can be very alarming when your dog starts acting in ways that you don’t understand. Some of these are worse than others, like when your dog suddenly becomes aggressive towards you. But even less scary behaviors can have serious underlying causes.
Whatever the strange behaviors are that your dog is displaying, it’s in everyone’s best interest for you to take the time and figure out the cause of those behaviors. That’s the first step in starting to solve the problems creating those behaviors.
Remember that your dog’s strange behaviors are a reaction. Since they can’t speak with words, you’ll have to look for indicators as to what’s causing their reaction.
Hopefully, you’ll be able to use the information in this post to determine the cause of your dog’s weird behavior and start taking the right steps to solve whatever the underlying issue is.