Questions About Odd Dog Behaviors

Dog and family

Some odd dog behaviors are hard to explain, but the LoveToKnow Dog Expert tries to sort it out.

Visitor Questions about Odd Dog Behavior

Why Does My Dog Lick Registers?

We adopted our German Shepherd/Husky mix puppy when she was nine weeks old. She has been a complete joy, is pretty much fully house trained at just over seven months old and doesn't seem to have any behavioral problems. She minds well, can follow basic obedience commands and knows her place in the pack.Just recently, she has started licking our heat registers. This is not a simple lick, but a full tongue slathering. She will continue until I shoo her away from them. It has happened in several rooms of the house. I'm wondering if she likes the taste or texture of the paint? It's not fresh and has been there for well over six years.

The registers haven't been cleaned with anything but a water-dampened cloth. I'm baffled by her behavior. Any ideas?

~~ JazziesMom

Expert Reply

First let me compliment you on the job your doing raising your puppy. She sounds like the ideal family companion, and is a great example of what our dogs can be like when they receive reliable guidelines and loving firmness.

Now for your question about licking radiators. Yes, it's a definite possibility that she has simply acquired a taste for them. Stranger things have happened, but don't push me to site one. There could also be a few other things going on.

Are you sure the paint is only six years old, and do you have any idea what's underneath? Lead paint was outlawed years ago, but it's said to taste similar to strawberries, and that's why children have been known to eat lead paint chips. If it's an old house, there's a possibility that there is lead paint somewhere on the surface of the register and your dog is attracted to it.

Are the registers the only metallic thing your dog likes to lick? A condition known as "pica" can drive people and animals to crave the oddest things. Sometimes pica presents as an urge to lick metal or stone objects, and can be traced to some sort of mineral deficiency. In other cases, the pica is related to obsessive/compulsive behavior.

Either way, here's what I suggest. Get a bottle of Grannick's Bitter Apple Spray, and spray it on just one vent. Then give your dog the opportunity to lick it. The spray has a harmless, yet bitter flavor that most dogs cannot stand. If your dog gives it a try and has a bad experience, she'll probably leave the registers alone from now on. If it works, give each of your registers a spray. Grannick's is available in at least one other flavor, just in case the Bitter Apple doesn't do the trick.

If spraying the registers doesn't work, it might be a prudent idea to run this behavior by your vet, just in case he/she wants to check out your dog for a physical cause for the behavior.

Hope you find this advice helpful~~ Kelly

Complusive Canine Digging

Hi, Can you please give me some advice? My Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is constantly scratching my carpets; it looks like he's digging a hole. Should this behaviour worry me, or is it natural?

Regards Pamela

Expert Reply

Not that this type of digging is unusual, but some dogs can get rather obnoxious about it. It's a behavior problem that can become addictive.

Obviously you'll want to give your dog a strong "NO" command when the digging commences, but then you need to redirect him into another activity that will bring him praise.

Dogs love to receive praise, and they will work for it. You could redirect your dog into a quick game of fetch, or distract him from the digging by giving him a chew treat. The point is to interrupt his digging mode for a more pleasant activity.

I hope this suggestion helps you modify your dog's behavior and save your carpet. Thanks for your question.

~~ Kelly

Dog Adopts Sock


My Chihuahua has become very protective of a sock, and this has been going on for five days now. Is this behavior normal?

~~ Jamese640

Expert Reply

Hi James,

It sounds as though your little Chihuahua has "adopted" this sock. When this kind of behavior occurs in bitches, it is often related to a recent false pregnancy. This is where the bitch's hormones set off a bit of a false alarm that sets the body in motion to support a pregnancy that never develops because no fertilization ever occurred.

Some bitch's will collect toys and other items to make up a sort of substitute litter and spend time "mothering" them. Eventually, the bitch loses interest in the behavior and things get back to normal.

Both sexes sometimes adopt toys and other objects as security items, much like a child will become attached to a baby doll, Teddy bear or blanket. This is even more likely to happen if the object in question carries a favorite owner's scent.

I'm not sure whether you have a dog or a bitch, but here's what I suggest you do.

  • First, don't take the sock away right now, because that might stress your dog too much.
  • Make extra time each day to interact with your dog. Go for walks, play together in the yard when the weather is nice, or simply cuddle in front of the television. The idea is to replace some of the "sock time" with personal contact that takes your dog's attention off her adopted item.
  • Eventually, you should see your pet become less protective over the item, and you may eventually be able to remove it altogether. However, you can allow the dog to keep the sock if it enjoys it and isn't aggressive to anyone about it.

Thank you for your question, and I hope you find these suggestions useful.

~~ Kelly

Is Overt Affection a Sign of Illness?

Our dog has always been an affectionate, calm dog, but recently she's become even more so. She insists on cuddling 24/7 and must lay touching us at all times when we are home. Her appetite is normal, her bowel movements are regular and she has plenty of energy when she's outside running and walking.Could this increase in cuddling be a sign of sickness or lethargy?

~~ Bogie

Expert Reply

Hi Bogie,

No, I don't think your dog's behavior indicates any type of sickness. She actually sounds like a wonderful dog, and I think what you're experiencing is the true depth of devotion that many dogs are capable of giving.

If you are still concerned that something may be wrong, follow your instincts and take her in to your vet for an examination. After all, you really know your dog best, so you shouldn't totally discount your intuition. If nothing else, you'll at least have a baseline on her health for future comparison if she does eventually become ill.

Thanks for your question, and I truly do hope that everything is alright.

~~ Kelly


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Questions About Odd Dog Behaviors