Owning a dog is much like having a kid. OK, maybe it’s not THAT similar, but in some ways, it can be! You bring your new bundle of joy through the door, open up a spot in your heart, stare at them adoringly… then straaaaange things start to happen.
When we brought our dog Teddy home, he was just 8 weeks old. We knew he was cute, he needed to be potty trained, and we wanted him to sleep in his crate. Aside from that, we didn’t know much else! As each day passed, we learned new things and began observing behaviors that seemed odd. With our limited knowledge, Google became our best friend, and the breeder’s number overpopulated our “recent calls” list! In hopes to spare you some of the anxiety we experienced, here are 7 completely normal “puppyisms” to be aware of. So let’s talk surprising Dog Behaviors.
1. Lots of Daytime Slumbers
One of the best luxuries for human babies AND doggo babies is sleep! What adults wouldn’t give for regular daytime naps. Am I right? Babies of all species often share the misshapen nocturnal tendency of snoozin’ all day and waking up all night. Puppies sleep a LOT. When we first got Teddy, we tried to get him to play with us as much as possible. He usually offered a few tug-o-war pulls and then found a cozy spot to catch some shut-eye. I remember my husband asking, in all seriousness, if I thought Teddy was depressed! I can’t say it didn’t cross my mind, but after some research, I saw that his sleepiness was very normal.
Puppies are growing at insane rates, and their bodies grow best when at rest. While this is true, it’s good to establish that day is for play and nighttime is for sleep. Trying to keep your fur baby awake during the day can be a task but will pay off. Pups tend to be up at night for different reasons. Some include possible loneliness (especially if they are used to sleeping with a litter of other puppies), needing to relieve themselves, or simply because of immature REM sleep patterns. Establishing a routine, providing a comfy bed of his own, and staying close by for the first few weeks are key components in the acclimation process. It may also help to provide a particular stuffed animal, such as the Snuggle Buddy, for extra comfort at night.
2. Restless Sleep
Again, if you’ve ever had a newborn human, you will likely relate to this one as well. I remember all four of my children sleeping with their eyes half-open, jolting involuntarily (the Moro reflex at work), and sometimes smiling/laughing in their sleep. With our first-born, it was a little creepy. Likewise, with our first puppy, it was just as creepy! When dogs fall into deep REM sleep, they experience high-speed brain wave patterns. These brain waves can simulate intense physical activity even though your pup is fast asleep. Dreams occur during the REM phase of sleep. These REM stages are still maturing in young puppies and can be more intense than with grown dogs. For that reason, you may see muscle twitching, strange eye movements, or even hear noises such as whimpering, crying, or whining while your furry friend sleeps. Don’t worry, and don’t wake your pup abruptly! If he seems extra distressed, try gently stroking his head and rousing him to an alertness by firmly repeating his name. As your dog gets older, this behavior will begin to decrease.
3. Heavy Breathing
Most people are aware that dogs pant, but regular accelerated breathing isn’t as commonly discussed. Active panting in dogs usually follows some form of physical activity. Their tongue hangs out, and you can clearly observe their system attempting to calm down. Panting in dogs acts much the same way as sweating does in humans. Dogs do not possess sweat glands, so the only way to cool down is via their mouths! This type of rapid breathing is typical for all dogs, but if you have a new puppy, you may observe something different.
One day, while cuddling on the couch with Teddy, we felt an unusual ebb and flow under the blankets. Looking down, we saw that Teddy’s chest was rising and falling at an alarming pace. Of course, we immediately began moving him around to check his vitals! We came to find out that puppies can display rapid breathing patterns even while just lying around. A healthy pup can have closed mouth breathing patterns of up to 40 breaths per minute! In fact, puppies can breathe even faster while they are asleep. This is often due to dreaming, growing, or sometimes mild stress. Remember, your new fur baby just left his previous comforts (maybe mom and siblings) and has to adjust to new ones. Even if you rescued your pup from a shelter, change is present. Humans stress over change, and it’s reasonable to assume that dogs do too. Unless your puppy displays additional concerning symptoms, such as vomiting or refusal to eat and drink, don’t worry about it. While there are scenarios where rapid breathing could be indicative of a medical problem, that’s relatively rare.
4. Sneezing and Snorting
I think we can agree that one of the cutest parts of a dog is their snoot. You can find calls to “boop the snoot” all over social media, and we love it! Surprisingly, snoots can also produce some problematic behaviors for new puppy owners. Take sneezing, for example, particularly if it happens repeatedly. A few sneezes here and there are cute, but regular “achoo-s” can be mysterious. It’s helpful to know that puppies sneeze for many of the same reasons humans do, with the most frequent offender being allergens. When you bring your puppy into his new environment, it may take his body a moment to adjust. Simple things around your home, such as certain candles or house plants, maybe releasing airborne irritants. If puppy sneezing is reasonably regular, try to be aware of the times and places it occurs. Usually, pinpointing the culprit isn’t too tricky.
Snorting and reverse sneezing are additional funky functions that might exist with your pup. Snorting can be a form of communication (overexcitement or expressing displeasure) or can occur because your puppy inhaled a foreign particle. Dogs use their snoots ALL day so sucking in some grass, dust, fur, or crumbs isn’t unusual at all. Snorting can help force particles, lodged deeply into the nasal passage, through the mouth for expulsion. This behavior is similar to cats with hairballs or humans clearing their throats in the morning! Reverse sneezing appears almost like a wheeze or gasp for air. In reality, it is a muscle spasm that causes a narrowing of the trachea. It sounds a lot worse than it is. The reasons for reverse sneezes are the same as those for regular sneezes and snorts, but if this persists, you should consult your vet for possible respiratory health issues.
5. Food Guarding
Young puppies are prone to guarding behavior because they often have to compete with their littermates (or cagemates in the case of overcrowded shelters). This behavior is recognizable by your puppy becoming aggressive or aggravated when you approach his food bowl. Even though you are the one filling it up, dogs can have trouble making the distinction between giving and taking away. There is a reason the saying “don’t bite the hand that feeds you” was coined! If you are experiencing this unpredictable behavior, try to be patient. Instruct any kids in the house to give your pup his space while eating, and always reinforce feeding times with loving words in an affectionate tone of voice. Eventually, your new pup will learn that nobody is coming after the kibble!
6. Wobbly Walking
If your puppy is staggering or walking oddly, you are not alone. Teddy had a wide hip sway going on for the first four months of his life. It didn’t prevent him from functioning at all, but it was visible enough to consult with the vet. We noticed it most often after a long day of outside play. There can be serious concerns, such as hip dysplasia or wobblers syndrome, so we wanted to be safe. After a thorough exam, the vet gave our healthy boy an all clear. He told us that puppies, especially larger breeds, can take some time to “grow into their legs.” They are walking and running by 8-10 weeks old, but just like humans, not every dog possesses stellar coordination right from the start. If your puppy has some extra “wiggle butt” going on in the hindquarters, don’t stress. You should schedule him a good once over, but it’s completely normal in most cases.
Next on the list is what dog experts call the “zoomies.” Not to be confused with zombies, the zoomies are, by definition, precisely the opposite. Zoomies, or Frenetic Random Activity Periods (FRAPs), are characterized by literal explosions of energy that dogs have on occasion. When Teddy first broke out into a wild frenzy, running laps around our living area, it was a bit frightening! One moment he was sitting quietly, and the next, he was acting possessed by speed demons. He had a wild look in his eye, and nothing we said or did would calm him down. It’s hard to stop a dog mid-zoom, so we recommend to wait them out. Most of the time, a case of the zoomies lasts only a few minutes or less.
It has been said that zoomies allow animals to relieve stress or let out stored up energy, but the function of frapping is honestly not known. As a puppy, Teddy usually got the zoomies after he had stolen a toy, paper towel, shoe, or some other object that he wasn’t intended to munch on! Maybe it was the excitement of the grab that got him going, but these episodes always felt annoyingly haphazard. There isn’t much advice about managing the zoomies besides being aware that they exist. Don’t be puzzled when they hit. Just stand back, and may the force be with you!
Though this is not a complete list of what to expect with your new pup, we have covered some of the initial oddities you are likely to encounter.
Hooray if you feel more prepared! Be warned, however, that you’re not out of the woods just yet. As your doggo grows, so do the straaaaange things. Just like human babies, doggo babies grow into… you guessed it, TEENAGERS! As their bodies change and their hormones mature, teenage dogs (anywhere from eight months to two years old) can display startling behaviors that you’ll want to read about here. Your pup may not be slamming bedroom doors or stealing the car keys, but the teenage puppy years unquestionably come with issues. That said, enjoy each stage with your new companion. Indeed, all babies grow too quickly, so make memories and maybe drink a few glasses of wine to keep your sanity. Kidding! But not really.