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Humans have had dogs by our side for a very long time. Scientists estimate that domestication happened around 18,000 to 32,000 years ago. Dogs and wolves both came from a common ancestor, and there is still some gray area as to how and when the split happened between domesticated dogs and wolves. Some believe domestication happened when hunter-gatherers discovered the common ancestor. Others believe the agricultural revolution domesticated dogs. Either way, there is a common connection between the two scenarios: humans had food scraps and the animals wanted them.

Anyone familiar with dogs know they do some strange things. While they all have their own unique personalities, there are some traits and behaviors that they all have in common. These traits come from years’ worth of instincts, way before dogs were domesticated to be a part of our families. After thousands and thousands of years, the dogs that share our lives still can’t shake these wild instincts ingrained in them.

1. Spinning Around and Around and Around Before Laying Down

You’ve seen them do it and maybe muttered a “Just get on with it and lay down” during the act. It turns out dogs spin around and around … and around some more … for a reason. In the wild, dogs didn’t have a cozy bed or loving human to cuddle up with while they went to sleep. In order to give themselves a comfortable place to rest, they would spin around to mat down grass and to kick up anything that might get in their way, like bugs, dirt, sticks or anything else you’d find in nature. Today, spinning around helps them to create a comfortable nest, whether it’s in a dog bed or a blanket pile.


2. Licking Your Face

Anyone who has ever been around a dog has been subject to dog kisses. Whether you love them or not, you’re going to be on the receiving end of some slobber. Dogs kiss you for many reasons. For one, it’s a way they would communicate in the wild. It is also the way a mother communicates with her young. She licks them to clean them or stimulate them to breathe when they are born. Another reason is one many people already think: the dogs are showing affection. Licking their guardian releases endorphins that can comfort dogs. The next time your dog gives you big kisses, they just want you to know they really like being around you.


3. Burying Their Toys

Burying their prized possessions is a survival instinct. In the wild, dogs would bury their food to hide it, then come back for it later. The toys that your dog buries are actually prized possessions in their mind. By burying them, they are hiding their treasure and keeping it safe.


4. Wagging Their Tails

Like licking, tail wagging is another sign of communication between dogs. Not all tail wagging is happy, however. Dogs can also wag their tails when they are frightened. You can tell, however, how a dog is feeling by looking at the way their tail wags. If you see it wagging to the right, that means they are happy. When they are frightened, they wag their tails to the left.


5. Rolling in Gross Things

This disgusting habit is actually another survival instinct. Dogs would roll around in pungent smells in order to camouflage their smell and sneak up on prey.


6. Sniffing Each Other’s Bottoms

This is a part of life we accept, even though it’s baffling and pretty disgusting. Dogs just like butts. Not just any butts, however, but their own kind. We hear it’s how they say hello, but it’s much more than just that. Dogs’ noses are extremely complex and dogs can tell a lot just by smells. By sniffing butts, dogs can learn each other’s gender, diet, emotional state and more. Scientists have called this “chemical communication.”



Lead image source: rbennett661/Flickr