Some dog behavior questions

  1. I’ve heard that when a dog is excited to see you (like when you come home after work), it’s because it sees you as the pack leader, and it’s expecting you to regurgitate some food for it after your “hunt”. Any truth to this?

  2. When I lie down in bed for the night, the dog licks my face for several minutes. Is this another pack behavior, like perhaps “bathing” the pack leader?


If you’ve never puked for your pup before, he’s not likely to be hoping you will. There is some sort of instinct to greet pack members with joy when they return, but to put it simply, he’s just happy to see you and not really hoping you’ll ralph up a meal.

Their humans are the absolute focus of their lifes-- the ones from whom all food and tummy rubs come. Usually, their “day” doesn’t start until you get through the door-- they’ve likely spent the rest of it sleeping while they waited. When you come home, they come alive. Here is where all the fun starts!

They lick your face for several reasons. It’s a way that dogs show affection-- to groom one another. It’s also a form of appeasement, much like an underling rubbing the feet of the king. Lastly, you taste good. You are salty and you might have tiny traces of food around your mouth that you can’t see but the dog can smell.

Both of these behaviors were probably encouraged by you, even if you don’t realize it. When the dog bounces with joy as you come through the door, you probably smile to see it or laugh a little, giving them a rub on the head. Same with the kisses-- do you reach up and pat them or chuckle a bit while the dog is doing it? Dogs are intensely attuned to body language and very eager to please. Any behavior which gets a sign of approval from their humans is likely to be repeated.

LISSA: Why do dogs howl? Loneliness or hunger? Communication only? What about when they howl when they hear a siren?

Thanks Lissa. Oh, I certainly actively encourage those behaviors! Well, the licking at night only for a little, then it gets a little gross and I kinda push him away.

Not all dogs do. I’ve tried to teach all three of my dogs to howl and none of them will.

That said, the instinct of dogs is to howl to alert pack members where they are so they can find their way home and to “sonically mark” this territory as being their own. (Which is why some dogs how when they hear a siren-- there’s some other pack here, howling on their turf! They better let the intruders know there’s already a claimant here.)

My Heinz 57 (with some Wolfhound in him) howls at sirens. It’s absolutely beautiful. When we got our German Shepherd/chow/other-big-dog mix, she used to watch with great interest when he howled. Now she tries to howl along and of course she sounds like, hell I can’t come up with a great simile, but it’s horrible. It makes my ears bleed. But I laugh because it’s just so damn cute.