15 Commonly Misunderstood Pet Behaviors


Have you ever wondered what your pet is trying to tell you? Tail wagging, barking, and more—our furry friends have various ways of communicating with us. However, their behaviors can sometimes be misunderstood, leading to confusion or even frustration. To help you communicate better, we’ll show you 15 common pet behaviors you’re likely misinterpreting.

Tail Wagging


You’ll be wrong to think a wagging tail always means a happy dog; it can signify other emotions. A slow wag might suggest uncertainty or nervousness; a stiff, rapid wag could signal agitation or a potential threat.



Dogs bark for various reasons, not always because they’re happy or excited. They might bark to alert you to something, express frustration or anxiety, or even just out of boredom.

Whisker Twitching


Whiskers are sensitive and can twitch in response to various stimuli. While a cat may twitch its whiskers out of curiosity, if you ignore the context, you won’t understand what they’re feeling.

Rolling Over


Rolling over can be a playful behavior, but it can be a sign of submission or a request for belly rubs. Some dogs roll over to cool off or to scratch an itch on their back.



Many will assume that whenever an animal purrs, it means contentment. Cats can purr when stressed, in pain, or seeking comfort.


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Dogs, in particular, may chew on things out of boredom or anxiety, not just because they’re hungry. Providing appropriate chew toys can help redirect this behavior.



A pet may stare at you out of affection, but prolonged staring can indicate a challenge or discomfort. It’s important to consider the context and your pet’s body language.



Licking often is from affection. However, it can be a response to stress or a skin issue. Excessive licking can at times indicate an underlying problem that a veterinarian should address.



Sometimes, pets may hide when they’re scared. Other times, they may also hide when they’re not feeling well or simply want some alone time. Watch out for any pointers to distress.

Rubbing Against You


Cats often rub against their owners as a sign of affection. There are also times they do it to mark their territory. This behavior is a way for them to leave their scent on you, claiming you as part of their territory.

Scratching Furniture


Cats, by scratching, mark their territory and maintain their claws. It can also signify that they need more appropriate scratching posts or toys.

Chasing Their Tail


It’s amusing to watch an animal chase their tail, but if it becomes excessive, tail chasing can indicate boredom, a way to release pent-up energy, or even a health issue such as fleas or allergies.

Growling During Play


While play growling is usually harmless, monitoring the behavior ensures it doesn’t escalate into real aggression. Some dogs may growl as part of their play behavior, but it’s essential to be aware of any signs of discomfort or aggression.

Sniffing Around


Dogs have a powerful sense of smell and use it to explore their environment. Sometimes they may be searching for food. Other times, they might be investigating new scents or trying to find a specific object.

Jumping Up


While jumping up can be a way for dogs to greet you or seek attention, it can also be a sign of excitement or an attempt to get a better view of their surroundings. Training can help redirect this behavior to more appropriate greetings.


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