Why do dogs ...?

Dogs are great! They're loyal to a fault, always happy and they seem to genuinely care for their owners. However, they're also a little bit wacky from time to time and do more than their fair share of things we don't understand, which drives us to question their behavior. Have you also ever wondered if it was just your pet, or if other people wanted to know exactly the same thing?

Thankfully, Google's search is a wonderful proxy to see what lots and lots of people want to know. So let's explore the ~2150 most asked questions about dogs that start with the word “why”. Specifically, questions that start with the following words:

why does a dog | why do dogs | why is a dog | why are dogs | why does my dog | why is my dog

It's the words that follow those six questions that I'm interested in; therefore, questions that are the same except for the starting words have been grouped. For example, why do dogs lick feet and why does my dog lick feet have been combined into one data point representing the lick feet question.

Let's look at similar data that we just did for cats, but now all based around dogs by exploring the ~2200 most asked questions about dogs that start with the word “why”.

In general, things dogs do with their mouth are incredibly popular, including the sounds they make, followed closely by all the different ways they move. I'm going to warn you, there's a fairly large amount of questions that involve, well... 💩. But before we get to that, though, let's start with a category of questions where just one word is so popular it deserves its own section—licking.


By far the most popular dog-related search topic is about what they lick. Not surprisingly, many questions that involve licking are about why dogs lick parts of us so much. Particularly popular are questions about dogs licking our legs and feet. Maybe because they're in easy reach for most dogs?

Try hovering overtapping on any bold text or circles in the visual

People are also asking (in all kinds of ways) why dogs just can't seem to to stop licking or why they like to lick items such as metal, windows, blankets, pillows, cushions, bed, carpet, or furniture in general.

If you want to see the cat version of any of the visuals, clicktap on the little blue circle in the lower right of the page, when visible.

Visual Explanation | The colors are random | Circles are sized according to question popularity.

Eating & more

Questions about why dogs eat so many strange things aren't far behind licking in terms of popularity. Specifically, eating-related questions are dominated by why dogs like to eat lots of unsavory things. Especially poop..., and not only their own! Apparently charcoal is also a dish that some dogs can't stay away from.

Dogs do lots of other things with their mouth, such as chewing, nibbling or drooling. Although I would imagine dogs nibbling on your kitten, or drooling in your car isn't what you like to see happen.

Interestingly, for cats biting is a lot more popular than what they eat, while for dogs it's the other way around. I wonder if that says more about cats or dogs?

Why would dogs eat grass?

Ignoring the elephant in the room for now (→ eating poop), let's instead go into why dogs like to eat grass from time to time. Dog diets do not officially include grass, but it's actually quite common and considered to be natural dog behavior.

Even so, the reason why so many dogs eat grass is not understood. There are a few widely different theories. For example, it could be as simple as your dog liking the taste or texture of grass, or maybe they are trying to add some fiber into their diet.

There are also less fun theories. Perhaps your dog is bored and just doesn't have anything else to do to pass the time. Some also think it could be a sign of an upset stomach and that dogs eat grass and then vomit to sooth the stomach; however, research doesn't seem to support this theory.

Moving around

Sure, dogs don't mind sleeping, but most prefer being up and about a lot more than cats. I for one have always wondered why dogs like to shake their heads when holding toys. Apparently they also shake... other animals around? What about why dogs roll over when they know that they're in trouble?

There are some other lovely quirky questions in this group—from those that ask why dogs sit on a variety of other living animals to why dogs love to rub their bums on the ground, or your carpet. Also, why do they follow you into the bathroom? Or try to hump stuffed animals, or even another dog's face?!

Why do dogs shake?

The most obvious reason is to shake off excess water when dogs are wet, but I'm guessing this is not the “shake” for which most people are searching. Perhaps they are referring more to the shivering kind of movements?

On the good side, a dog can get really, really excited! Shaking can help them get rid of some of all that happy energy. Some may have learned that their owners will show them affection when they shake, so if they want more love, they'll try to shake; smart dogs!

Shaking can also be a sign of discomfort. Interestingly enough, being cold seems to not be the most common reason. They could literally be shivering in fear (fireworks ring a bell?), from being anxious, nervous, ill or in pain. If you're worried about any excessive shaking of your dog, be sure to see your vet!


Howling is a sound that is uniquely associated with dogs and their wolf cousins. Therefore, it’s probably not surprising that out of all the questions that are asked about the sounds dogs make, why they howl is the most popular overall. Even the more mystical howling at the moon is asked pretty often. With dogs being such social animals, they also like to howl with us. Although... maybe not all dogs...

Additionally, people tend to be curious about the barking behavior of dogs. For example, why do dogs like to bark at the mailman, at inanimate objects or, well, at nothing at all?

Sadly there's no geographical information in my data to check if all the questions about why dogs are panting so much come primarily from searchers living in hotter climates. After all, panting is the way dogs “sweat”.

All dog questions

Now that we've explored some of the topics of the “why”-related dog questions, let's put all of the ~2150 questions together so you can search and discover them even more freely.

To make sure that this doesn't take up an excessive amount of space, but also to look at the questions from a different angle, all questions have been grouped to create “sentence trees”. A sentence tree combines sentences that start with the same word and creates new branches whenever the next word in the sentence has multiple options.

Let me explain with an example. Take all the questions that “start” with the word dig, meaning the first word that comes after any of the “why do/does/are (my/a) dog(s)” variations:

Why do dogs / Why does my dog dig, Why do dogs dig at the floor, Why do dogs dig at the beach, Why do dogs / Why does my dog dig holes, Why does my dog dig in her bed, Why do dogs dig in the bed, Why do dogs dig inside, Why do dogs dig lots holes when they are sick, Why do dogs dig their face into you, Why do dogs dig their head into you.

There are two sentences in the list above that all have the words at the right after the word dig: dig at the beach and dig at the floor. We can, therefore, combine these two sentences one level deeper and only split them apart from the word where they start to differ; beach and floor. Doing this for all the questions that start with dig gives the following sentence tree:

If we now make the size of the circles depend on the question popularity, shorten all the lines, and make them spread around the first dig circle, we get following small package of all the questions that start with dig:

When we repeat this process for all ~320 unique words that follow “why do/does/are (my/a) dog(s)” we get the collection of sentence trees below.

Perhaps you'd like to learn why dogs are always happy, man's best friend, or just the best overall? Or maybe you're more interested to know some interesting and useful facts? For example, why is it that dogs are allergic to chocolate, or grapes (in case you didn't already know). And ever wonder why dogs are called K9? Although that last one is easy, just listen to the whole “word” while saying K9...

In case you don't see anything happen when you hover over the bold text examples, try clicking it to be taken down to the visual below.

And what about wanting to understand very specific aspects of a dogs behavior? For example, why are they so obsessed with balls? Why do they like to bite the water when they swim? Why do they like sticking their head out the window? These questions stem from many endearing moments shared with our pets.

Visual Explanation | As before, circles are sized according to question popularity | The colors are still random | The final “leaves” in a sentence tree are fully colored while those that still have branches are white with a colored stroked | Hovering overTapping on a circle reveals not only the sentence up till that point, but also all the variations that (might) follow after | Finally, if you're interested in something specific, try looking for it with the search box at the top.

The most asked questions

The most popular question on Google that asks “why” about dogs is “Why do dogs lick?”. And this is also the most popular question that people ask specifically about their own dog; “Why does my dog lick (me)?” is number one of all the questions that also include the word “my”.

In fact, there is quite an overlap between the two lists; there are seven questions about dogs that occur on both the “my” and “non-my” top 15. Although shaking, smelling and panting are more popular when people search for their own dog than generally about dogs though. Whereas the most popular general questions are more geared towards why dogs seem to eat some rather strange things, such as grass or (their own) poop.

Similar to cats, questions that are popular when people search for “my dog” include things that you realize more when you actually share your house with a dog, such as all the different ways a dog licks (and doesn't stop), whines, stares at you and follows you around.

While the remaining questions on the general top 15 that aren't high up on the “my” list seem like the more unpleasant experiences that fit someone who has met a naughty (friend's) dog: why they hump, bark, scratch, bite and dig. Thankfully, “Why are dogs better than cats?” is in there too, even though the reverse question is even more popular amongst cat lovers.

I had personally expected to find the “why do dogs like to play fetch” in the top 10 and not the ~400th rank it's at. But perhaps it's obvious, any playtime with their owner is just magical.

Visual Explanation | On the left is the top 15 of most asked “why does/is my dog” questions, while on the right is the top 15 for the more general “why do/does/is/are (a) dog(s)” questions | The circles are scaled to question popularity | Circles with a pink-orange color occur in the top 15 on both sides. The blue and green colored circles occur below the top 15 of the respective other side, whereas the grey circles do not appear as a question about “my dog” | The thicker a line, the higher up that question occurs on both rankings.

Dogs vs Cats

Now that we've been looking solely at the “why” questions that people search for about their dogs, let's expand our view and look at the popularity of all dog related questions per country. And let's add cats too, to finally settle the debate over which countries are dog countries and which are cat countries (well, assuming search popularity is a decent proxy for that).

Although the analyses above only took English questions into account, we are now looking at the overall search popularity of dogs and cats irrespective of the language used (thanks to Google's Knowledge Graph). If you're a dog-lover, you might be happy to hear that almost all countries, more than 85%, show more searches about dogs than cats!

Dog searches are by far most popular in Vietnam. Additionally, they are an especially popular search topic in English speaking countries, with the US, UK, Australia, and Canada all in the top 10 of countries that search for dogs the most.

Middle & South American countries also rank exceptionally high, with almost half of the countries in the top 15 lying in the Americas. This might not be surprising since a quick Google search reveals that many of the American countries are estimated to have a very high dog ownership rate.

Overall, it appears that even though it might sometimes feel like the internet is overrun with funny cat videos, dogs make us turn to Google search a lot more!

Visual Explanation | This visual shows the Google search popularity of dogs and cats for ±115 countries between 2013 - 2018 | Each circle represents either the dog or cat search popularity, depending on color | The farther outward a circle is placed, the higher its search popularity.

Visual Explanation | This visual shows the Google search popularity of dogs and cats for ±115 countries between 2013 - 2018 | Each circle represents the search popularity for one country, with dogs on the left and cats on the right | The higher a circle is placed, the higher its search popularity | Each country's dog & cat circle are connected by a line.

Hopefully, this deep dive into what people search for to understand (their) dogs just a little better, has shown you that dogs everywhere just love to lick! And of course that they are wonderful & wacky. Even though we might not always understand why they do the things they do, we'll continue to love them regardless!

Interestingly enough, the questions people ask about cats are surprisingly similar to dogs and yet totally unique. A lot less licking and poop, but instead much more sleeping, biting ಥ_ಥ and 🥒cucumbers! So if you also like cats, or if this has made you curious, this would be a good time to check out the cats page too!

Hey, you made it all the way through both the cat and dog pages! I hope it has only increased your for these two amazing animals!

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