Why does our dog scrape and bow at drawers?
November 25, 2014 7:55 PM   Subscribe

Our dog (part pomeranian, part pekinese, ~6 years old) has a behavior where she’ll bow and scrape at bottom drawers, focusing on the handles. She does this in our bedroom, in the living room, and in our previous house she did it at a kitchen drawer that had no visible handle. Sometimes she’ll whine, groan, and act worried while she does it. Sometimes she scratches although not so much these days. Usually she has her head down, in a sort of submissive pose. What’s going through her head?

It’s spooky and weird and she acts like she can hear or see something. In our old apartment there were sometimes animals living under the building so it made sense, but there’s definitely nothing alive or noisemaking behind these drawers.
posted by migurski to Pets & Animals (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are the drawer handles shiny enough for her to see her reflection?
posted by jamaro at 7:59 PM on November 25, 2014

Response by poster: No, they’re metal and dull.
posted by migurski at 8:00 PM on November 25, 2014

My guess is that your dog knows that they can be opened and wants to open them! My dog often wants into rooms that have closed doors and to open bins that have lids on them.
posted by Nightman at 8:24 PM on November 25, 2014 [9 favorites]

My dog does this when she wants something inside the container she is scratching at.
posted by Poldo at 8:26 PM on November 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

where do you keep the treats?

I've seen a dog do something like what you are describing, and it was definitely trying to get in the drawers.

i've also seen a dog that was raised in a house full of cats try to lick the underside of its paw like a cat does. this doesn't work, since dogs can't turn their forelimbs like that.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 8:34 PM on November 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: It’s possible, though the treats aren’t kept in these drawers, and she doesn’t pay any particular attention to the cupboard where she knows the treats are kept.

The tone of this behavior is more… religious?
posted by migurski at 8:59 PM on November 25, 2014

Dogs don't really have religion, but they will get their heads down low in order to try to see/smell through the seams around the drawer.

My dogs largely ignore all drawers, shelves, etc except one of them did once identify a mouse situation behind a dresser and it took her months to forget about it. In a similar vein, another dog learned how to flip over empty bowls and now he's a one-dog cafeteria rebellion whenever he finds an empty bowl. Clearly it is big fun to do, and possibly we reinforced the behavior by laughing at first and then getting irritated later.

I'd just open a drawer and let her check it out. Eventually she'll probably figure out that whatever amazing thing she thinks is in there isn't, or you will get some sort of (probably horrible) surprise.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:11 PM on November 25, 2014 [7 favorites]

You sure you don't have mice, or that there weren't previously mice? Take a bottom drawer completely out and shine a flashlight in there looking for old mouse droppings or urine.

You're describing exactly the kind of behavior our dogs had when we had a mouse problem.
posted by erst at 9:23 PM on November 25, 2014 [12 favorites]

Yeah... I was going to say... check for mice :(
posted by zennie at 9:53 PM on November 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

3rding mice, or past mice. But if not that, maybe she's just curious. She knows things come out of drawers, so when she sees a closed one, she wants to know what's in it. The behavior you describe, with the bowing and pawing sounds playful and curious to me. Or maybe if she even once heard/smelled a mouse or something in a drawer, she wants them all open so she can check them out in case one ever comes back. Who knows what's in doggie brains?
posted by catatethebird at 5:28 AM on November 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Besides mice, check for missing dog toys, one of my dogs will do this when one of his small terrier sized tennis balls gets stuck under or behind something. We can swear blind it's not there at first look, but so far he's always been right and something he's wants is in, under or behind whatever he is scratching.
posted by wwax at 6:06 AM on November 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Well, it's not mice and there aren't any missing toys back there, so I guess this will remain a mystery. Thanks everyone!
posted by migurski at 9:03 AM on November 26, 2014

posted by bleep at 12:36 PM on November 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Bowing has nothing to do with reverence. It's a play/submissively friendly posture, used to: initiate play, make an amiable request, ask forgiveness, and just plain stretching after getting up.

If a dog bows in front of a cabinet, it is almost certainly requesting you open it for them. IMO.

The comment about ground smells is interesting, because if you drop to the ground, you'll discover your dog's nose lives in a much more scent-rich world than your nose typically does - even before adding in their superior sensitivity. But that would more likely be a sniffing than a simple bow.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:11 PM on November 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You don't say whether you ignore this behavior or respond to it somehow. If you give a dog any amount of attention for doing something, they're liable to repeat the behavior. (Cf. all of the tiny fluffballs at our adult dog obedience class who couldn't sit without getting up on their haunches and incessantly pawing the air.)
posted by deludingmyself at 2:48 PM on November 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

My son's dog does this. It usually means a flattened bottle cap (or any slim toy type thing) he was playing with went under the piece of furniture he's bowing and scraping to, and he can't get it out and wants help.
posted by donaken at 4:35 PM on November 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I may be reinforcing the behavior by responding. I don’t get down and play with her, and it’s definitely not anything to do with stuff under or behind the drawers—it’s been going on for multiple years, with many drawers, in two homes.
posted by migurski at 11:13 PM on November 28, 2014


Cats aren't the only weird ones.
posted by deludingmyself at 11:45 AM on November 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

« Older Ice, Ice, Baby (and her klutzy parents)   |   Book recommendation for a first time home buyer in... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.