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Is Your Dog’s Behavior More “Trick” or “Treat”?


dog in ghost costume next to pumpkins

DNA is just one of the things that makes every dog unique. Dog behaviors can be as diverse as their breed mix. We know that our dogs can be a combination of a little mischievous and very sweet—and we love them for it!

We surveyed over 176,000 Embark dogs to learn about their behavior at home. Read on to see some tricks—and treats—you might encounter with your dog this Halloween.

Thrill of the Chase

Chasing is a natural instinct in dogs, and Embark dogs love to chase! 84% of Embark dogs chase cats, squirrels, and other small creatures when given the chance. This behavior comes from their ancestry as predators in the wild. Dogs’ eyes are designed to be sensitive to movement. If a small critter runs by, they’re hardwired to notice.

It’s difficult to train dogs to ignore small critters, but you can redirect your dog’s attention with the “leave it” cue, or channel that desire to chase into games like fetch. Learn more about managing your dog’s prey drive and find training tips to help curb an obsession with the chase.

Looking for training advice about the new pup in your life? Get everything you need to know with our New Puppy Parent Guide, including tips for how to start training your dog

Harmony at Home

The overwhelming majority of Embark dogs get along with everyone in the household—that includes humans and other animals. Although there might still be a friendly rivalry over whether dogs or cats rule the house!


Dogs dig for many reasons. Digging is a natural, instinctive canine behavior that comes from their wolf ancestors. It’s important to understand why your dog is digging, so you know how to address it:

  • Digging can be a way to find prey underground. Some breeds, like Terriers and Dachshunds, are especially prone to look for prey by digging holes.
  • It can also help dogs find relief on hot days by laying in the cool dirt. 
  • Dogs dig to bury things, like toys or bones.
  • Digging behavior can sometimes stem from boredom or anxiety. Human interaction is the best way to cure boredom. Make sure your dog is getting enough mental stimulation and physical activity.
  • Your dog might be channeling their inner escape artist by trying to dig underneath a fence to get out of the yard.
  • Most of all, dogs dig because digging is fun!

Ultimately, digging is just one of the ways some dogs express their dog instincts. Consider channeling digging behavior in constructive ways, like by giving your dog a special spot to dig, instead of all over the yard. Bury toys or treats for your dog to find and praise them when they dig in the designated digging area.

Don’t Stop Retrieving

Certain breeds, like Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers, are most often associated with retrieving behavior. Some dogs are specifically bred to retrieve items. But retrieving behavior is not limited to Retrievers! 79% of all Embark dogs are good at playing fetch with toys and other objects, and return them to the owner to be thrown again.

Barking Bodyguard

Like digging, dogs bark at the doorbell for many different reasons. Barking at the door can simply be a natural inclination for a dog to defend territory. Sometimes it’s due to excitement! Dogs learn that the doorbell means someone is arriving, and they might be excited to greet a visitor. 

Some clues that your dog is excited rather than scared of the doorbell:

  • Runs straight to the door when the doorbell rings
  • Wags tail rapidly

You can train your dog to settle after the doorbell rings through consistency and practice. “Sit” and “stay” commands, along with a calm tone of voice and treat rewards, can help teach your dog to stay calm when a visitor arrives.

It is important that the guest knows that they can only offer your pup attention once he is calm. If we offer any attention while the pup is barking, we are reinforcing this behavior. 

Another option is to have a “place” (such as a specific bed) that you use to direct your pup to when the doorbell rings. The “place” command can be used to refocus your dog’s attention until you let him know that he is “released” and allowed to come and greet the guest. 

For other pets, it might be better to lead them into a separate room with a food puzzle toy to distract them, then allow them to come out only once everyone has settled. Be sure to practice these tools with family and friends in between visits from strangers or guests at the door.

These tips are not meant to substitute for specific professional advice for a pet, especially if they are showing signs of fear or aggression. If your pet is barking out of fear or protection, it’s a good idea to work with a veterinary behaviorist or certified trainer, as these are more serious behaviors. 


Super Snuggler

Dogs have their own unique personalities, and some dogs enjoy cuddling more than others. From an evolutionary standpoint, cuddling has a purpose. This behavior played a key role in dog domestication. Dogs and humans evolved together, and cuddling helped early humans and dogs stay warm on cold nights. 

It’s also a way to show affection. Snuggling together is how your dog communicates that you’re part of the same pack.

Training Tips

If your dog is being more mischievous than usual, or if you notice a change in behavior, consider talking to your pet’s veterinarian, a veterinary behaviorist, or professional dog trainer to learn more about the possible causes of these behaviors and how to address them. For more information, visit

Research at Embark

Did you know that you can contribute to research at Embark so we can help all dogs live happier, healthier lives? By taking Embark surveys, you’re helping us make discoveries that can benefit all dogs. Thanks for Embarking with us!


Mimi Padmabandu Contributor

Mimi Padmabandu is a scientific writer and Content Strategy Lead at Embark Veterinary. She has over a decade of experience writing about science and genomics for leading biotechnology companies. She holds a bachelor's degree in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology from UCLA and a master’s degree in Early Modern English Literature from King’s College London.

Read more about Mimi Padmabandu

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