Have you ever noticed your pup turning in circles before they poop? It’s like they’re trying to find the exact right spot and angle to poop in. Why do they do that?

dog running outside

Dogs have very different bathroom habits and rituals than we do. Aside from the fact that they poop outside—just out in the open—some of their behaviors are really odd to us.

Dogs will sniff, and sniff, and sniff some more… until they find just the right spot. After they’re done, some dogs will kick back their feet, as though they are trying to kick dirt over their poop to bury it. And some dogs even eat their poop, and the poop of other animals. YUCK! What in the world are these dogs doing?

On top of all those crazy habits, a lot of dogs will do the “spinny dance” before they poop. You know… once they find the right spot to poop in, they will spin and spin until they it’s the exact right spot… or so it seems. Are they really trying to hit the perfect pinpoint spot? Or is it something else? Let’s talk about some of the possibilities that are going through your pup’s mind.

Why do dogs spin in circles before they poop?

There are several potential reasons why your dog may be turning in circles before they “do their business.” Here’s what some different researchers, pet experts, scientists, and dog behaviorists have come up with. Some of the answers will surprise and shock you!

1. Your dog is flattening the grass

One article from the American Kennel Club says certain research concluded that “patting down the grass or dirt prevents the waste from sticking to their fur.” If your dog is trying to stay clean while going to the bathroom… they will flatten the grass down first, so their poop falls all the way to the ground.

dog in the woods

2. Your dog is checking the grass for predators

Reader’s Digest mentions the theory above, as well as another theory. “They’re scanning for snakes and predators before they become completely occupied.” Your pup may be wanting to double check the area to be sure it’s safe to squat and go, before they begin the process.

3. Movement creates movement

Another reason mentioned by the UCSB ScienceLine: “First, walking helps waste to move down the gut.” As my dogs’ vet once told me… “movement creates movement.” This means, if your dog is a little constipated and needs some extra help, they might need to move around a little more first. That’s why it’s helpful to take your dog on plenty of walks.

4. Your dog is leaving their scent

UCSB ScienceLine also says that dogs often leave their “business card” for other dogs by leaving their scent. This happens with the scent from their poop, their urine, and even from their feet.

They tell us that “dogs also have scent glands on their feet. Often dogs scratch up the ground around their deposit, adding more scent and sight to the signal. Dogs also have glands near the anus that add more scent.” So the kicking up of dirt after they’ve gone to the bathroom may actually be your dog trying to leave some extra scent for other dogs walking by.

dog in the park

5. Your pup is lining up with the earth’s magnetic fields

Ok, I know this will sound a little crazy, but you’ll find these theories from Reader’s Digest and the American Kennel Club (AKC). As well as from resources like renown dog trainer, Cesar Millan, and in articles from the Frontiers in Zoology.

This article tells us that “several mammalian species spontaneously align their body axis with respect to the Earth’s magnetic field (MF) lines in diverse behavioral contexts.” After thousands upon thousands of observations over a period of 2 years, these scientists noticed that dogs “preferred to excrete with the body being aligned along the North–South axis under calm [magnetic field] conditions.” But it was inconsistent during unstable magnetic field conditions.

Cesar Millan continues to explain that it’s “not uncommon for several animal species. Along with dogs... cows, deer, and foxes seemed to show a preference for the same axis when they were resting or grassing.”

The wonders of dogs

How crazy is that? There are tons of things like magnetic fields that our pups and other animals are sensitive to and aware of, that we are not. Or at least, we don’t notice the effects of these things on ourselves.

Our pups are amazing creatures, and they are very observant of the earth around them. Maybe it’s time we take some notes from our canines to observe more of the natural world around us too.

For more helpful articles about pet-parenting tips, check out the Off Leash blog at TryFi.com.

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