The lives of dog owners are structured around a few necessaries: feeding dogs, walking dogs, watching dogs poop, and cleaning up poop. Over the course of a dog’s life, owners have observed thousands of defecation feats. While non-pet owners might assume that the act is natural and should be nearly mechanical, we know that dogs have to get comfortable before “performing.”
Every dog has its own pooping rituals. You may recognize some of the more popular, yet strange, behaviors associated with canine defecation, such as:
1. Seeking out the ideal spot
Any dog walker will tell you that their patience has been tried by dogs who can’t settle for “good enough.” These dogs sniff, circle, and abort spaces again and again until you wonder if the dog will ever settle. These dogs can turn a five-minute chore into a seemingly endless quest for perfection.
Owners may not realize that the behavior relates to territoriality; dogs mark their spots with urine and feces to claim “ownership.” Submissive dogs may be intimidated by previously left marks, and assertive dogs may search to cover all the competitors’ claims—both causing dogs to search for the perfect spot.
2. Assuming the position
When dogs finally find the perfect place to go, their next challenge is to efficiently squat for the work at hand. While people give no thought to how to perch on a potty, dogs differ. Some will wiggle, shift legs or even turn in circles to get comfortable.
3. Moving the mark
After all the trouble of finding a spot, some dogs move around and leave a trail of fecal material behind. This seemingly humorous behavior can help dogs pass hard stools, but often it relates to pain in performing. Dogs with back problems or other orthopedic diseases move while they poop to help relieve pain they experience while defecating.
Dogs who scoot as they move, rubbing their butts on the ground, could be reacting to tapeworms or other bothersome parasites. Report these behaviors to your veterinarian for a formal workup.
4. Watching me watching you
As awkward as it may seem, many dogs like to look you in the eye while they poop. Their facial expressions often look pathetic as they push. Why do they do that? When dogs relieve themselves they are in a vulnerable position and they look to their owners for protection.
5. Hide and seek
Other dogs like privacy during their vulnerable activities. They will duck behind a bush, or if off leash, journey to a covered corner of the yard to eliminate. These dogs feel protected when they are out of sight.
6. Getting a kick
The pooping ritual often concludes with a dog’s obsession with kicking dirt and grass over the pile. Some experts theorize that the behavior models the effort to keep their den or living space clean. Others believe that kicking spreads the pheromones in the stools to enlarge the territory marked by defecating. A dog’s scratches at the earth also secrete pheromones stored in glands in the feet, so releasing them into the soil further marks territory.
7. Celebrating with a quick run around the park
The climactic act of pooping is often followed by an energy-releasing run. When the dogs feel that sense of relief, a run can end it on a high note. The decreased pressure on their organs feels good, and many dogs anticipate a reward from their owners for a job well done. Running helps them express their glee!
What goes in must come out, and when we’re talking about canine elimination, you can observe some quirky behaviors. Speaking of dog poop, a change in dog food can affect the color and consistency of your dog’s stool. At CANIDAE®, we’ve developed transition guidelines based on customer feedback, advice from veterinarians, and our own experience with our family pets. Read our article on “Transitioning Your Pet Gradually to CANIDAE®” for advice.