The reason dogs walk in circles while pooping is because they’re expanding their territory and “marking” more than one spot. When a dog walks around while doing their business, they are leaving their scent on a larger surface, letting other animals know the territory has already been claimed.
Dogs have funny bathroom behaviors, don’t they? It’s common to see dogs urinate in multiple spots while on a walk, but have you ever seen a dog walk in circles while pooping? Although this isn’t as common, it does happen from time to time. It’s more common for the male alpha dog to walk around while doing their business. Still, female dogs will sometimes partake in this behavior.
Although the most common reason dogs move while pooping is to expand their territory, that’s not the only reason. In fact, dog researchers have theorized that there are seven possible reasons a dog would walk in circles while going to the bathroom.
If you’ve noticed this behavior in your dog lately, take a look at the seven reasons below. Do any of them make sense for your pooch?
7 Reasons Why Dogs Walk in Circles While Pooping
To Mark or Reclaim Territory
One of the main ways that dogs communicate is through scents. So when you walk your pup, you may notice that he or she is very interested in smelling certain areas of the yard or path.
Peeing and pooping in certain areas gives your dog the ability to mark that spot as their territory. You may notice that your dog has certain preferred places to pee or poop in your yard, which alert other animals to the fact that your dog is there.
Additionally, your dog may be trying to reclaim territory by covering up the scent of another animal who marked his or her territory on that spot.
To Keep Predators Away
Another common reason dogs walk in circles while pooping is survival instinct. Out in the wild, when a dog squats in one place to poop, there is an increased risk that a predator will track them down.
However, when dogs walk in circles, it can be more difficult for predators to track them. In this sense, when dogs walk in circles to poop, they are carrying out an instinct to keep themselves safe from harm.
To Keep Grass from Poking into Them
While you may have a perfectly cut lawn, there are many areas where dogs play that have high grass, weeds, and plants. Whether you are hiking your favorite trail, playing in the park, or exploring areas of your neighborhood that are not well maintained, there are bound to be high grass areas.
When your dog needs to poop, it can be uncomfortable for them to experience something poking their bums. So, walking around in circles may be their way of creating a new smooth patch of grass to avoid being poked.
They Caught an Interesting Scent
Smells are very important to dogs. They even have scent glands located on their paws, which they may use to help them find the perfect location to poop. Your dog may be circling when he poops to get a whiff of what smells are in the area. He could have also caught an unusual scent in the middle of pooping and wants to check it out.
To Be in Line with Magnetic Poles
Up until now, all of the common reasons for pooping in a circle have involved an instinctual function. This one interestingly has an unknown origin. However, researchers have found that dogs tend to poop in locations aligned with magnetic fields. Of course, this is all theory at this point. But there is strong anecdotal evidence supporting the magnetic poles theory.
To Help Them Digest Food
One theory has posited that dogs walk in circles to aid them with digestion. In many animals (and humans), it is known that movement can aid in getting food and water moving through the bowels. Dogs are no different. Thus, constant motion may just be part of the natural digestion process. When your dog begins to walk in circles, it could be that they’re having trouble “getting things to move.” Walking around might help the process.
Some dogs are just more anxious by nature. With these dogs, you may notice that they walk in circles for a long time before deciding where to go to the bathroom. Then, once they start relieving themselves, they’ll begin walking in circles again because something has made them uncertain about the spot they’re pooping in.
Environmental cues such as loud noises, a lot of people, or other dogs can be stressful for your pooch. This is especially true for dogs who have recently been adopted and are in an unfamiliar environment.
What Should I Do When I Notice This Behavior?
One of the main questions we are asked when a dog owner notices their dog walking in circles while relieving themselves is whether or not they should be concerned. This behavior is entirely normal and likely nothing to be concerned about (except one thing which we will discuss below).
Here’s what you should do when you notice your dog moving while pooping.
It can be very easy for pet owners to worry about various canine behaviors. You might wonder whether your dog has a hurt paw or is having trouble with his bowels. However, dogs walking in circles while pooping is very common and is not typically cause for alarm.
So, you can stop worrying unless you see other signs of distress (such as trouble pooping, blood in stools, etc.). Just walking in circles to poop is a normal doggie behavior.
Let Your Dog Take His Time
It can be easy to feel frustrated when your dog takes a while to find a perfect spot to relieve himself. Perhaps he walks in circles for a few minutes before discovering the location that suits him.
In today’s busy world, pet owners may want to rush their dog so they can get back to their work or family. However, it is important to allow your dog to have enough time to relieve himself in a location of his choice, so you will want to avoid rushing your dog.
Anal Gland Concerns
If your dog appears to be in pain while pooping or walking in circles, you may need to have his anal glands expressed. Many groomers and vets check these regularly, but they can become painful for your pet.
You will notice it becomes especially problematic when they poop. Other signs of anal gland problems include scooting on the carpet or grass, whining for no apparent reason, and unusual (fishy) odor.
Check with Your Vet
If Fido’s bathroom habits seem unusual (walking in circles for more than several minutes, needing to go to the bathroom frequently, having a lot of trouble deciding where to go, etc.), you may want to consider checking in with a vet. Some dogs may be having digestive issues and could benefit from a prescription diet, grain-free diet, or a raw diet. Other dogs may be experiencing emotions such as fear and anxiety that make it difficult for them to go to the bathroom.
Keep Your Dog Calm
While most dogs enjoy their time outdoors, some dogs may experience high levels of anxiety, especially when they are in new locations. If you recently adopted a new dog, he or she may need some time to get used to a new yard. Try to keep your dog calm while he or she is out doing their business. If your dog appears stressed, consider taking them to a quiet location to go potty.
Can I Train My Dog Out of This Behavior?
Unless bathroom habits are destructive, it’s better to not mess with them. This would be a complicated behavior to change since it involves survival instincts. If you try to get your dog to stop walking while pooping, they might think they don’t want them pooping outside and will begin going inside. Since walking in circles while pooping isn’t destructive, it’s best to let your dog continue doing so.
Let Your Dog Be a Dog
Although it can be annoying when your dog walks in circles while pooping (more spots to clean up), this is normal dog behavior. We often try to correct normal dog behavior, but there are times when we should just “let dogs be dogs.” Trying to correct survival instincts could have negative behavioral consequences.
There’s no need to bring your dog to the vet for this behavior unless it looks like they’re in pain while pooping, have runny stool, or have blood in their stool. Chances are good that Fido is simply expanding his territory or trying to reclaim his spot from another animal.
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