You’re walking your dog outside to go to the bathroom with it’s late at night. But instead of finding a suitable spot to do its business, your silly pet is spinning around a few times before pooping. It may seem like odd behavior, but some dogs like making circles rather than making number two on the spot.
Finding the Perfect Poop Spot
“Not all dogs spin, but there are several reasons why some do,” says Dr. Mary Burch, Ph.D., a certified applied animal behaviorist and director of the AKC Family Dog Program. “Circling before defecating goes back to the dog’s early ancestors.”
Historically, canines lived outdoors. Because of this, some habits they developed during their primitive years are hardwired evolutionary traits they repeat today.
One theory suggests that dogs spin before pooping is similar to turning in circles before lying indoors or outside. The circling might explain why dogs turn around two, three, or even four times and dig at or arrange blankets before settling down to take a nap. “In this situation, the dog could be getting his blankets exactly the way it wants,” Dr. Burch says.
In the wild, creating footsteps helped flatten the dirt or rough surface into a smoother, more comfortable area to sleep. This allows a dog to check its space for small unwanted creatures, such as snakes and lizards.
Turning around a few times also allows a dog to pick up scents from a predator upwind who might be lurking nearby while the dog is squatting. Dogs don’t want to feel vulnerable if a predator might attack. If a dog senses the slightest threat on the horizon, they will leave and look for a more secure location to use the toilet.
“The dog faces the direction where he feels most safe and comfortable,” Dr. Burch says. “The spinning helps the dog prepare the soil or flatten the grass to make the area cleaner.”
Tall vegetation or grasses could trap excrement and adhere to a dog’s rear end. Like people, dogs don’t like using a dirty bathroom. They look for a clean restroom where they won’t be bothered. Even today, dogs retain an instinctual behavior to maintain good hygiene while doing their business
Reading Social Media
Dogs have scent glands near the anus and on the pads of their feet. Whirling and scratching up the ground before or after emptying their bowels is like marking their territory and adding a post to the area. Reading it is like a whodunnit. When other dogs get a whiff of the spot, it lets them know who showed up on the site, the time of day or night they appeared, and perhaps some information about their health.
“One theory holds that when a dog spins or kicks up the grass, it leaves its scent for other dogs,” Dr. Burch says.
Many dogs will walk and sniff for it seems like miles before they settle into the preferred spot. That’s when the dance in the round begins.
Getting the Bowels Moving
Walking and circling can help move the bowels down the intestinal tract if a dog feels constipated. But it could also show a greater issue.
“Repeated attempts or excessive circling or spinning can indicate your dog is not quite ready to go to the bathroom,” Dr. Burch says. “Watch closely to make sure your dog is not constipated.”
If constipated, check what your dog has eaten that could cause the uncomfortable sensation or if your dog could use some more movement throughout the day. Giving your dog more water or food with more fiber may ease the discomfort. “If constipation persists, it’s time for a visit to the veterinarian,” Dr. Burch says.
Once a dog finally defecates, it’s always a good idea to look at the stool and check for any worms or blood. Do you have any small items that might have recently disappeared from the house or garden? If so, your dog may have ingested them, and now they’re trying to poop their way out. A foreign object could cause constipation. Excessive circling and straining may be a sign and a signal to see a veterinarian.
If a dog never twirls in place before taking a dump, it might mean that the connection disappeared somewhere along the ancestral line. But for some reason rearranging the dog bed is a habit that never gets lost in translation.