6 Weird Things Dogs Do When They Poop

From circling to kicking, dogs do strange things when they go to the bathroom.

Your dog might be watching to make sure you have his back when he's indisposed. errorfoto/Shutterstock

Dog owners spend an inordinate amount of time obsessed with dog poop. We watch dogs before, during, and after they go, wondering if everything is normal. (Meanwhile, cats are snickering from the privacy of their litter boxes.)

Although some of their bathroom habits just seem quirky, there are fascinating explanations for their kicking, staring, and other potty behaviors. Here's a look at some of the more unusual things dogs do when they go number 2—and some scientific explanations for their weirdness.

Why This Matters to Treehugger

At Treehugger, we are advocates of animal welfare, including our pets and other domestic animals. The better we understand our dogs, the better we can support and protect their well-being. We hope our readers will adopt rescue pets instead of shopping from breeders or pet stores and will also consider supporting local animal shelters.

1. Eye Contact

As your dog squats, do you notice that she stares at you while doing her business? You'd think she'd look away in hopes of getting a little privacy, but she locks eyes with you instead. That's because when your dog is in that pooping position, she's vulnerable, and she's looking to you to protect her.

"Your dog is instinctively aware of his defenselessness. But your dog also knows that she is a part of your 'pack.' You are a member of the family group," writes veterinarian Dr. Kathryn Primm. "If your dog watches you during this time, it is because she is depending on you to give her a body language signal or 'heads up' if she should be afraid. She may also be looking to you to possibly defend her should the need arise. If you suddenly leap away, you can bet your dog will respond also."

Maybe that's the same reason your dog won't let you go into the bathroom alone. She wants you to know she has your back.

2. Hiding

beagle hiding in long grass
Some dogs prefer a little privacy when they do their business. MagicalKrew/Shutterstock

Just the opposite of eye contact, some dogs want a little more privacy when they go to the bathroom. They might duck behind a bush or hide behind a tree when they need to go because they feel safer when they're hidden. It's about reducing their sense of vulnerability.

3. Spinning

dog chasing its tail
Some dogs need to circle a few times before they settle in for a potty break. sirtravelalot/Shutterstock

Just like when they decide on a spot to sleep, some dogs spin in circles before picking the perfect spot to poop. While turning, they are able to check out their surroundings to make sure it's a safe place to squat.

Also by circling, they flatten the grass, making it easier for other dogs to see what they've left behind and to prevent any annoying grasses from tickling them in surprising places. The act of circling and sniffing also helps stimulate the dog's bowels.

In 2013, a team of Czech and German researchers monitored 70 dogs of 37 breeds over a two-year period and witnessed a grand total of 1,893 "deposits." They found that most of the dogs circled before they pooped. Interestingly, they also found that many dogs prefer to poop with their bodies aligned on a north-south axis.

4. Selectivity

dog sniffing the ground
It takes time to find the perfect spot. 826A IA/Shutterstock

This one is particularly frustrating when you take your dog out on a freezing winter morning. This spot? No. How about this one? Sniff. Nope. Ahh, yes. This place is just right. Like Goldilocks, your dog has to check out all sorts of locations until he happens upon one that feels just right.

The reason your dog is being so picky is that he's not just depositing feces, he's depositing information. Each solid and liquid elimination sends a message to other dogs about friendliness, food availability, sexual status, and other communication only other dogs would understand.

But all that pacing and discriminating sniffing may also be because the dog is trying to find the perfect surface. Dogs develop a preference for elimination when they are puppies and that sticks with them for a lifetime, Melissa Bain of the Clinical Animal Behavior Service at UC Davis tells Wired.

"They seem to prefer softer substrates, if they have the opportunity to use them," Bain said. "They are also attracted back to the area on which they eliminated before, so if it smells like urine or feces, they are attracted to go back there (providing it's reasonably clean)."

Dogs who have been kept confined on a chain or in a shelter for prolonged periods tend to poop on concrete, but with consistency and patience you can train them out of this. Grass and soil provide better traction, and they will grow to prefer it, as most dogs do.

5. The High Kick

dog kicking grass
Kicking cleans the area and also spreads some pheromones. Rob kemp/Shutterstock

After making their aromatic deposits, some dogs finish off with a glorious high kick or two, sending clumps of grass and maybe some sod flying. There are two reasons for these impressive gymnastics, writes veterinarian Dr. Patty Khuly in VetStreet.

"In the wild, canines such as wolves, dingoes and foxes may kick the ground after elimination for sanitary reasons. They are simply covering up the mess," she says. "But the behavior is also a way to mark territory. All dogs have glands in their feet that secrete pheromones, and a couple of backward scratches into the earth releases those chemicals."

6. The Booty Scoot

dog scooting butt
Dogs often scoot when they have issues with their anal glands. Narith5/Flickr

Sometimes when a pup is finished pooping, she might drag her bottom along the ground. This is a sign that something is irritating your dog and could be as simple as an errant piece of feces trapped in her fur to problems with her anal sacs. She might just be trying to "wipe" herself clean. Other causes could be worms, diarrhea, or injury. If it happens often, check with your vet to confirm there's nothing more serious going on.