Why Do Dogs Circle Before They Poop? 6 Reasons & Other Fun Facts

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Owning a dog comes with a lot of questions. Owners constantly strive to learn more and find the answers to specific health, diet, and behavior inquiries. One common behavior in our canine companions is spinning before they poop. Why do dogs spin and circle before they poop? There is more to this behavior than one might think. Dogs circling before pooping is normal, and there are a lot of myths and misconceptions. There are a few things owners should know about this behavior.

Why Do Dogs Circle Before Pooping? (Our Personal Experience)

doodle dog about to poop on sidewalk looking at the camera

Has this happened to you? It’s a beautiful morning, and you are walking your sweet pup Bucky around the block. He stops, sniffs, and then makes a big show of spinning around several times before taking the stance and letting his bowels loose. Not every dog spins, but enough do that it is a frequently asked question. I have owned 7 dogs in my life, and all but one of them has done this. My Chihuahua in particular was very habitual about it and would not do her business if she did not get enough spins.

Dogs who spin and circle before pooping are not doing it to be fussy or because they have over-the-top pooping habits. Spinning around like this is a behavior that goes back to canine’s ancient roots.

Top Reasons Why Dogs Spin Before They Poop

We get into the details and motivation behind why our pups spin about in circles before doing their business.

Instinct & Safety

This behavior is instinctual and likely ingrained in the genetics of some canines. They are also able to pick up a lot of information from scents. The spinning may be them learning about the animals, other dogs, and people in the area before them. This includes predators or bad, foul smells they do not like. This is part of what drives them to try another spot, and canines do not like doing their bathroom business in a place they feel unsteady, unsafe, or threatened.

Dogs often point themselves in a direction they feel the safest and most comfortable. The spinning makes them feel sure the area is clean, secure, and free of threats as they let themselves be vulnerable. Along with that, crushing and pushing down tall grass and foliage keeps anything from getting stuck or mixed up in their poopy business.

Comfort

Some pups spin before they poop, as well as before lying down. Both circling situations are likely related to being comfortable. Dogs may spin around to create the best, most comfortable surface to do their business. Remember, our canine family members poop outside, and they often encounter sticks, plants, debris, and other objects. So spinning helps root out obstacles or items that may cause discomfort. This includes chasing away any bugs or small critters in close vicinity.

Moving Things Along

Some schools of thought believe the circling motions help stimulate digestion. This theory believes the motion stimulates the intestines to have a bowel movement. This can be helpful, especially if a pup has constipation.

Constipation

Sometimes a dog spinning about, trying to go number two, can be a sign of constipation. They may feel the need to go but not be physically ready yet. This spinning motion may be comforting or their way of trying to get the bowels moving. If your pup is acting constipated or struggling and straining to poop, it is best to check with your veterinarian for advice. A few things can cause constipation, and your vet can help you address it. Your vet may want to check for any bowel obstruction if your pup is in pain and struggling to defecate.

Constipation can be caused by diet. It can also result from pups ingesting things like bits of wood, dirt, plants, and even household items. Constipation may also result from too much or too little food in a pup’s diet. Sometimes the wrong food, too high in carbs and fiber, is hard to digest, and multiple proteins can lead to digestive upset and issues like constipation.

Marking Territory

Dogs have anal glands located on the sides of the anus. These glands release a scent. Circling before pooping is a pup’s way of letting others know this spot is his, especially if he smells other canines in the area. Spinning around can be a way canines spread their own pheromones and sniff out other canine’s pheromones.

Anal Glands

The anal glands can sometimes become extremely uncomfortable. When working correctly, these glands excrete a scent when a dog poops. This scent lets other animals know he was there and leaves some identifying clues. These anal glands can become impacted, which is a smelly, painful situation. The anus will become swollen and protrude, making passing stool incredibly painful. Canines may spin or scoot their butts across the floor to try to relieve the pressure and pain.

Anal glands can also become very itchy. Signs of anal gland problems include scooting on their bottoms around the lawn and floor, licking and itching excessively around the anal area, difficulty and straining when passing stool, and blood or pus around the anus or in poop. Anal gland problems can be caused by obesity, insufficient diet, allergies to food or the environment, chronic dermatitis, excessively stuffed stools, or genetics. Smaller breeds tend to develop issues with their anal glands, though it can happen to any breed and size. Anal glands will need treatment from your veterinarian. In some cases, owners will need to learn how to express the glands manually in order to help their pups stay comfortable and use the restroom properly.

Dog Spinning On His Bottom

Most of the time, pet owners who notice their pets spinning around before defecation will see this behavior as a dog prepares to go. In some cases, dogs may turn around in circles and scoot directly on their bottoms before and sometimes even after pooping. This behavior indicates a possible anal gland issue, dermatitis around the anus, or possible impaction in the rectal area. For breeds that have very hairy coats and do not get regularly trimmed in this area, the hair can sometimes become impacted, which becomes quite painful.

Other conditions such as worms, itchy skin, anal gland abscess, anal growth, or anal furunculosis can also trigger scooting. If you notice this in your dog, and they also seem to be straining to use the restroom or have visible irritation, blood, or pus near the anal area, it is always best to reach out to your veterinarian as soon as possible. This is an incredibly sensitive area, and when something is wrong, things can worsen quite quickly. Most issues concerning a dog’s rectum and digestion, especially if they are in pain or having trouble defecating, require prompt attention from a veterinarian.

Do Dogs Poop Facing North?

There is a widely circulated theory regarding dogs circling and spinning around pre-poop. This theory considers the idea that canines circle and spin before a bowel movement in order to align themselves in a North/South position. This theory is not just limited to bowel movements. In some cases, it also includes urination.

The theory of pooping aligned with the north to South axis applies to more than just canines. It is also believed that other animals also prefer to relieve themselves when facing the north-south axis. Canines are on the list, along with row deer, red deer, red foxes, hunting red foxes, coyotes, grey wolves, and cattle are all mammals that participate in a pre-defecation spin session. There have been studies on the subject, and the research is surprising.

A study published in 2014 in the journal Frontiers In Zoology revealed research that suggests that canines have sensitivities to the Earth’s magnetic field. Performed by researchers from the Czech Republic and Germany, 70 different dogs were involved in this study, with over 37 breeds included. The study lasted over two years and documented 5582 urinations and 1893 defalcations. When analyzing the data, researchers discovered that animals who were defecating in “calm magnetic field conditions” preferred to defecate when aligned along the north-south axis. Most of the pups avoided the East-West alignment if possible. For the study, all pups were free roaming, not on leashes, and not directed by any roads or walls.

This study is intriguing. However, it did not reveal the motivation behind this behavior, though it is believed that canines simply feel more comfortable pooping in a North-South direction. According to research, the earth’s magnetic field remains calm for only around 20% of our daylight hours.

Do Dogs Line Up On A Magnetic Field When They Poop?

The answer to this question is related to dogs pooping along a North-South axis. Magnetoreception is a term that refers to the sense an organism has to detect the earth’s magnetic field. Dogs, along with some animals, some other vertebrates, such as fish, reptiles, and amphibians, as well as arthropods and mollusks, also have this sensing ability.

Though there is no clear explanation as to why, according to the research, canines prefer to excrete and defecate when aligned along a North-South axis. This only applies under calm magnetic field conditions. Canines can sense minor variations in the earth’s magnetic field and are able to respond to them. Research has shown that this behavior does change around different conditions of these magnetic fields. Dogs also tend to align themselves along the north-south axis when they feel uncertain, unstable, or unsure.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Does My Dog Spin Before Laying Down?

Some pups spin around before they lay down for similar reasons to when they are about to have a bowel movement. Spinning around in these circles helps them get comfortable, spread their scent, and position themselves in a way they feel safe. This is self-preservation and protective behavior.

Do Dogs Spin When Anxious?

Yes, sometimes dogs do spin when anxious. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including an issue with vision, hearing, memory, or even neurological function. Some pups start to spin or run in circles in stressful situations, which is a sign and symptom of anxiety. You can speak to your vet about different options, including using probiotics to make your dog feel more comfortable and less anxious.

Is Circling Before Pooping Normal?

Yes, dogs circling before pooping is perfectly normal behavior for canines. Not all will do it, but most of the time, those who do are not in any pain or discomfort. In some cases, a pup may be in distress. Owners should always pay attention to signs like straining when using the bathroom, blood, pus, injury, or signs of infection. If you have a dog with long hair, make sure to regularly trim the area around the anus to avoid impaction from the hair.

Why Is My Dog Walking In Circles?

While a dog spinning before pooping and laying down is normal behavior, a dog running around or walking in circles may be a sign of something else. Pets who suddenly start walking around in circles will not stop and seem disoriented and need to see a veterinarian as soon as possible. This is a strong indicator that something is growing wrong neurologically. Your veterinarian may need to do an MRI and a physical exam to get an accurate diagnosis. Walking in circles can also occur due to confusion, ear conditions, canine compulsive disorders, pain or discomfort, and neurological conditions like trauma, infection, tumors, or brain disease are all abnormal reasons a dog would be walking in circles.

Dog owners need to keep in mind that spinning and circling before pooping is, most of the time, a normal behavior. Always make sure to monitor your pet and observe if he is having any issues relieving himself or seems to be in pain. It is always wise to contact your vet early rather than wait to see if a problem worsens. Many digestive issues, including difficulty with defecation and urination, can be due to a poor or unbalanced diet. Many great options, including fresh, human-grade, freeze-dried, and gourmet meals, may help with these digestive problems. In some cases, canines may need supplements, added vitamins, or even special prescription diets. If your dog is rolling in poop or eating poop you will want to take steps to stop that behavior as soon as possible.

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