Why Do Dogs Circle/Spin Before Pooping?

Why Do Dogs Circle / Spin Before Pooping?

Have you ever taken your canine for a walk and noticed that he is circling and spinning a long time to find a decent place to poop? Although it could appear a little strange to you, remember that they are dogs, and we are humans.

Thus, such behaviors may feel completely normal to them. But if you’ve never cared for a dog before, you could be concerned because you believe it to be a serious problem. 

So, why do dogs circle or spin before pooping? Dogs do this to set their boundary or the territory, to make sure they are safe, to clear out the path, etc. There could be a thousand other reasons why they do this, but let’s check some of them in detail.

Why Do Dogs Circle/Spin Before Pooping?

  • Your dog is ensuring his own safety

One reason dogs circle before pooping is to ensure their own safety. He can check for any threats and ensure the place is safe by making a circle before emptying himself.

Animals that live in tall grass might range from venomous snakes to scorpions to stinging insects. Dogs might be able to eliminate any possible dangers from the grass by circling and patting it down with their paws.

When pooping, dogs are most at risk since they must remain still for a short period and cannot observe what is happening behind their backs.

  • Your dog is setting its boundaries

They do this to set territorial boundaries. So other dogs or animals can recognize their presence. It typically occurs when dogs lift their legs to relieve themselves on vertical things like electric poles, water pipes, etc., making it easy for other dogs to detect which dog has rid themselves there. 

The dogs mark their territory by circling, slightly trampling, and then kicking their legs back. As a result, while the other dogs can usually see the dog poop, they may be able to smell the trampled grass and identify whose territory it is by using the scent glands on their toes.

  • Your dog is removing grass off the path

Another reason dogs circle before pooping is a hygiene habit, as trampling the grass down reduces the likelihood of their poop becoming stuck in the grass and splattered all over their fur.

Since dogs used to inhabit locations with thick plants in the past, this trait must have been passed down from dog ancestors. 

Additionally, the grass blades might have touched the dog’s bottom, making them wonder if it was a grass blade or some sort of animal!

So, that is why your dog usually circles when pooping outside.

  • Your dog is attempting to align with the magnetic field of the Earth

It is another intriguing explanation for why dogs circle before pooping based on research. A study that appeared in the Frontiers in Zoology Journal suggests that dogs may be sensitive to every minute change in the Earth’s magnetic field.

Therefore, dogs like to relieve themselves with their bodies adequately aligned along the north-south axises, according to researchers at the Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague who watched various dogs’ poop over two years. But the reason why this occurs in dogs is still a mystery.

What Does It Mean When Dogs Circle Before Pooping?

A dog wandering in circles can have a variety of causes, and it can be challenging to determine because the most typical occurrence is when dogs circle before pooping.

Therefore, it is crucial to check your dog’s general health whenever you notice anything strange.

For instance, a dog that circles when it sees you or circles by the front door may be excited or simply be expressing his need to go for a walk.

However, if the behavior is sudden and followed by other symptoms like loss of balance, appetite, etc., you should call a veterinarian immediately.

One of the most straightforward explanations for dogs’ circling behavior is that they are anxious. It can be prevented by recognizing the trigger, such as separation anxiety or a specific person or thing your dog is fearful of. 

Seizures are yet another explanation for your dog’s circling behavior. Dog seizures frequently include uncontrollable shaking and toilet accidents, loss of awareness, drooling, etc.

Another explanation for dogs walking in circles is an ear infection. Odd odors coming from the ear, redness, and ear-scratching are all symptoms of an ear infection, and if you observe these in your dog, it is better to take him to the vet as soon as possible.

The vestibular syndrome, which impairs the dog’s inner ear and balance, provides another explanation.

The disease’s origin is unknown, although possible causes include ear damage from an accident, a lack of nutrients, or abnormal tissue growth.

On the other hand, there is canine cognitive dysfunction in elderly dogs, along with circling behavior and pacing, which may also include confusion, alterations in sleep or appetite, and isolated behavior.

You can try a few things to determine what triggers your dog to walk in circles. Try to convince your dog to walk normally or in the opposite direction if they are circling in one direction. The dog won’t be able to change directions readily if there is a neurological condition.

Additionally, a neurological condition might impair your dog’s ability to concentrate on its eyes, giving the impression that one or both of its eyes are blind.

You might be observing the beginning of a significant medical problem if your dog is acting strangely while going in circles.

It can be an ear infection, canine cognitive dysfunction, or simply because your dog is anxious. Whatever it is, early detection and appropriate treatment can help avoid these significant medical issues. 

Make sure to keep track of your dog’s general health by scheduling annual visits with the vet. A little inspection on your part might also yield some insights into what is wrong with the dog.

Observe your dog for certain behaviors and note what follows it, when it occurs, and also how long it continues.

However, one entirely natural behavior is when dogs circle before pooping, so don’t be worried about that much!

Thank you for reading this post. Stay tuned with Jack Russell Owner.


  • Dominic Parker

    Dominic P. is a dog behavioral researcher who graduated from the University of Surrey and holds BVMsi (Hons) in Veterinary Medicine and Science. He has been around dogs since childhood and has unconditional love for dogs. It makes him become a researcher instead of practicing as a veterinarian. Dominic enjoys his work and likes to share his findings with dog parents to give them a better understanding of dogs’ behaviors.

    [email protected]

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