You and Fido are on your walk and after a lengthy selection process that involved sniffing and circling at least five different patches of grass, you think Fido has found the perfect spot. As you wait for him to do his business, you catch up on a group text from earlier that afternoon. After you’ve used your thumbs to type your responses, you look up, but your dog is still circling.
Your walking timeline is being disrupted by your dog’s thorough pooping process. Why does he make so many circles? Why does he fool you by circling, but then moves onto another spot?
The Root of the Behavior
Not all dogs decide to spin before relieving themselves, but it is rather common. When a dog circles round and round before he poops, he is doing several things. He is ensuring his safety, cleaning his spot, and leaving his calling card. Dogs communicate a lot of messages through their excretions and setting it up is important. Consider it wording their latest status update on social media. If you only have 140 characters to get your message across, you choose your words carefully.
A dog makes circles before he poops for his hygiene. Fido might enjoy a clean area, and circles and stomps to ensure he has prime real estate to relieve himself. Your dog might be stomping the grass in the area to make his poop more prominent and clearly seen. If a dog was ever in a grassy field, he would circle to make sure all the other dogs knew where his prized message lay. This also helps in marking his territory.
Another reason Fido might spin around a few times is to check the area for threats, like predators. Going to the bathroom puts anyone in a vulnerable position, and if a dog is squatting, he cannot protect himself from predators. To secure the area, he makes a few circles while surveying for any potential problems before he does his business.
There is another reason dogs circle. Researchers have concluded that dogs like to align themselves with the Earth’s magnetic poles, particularly the North-South axis. Czech and German researchers studied 70 dogs’ bathroom behaviors and learned that dogs align their bodies with the magnetic field before they poop. However, the researchers couldn’t determine if this behavior was conscious or unconscious behavior. It’s unknown if they feel better when aligned on the North-South axis or if it’s a physical reaction. Dogs aren’t the only animals to align themselves to the magnetic poles when pooping.
Encouraging the Behavior
You should never rush your dog from doing his business. This could create confusion and problems with his toileting habits; you might have more than a spinning dog on your hands later. It’s a dog’s instinct to circle his space and it’s essential that he is able to relieve himself comfortably and naturally. This allows your dog to maintain his hygiene and provides him with a sense of security. Chances are, you’ve been in a dirty public restroom, holding the stall door with one hand because it won’t close. How comfortable does that make you feel?
Give your dog the chance to make his circle and do his business his way. The only time it can become problematic is in extreme weather situations, like the dead of winter or a heat wave in summer. It’s not healthy for you or your dog to be out in such extreme weather conditions, but it is necessary for your dog to relieve himself. If your dog is circling and indecisive when he’s on your walks, try to sort out why. Consult a trainer on why he might be taking too much time. Perhaps your street is noisy and full of things your dog perceives as threats. Maybe the grass is too high and he can’t stomp it down enough. It might be hard to say if the magnetic fields are off, but there’s not much a trainer can do about that.
Other Solutions and Considerations
If your dog is having trouble finding his spot and just spins, talk to your trainer. It’s possible to teach your dog how to go on command or to change up your walking route to find a more suitable location for your dog to do his business. If you’re really concerned, talk to your vet.
If your dog is spinning and deciding to go, but is unable to, he might be constipated. In this situation, call your vet for how to handle it best. Your dog’s diet or exercise routine may need to be changed, or there could be a backup in his digestive system that needs to be addressed.
Your dog’s bathroom routine is just as important as yours. You know how upset you can become if your bathroom conditions are not ideal, so be sure you give your dog the opportunity for his to be ideal. A circle is pointless, but to your dog, it’s key to him having a satisfactory experience.