Your dog poops every day. It is a general fact of owning him, and one you may kind of tend to ignore as it happens. But have you ever seen your dog sniffing at his own.....business? There are some very interesting reasons that animal behaviorists and researchers have come up with over the years. While it could just be plain old curiosity that drives your canine companion to this admittedly jarring behavior, there are a few other aspects that are quite fascinating. Read on below to find out just what could be causing your dog’s interesting set of curiosities regarding his scat.
The Root of the Behavior
Like any average pet owner, you've probably had your questions about your canine's behavior in the past. Your dog's curiosity regarding his poop may be basically the same emotion in canine form. Your dog has instincts retained from an early period in history that externalize themselves even today. Curiosity was at one point a hugely beneficial survival trait that would aid canine in hunting and keeping track of young. In addition to this, keeping a keen awareness of scents directly in their vicinity would keep them warned of any nearby predators.
Your canine possesses a nasal cavity that contains around 20 to 30 times the amount of "smell sensors" that your human nose has. This is rooted in your dog's ancient DNA. At one point in the distant past, smell was the number one communication tool for these animals and that trait continues on today. Their sensitivity to odors undetectable to humans is so severe that they can actually pick out individual components. A normal human brain would be utterly incapable of perceiving the array of information being picked up on by your canine at any given moment. It's easy to forget this as a human, because we often won't even notice what our animals are picking up on, sheerly from lacking the proper "equipment."
Another part of this poop smelling process is that that they're learning how to discern their own scent. This is especially true if your dog is still young. The amount of information contained in everything they smell is a lot to process, and their talent for understand that information grows with age. This becomes especially important for dogs who generally stay in smaller outdoor areas. Scenting the area and then being able to read their own scent helps them feel safe and secure. If your dog tends to guard the borders of his yard, this is an indicator that he's successfully made the area "secure".
Encouraging the Behavior
Another aspect of this behavior is when your dog takes the extra step and actually eats his own poop. You're probably thinking "What gives?" and that makes sense. Back in the early days when dogs were hunters, they would look for the young first and foremost. And the poop of these young animals had an exceptionally high milk content, which more or less made their poop exceptionally tasty for adult dogs. To disguise this, mother canines would actually consume the poop to help protect her young. While it may be kind of disgusting to humans, this behavior more than likely helped keep ancient dogs safe.
A reason this happens as an instinct is due to basic survival. Dog feces contained vital nutrients that could really come in handy during the winter months when prey was scarce. The danger to this particular mechanism is that, over time, the pack's scat would slowly lose its nutritional value without normal injections of fresh meat.
In modern times, there’s really not a reason to let your dog consume feces if you can avoid it. They can pick up parasites and viruses from fresh scat laid down by wild animals. That’s why it is always important to keep a critical eye on your dog when you take him outside, especially in unfamiliar environments.
Other Solutions and Considerations
A major thing to keep in mind regarding your dog's poop habits is that there is a complex system to what he is doing. This pertains not just to the sniffing, but also to where he poops and what he does with it. If you find your dog regularly leaving "deposits" in places that you were convinced he'd been trained out of doing, this could be indicative of some sort of emotional or behavioral issue. Separation anxiety tends to be the most common cause, but there also could be new wild animals in the area causing your lovely canine to feel the need to mark its territory in any way possible.
Pooping is always going to be a part of your dog's life. It only becomes an issue when he does his business where you do not want him to, which can easily be avoided with a little bit of foresight. So unless he is causing problems, best to let your dog "do what he doo!"