Through my own experiences, I’ve noticed my dog Harley will take about 5 minutes to pick a place to do her “business.” Even weirder, she seems to always go facing the North. I’ve always thought this was just a very strange thing she did— because, well, she’s a strange dog—but then an article caught my attention.
According to Bryan Gardiner of Wired.com, there may be a better answer to why this happens. Dogs can have different poop routines that depend on their age, breed, location, the weather and other variables. Before your pup makes a poop they are likely to do some sniffing, some wandering, some more sniffing, and they might even falsely squat before it actually happens.
Dog poop serves a social purpose
I’ve definitely been out there on those freezing cold nights waiting for Harley to do her thing. After passing many spots that seem perfect, I can’t help but ask myself, “Why?” Gardiner suggests a critical piece of this puzzle, “Here’s what people tend to forget about dogs: Elimination fulfills both a physiological purpose and a social one.” Meaning, the spot Harley picks is actually very crucial to where her poo goes because it is actually sending a message, perhaps marking her territory.
Director of the Small Animal Behavior Service at the Veterinary Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Carlo Siracusa, explains, “These messages can tell your dog how many other dogs are in the immediate area, the sexual status of those dogs-whether a female is in heat, for example- whether a particular dog is a friend or an enemy, what he or she had for lunch, and when they were last in the area.”
Wow, poop is powerful thing, not only can is send all of these messages, it can also help your veterinarian determine if the dog has any intestinal parasites.
Dogs will have poop preferences
Like people, dogs are individuals, with individual personalities. All dogs have different quirks and preferences that go along with their individual selves. Distractions, for example, may cause a delay in the process. Would you be able to concentrate and do your business in the middle of the night with the wind rustling through the trees?
According to Melissa Bain of the Clinical Animal Behavior Service at UC Davis’ School of Veterinary Medicine, dogs will develop their pooping preferences at a young age. They’re also likely to go back to a place where they’ve pooped before because it smells familiar to them. Also, if your dog grew up in a grassy place and you bring them to a sandy area, they may not understand that this is an OK place to go.
Oh, remember when I said Harley prefers to poop facing the North? Well, according to a 2013 paper published in Frontiers in Zoology, dogs seem to align themselves with earth’s magnetic field before pooping. “Specifically, they seem to prefer to defecate along the North-South axis if the magnetic field is stable.”
So while we think our dogs might be wasting time, keeping us out in the cold as they attempt to do their business, there’s actually a lot that goes into a single bowel movement.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.