The Dog Pooping Ritual Explained

On a recent errand run, I stopped by a local bank, post office, and coffee shop. My dog companion, Bertie, the Scottish Terrier, had his plans. Bertie, who belongs to a vacationing colleague, investigated a corgi mix’s nether regions near the bank then relieved himself briefly on a light pole. Then while approaching the post office, and performed an impressive tree-side No. 2, complete with vigorous hind leg back kicks, as a grand finale toward the journey’s pooper scooper end.

While Bertie looks about as menacing as a furry doorstop, all of his actions connect him to his distant wild wolf ancestors. Both animals are what some experts have described as “in-your-face poopers.” Forget shy and squeamish bathroom behaviors. Wolves and dogs take pride in their poop, and they’re not afraid to share their eliminations with the rest of the world.

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Dog Poop Prominence

Isabel Barja, a zoologist at the Autonomous University of Madrid, recently had the inelegant task of inspecting wolf scat in the Iberian Peninsula’s mountainous region. In a study published in the journal Animal Behavior, Dr. Barja found that wolves chose to do their business on plants that maximized visual impact and odor distribution. She now believes that “in wolves, visual aspects govern the choice of plants for fecal marking.”

She explains that fecal marking is when an individual’s feces can provide information to others about territory control, identity, mating status, foraging efficiency, and more. Lisa Peterson, director of communications for the American Kennel Club, says dogs do something similar when they pee or poop on fire hydrants and other urban landmarks. “A dog could probably smell another dog’s urine on a central fire hydrant from 30 yards away,” Peterson guesses.

Height Matters

Barja suggests wolves would go on the highest plants and trees possible if it were not for their body size limitations. That’s because height can be associated with strength and intimidation, especially among male dogs. Like an athlete pumping up his chest and muscles to look big and impressive, male dogs “literally compete to be top dog by leaving their mark on prominent landmarks,” Peterson explains.

That’s easier said than done for dogs like tiny terriers, Chihuahuas, and Poodles. When little dogs urinate, they often lift their back leg as high as possible, sometimes looking as though they’re falling over, because they’re trying to pee as high as they possibly can.

Dog Hind Leg Kicks After Pooping

Dogs also may perform a hind leg kicking ritual under certain circumstances. Think of a matador and bullfighter in a ring. Each may move its limbs back and forth in the substrate to demonstrate territory marking. Peterson has observed dogs doing something similar after running through an agility course.

Instead of performing a football player-type victory dance, the dog might “voom-voom” with its back legs after going to the bathroom, spreading around its feces scent. Agility and other group events involve many competing dog participants, so there’s often a lot of leg action taking place behind the scenes.

Dog Butt Scoot Boogie

Even if your dog isn’t much of an athlete, you might have seen it scooting its butt along the ground or sniffing the rear end of other dogs. That’s because all dogs and wolves possess internal glands called anal sacs. They release “calling card” odors with each bowel movement. And when dogs sniff each other, they’re investigating the scents released by the anal sacs.

Butt scooting can be just another marking move, or it could be a health problem symptom, since the sacs may become infected. Be sure to do the following:

  • Regularly inspect the area to make sure it is clean, dry, and free of welts and bumps.
  • Take note if your dog frequently licks the sac region, or if your pal often drags its rear end across the floor.
  • Be aware of unpleasant odors that could be coming from the sacs.

If you detect any of the above symptoms, visit your veterinarian, who will empty, or “express,” your dog’s anal glands. Some groomers can also perform this procedure, but if you suspect that your dog’s sacs are infected, it’s better to have your veterinarian do it.

Whether your dog is an Irish Wolfhound or a furball like Bertie, there is a method behind its bathroom behavior madness. 

Why is My Dog Suddenly Pooping Inside?

There could be many reasons why your housetrained dog suddenly decides to do his business on your lounge carpet when he was previously happily going outside. As frustrating as this behavior is, your dog’s way of communicating that something is wrong. Your dog’s change in behavior is probably happening because he is either stressed or has a health condition, and it is up to you to investigate.

Take your dog to your veterinarian to have any medical causes for pooping inside ruled out. These conditions are varied and can include intestinal worms or other parasites, a bladder infection, kidney failure, dietary reactions, and dietary allergies. If you have a senior dog, it may even be as simple as your dog’s age. An aged dog may not be able to hold it in like they used to, or they may forget that they need to go outside. If this is the case, limit the areas your dog has access to inside, preferably to rooms that are not carpeted. Use absorbent pads to protect your flooring.

Once medical conditions have been ruled out, you can look for other reasons that may cause stress and anxiety in your dog. 

Some reasons can be pronounced like, for example, if you come home from being out all day and your dog has pooped inside, it may have happened because they were inside for too long. If your dog is house trained, they would have waited for as long as possible and would have only pooped inside if that was their only option.

Has your dog been let outside for enough time? If your dog has been inside all day and you let them outside, the first thing they will want to do is explore and smell the array of exciting scents that are in the air. With all these exciting things going on, it is no wonder they forget why they are outside in the first place. Allow your dog enough time to finish exploring their outdoor environment. If you are outside with your dog, avoid interacting with them until they have pooped not to distract them further. 

A dog will only poop when they feel safe to do so as the very act of pooping puts them in a vulnerable position in regards to predators. If your housetrained dog starts pooping inside, maybe something is happening outside, or on your walks, that makes them not feel safe to poop. Observe your dog in these contexts to see if there is something they react to fearfully.

Have you recently moved house? It is not unusual for a dog to relieve themselves inside in a new environment. If so, this should be temporary, however, and cease once your dog is comfortable in its new environment. Other changes, like a new baby or a new puppy, can also cause anxiety in dogs. Routines are essential for dogs, so keep feeding regularly and going outside times, and your dog’s accidents should settle down.

If your dog feels anxious when you leave them alone, especially for more extended periods (half a day or longer), they may suffer from separation anxiety. Dogs who suffer from separation anxiety will express their distress in several ways, such as panting, howling, barking, pacing, and pooping.

How Do You Stop a Dog From Pooping Inside?

Essentially you need to understand the cause of your dog’s behavior so you know how to stop them from pooping inside. Firstly, take them to your veterinarian to have any medical reasons ruled out. Once any medical issues have been ruled out, you can then look to your dog’s environment for an answer. Identifying and removing factors in your dog’s environment, causing them to feel stressed, will stop this behavior.

If you think that your dog is pooping inside because they are anxious or the timeframe of being inside is too long (more than half a day), ask a friend or neighbor to call in and take your dog for a walk. This walk will give your dog time to poop as well as burn off some of that nervous energy. If it is not possible to have a friend or neighbor do this, then there are dog walking services who will come in to walk your dog for you.

If your dog is incredibly curious and relishes exploring and smelling exciting scents, try leaving them outside for a bit longer. This longer time will give them more time to deal with all those distractions before getting down to business. If you are outside with your dog, avoid interacting with them until they have pooped not to distract them further. Playtime with you is the best reward your dog can have.

Environmental changes such as moving house, or a new puppy or baby arriving into the family can cause anxiety in some dogs. If your dog is susceptible to anxiety, then changing their environment may make your dog stressed. Once your house trained dog is comfortable in their new situation pooping inside should cease. To help your dog adjust it is essential to keep to a schedule. Routines are necessary for dogs, so keep regular feeding and going outside times, and your dog’s accidents should settle down.

There are cases where there is nothing that you can do to stop this pooping behavior. A senior dog may not be able to hold it in like they used to, or they may forget that they need to go outside to poop. If this is the case, limit the areas your dog has access to inside, preferably to rooms that are not carpeted. Use absorbent pads to protect your flooring.

Should You Punish Your Dog for Pooping in the House?

Never punish your dog or puppy for pooping inside, regardless of the reason why it happened. If your dog poops inside, he is communicating to you that something is wrong. As a dog owner, it is up to you to decipher his message.

Dogs live in the moment; punishing them after the fact leaves your dog confused about what he did wrong. Administering a punishment only makes your puppy or dog afraid of you and possibly afraid to poop in your presence. This avoidance will not work for you when you want your dog to poop while you are outside with your dog or taking him on his walk.

Why Does My Dog Get Hyper After He Poops?

There are a couple of theories on why your dog does an after poop dance or run. One of these ideas is that your dog remembers back to their toilet training days, back to the days when you praised your puppy for pooping in the right place and maybe even gave them a treat as a reward for doing so. Dogs respond well to positive reinforcement, so the theory is that your dog is excited to have done something that pleases you. Adding to the excitement is there could be a reward in it for your dog like a treat. Just like the early days!

Another theory on why your dog performs an after poop dance is that your dog may be excited to have relieved themselves. This display of excitement would especially be the case if your dog had to wait to be let outside. It must be a welcome relief to your dog to finally be able to poop if they had been holding it in for some time. 

Do Dogs Poop Out of Spite?

Dogs are usually proud of their poop and use it to communicate valuable information to other dogs, such as territory and status. Some dogs also spend a bit of time tracking down the poop of other animals so that they can roll in it. At the same time, some dogs eat the poop of other dogs. While we find these behaviors offensive, they are natural and normal for dogs to do, indicating that dogs do not find poop offensive at all; in fact, they find it fascinating.

A dog’s brain does not work the same way as a human’s brain, and they also do not have the same characteristics and traits as a human. Spite is a human characteristic and is one that dogs are not capable of. Your dog will never poop inside out of spite. If your house trained dog starts pooping inside, it is your dog’s way of communicating to you that something is wrong.   

Your dog will never understand why he can poop in one place and not another; he will accept that this is how it is.  

While no owner looks forward to doggie cleanups, at least consider that you’re not just picking up any old poop. You’re hauling away a sophisticated marking tool, unique to your dog, which is part of a communication system that took thousands of years to evolve in your pet’s distant wolf ancestors.

Article written by Author: Steve Jortsman and The Dog Daily Expert

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