Why Does My Dog Make Circles Before He Poops?

Gotta check for snakes!

Dog spinning

Have you and your pup ever been on a walk where he’s taking forever to find the perfect place to poop?
You might watch him make a few pre-poop circles in one spot — before he decides it’s not a good enough place to go. 
It might look like a weird quirk, but there are actually some deep-rooted reasons why he goes through that pre-poop ritual.
“There are several reasons why dogs do a few quick spins before settling in to move their bowels — and all of them make perfect sense once you realize why,” Dr. Stephanie Austin, a veterinarian at Bond Vet in New York City, told The Dodo.
Here are some of the reasons behind their circling:

They’re ensuring their safety

“Just like when we go to the bathroom and we check for snakes in the toilet before we sit down (or is that just in Australia?!), Fido is checking to make sure his behind won’t get bitten while he does his business,” Dr. Austin said.

This means that your pup is simply making sure there are no predators nearby (or hiding in the grass) when he’s in his most vulnerable state.

It’s like how people wipe down a public toilet seat

According to Dr. Austin, just like how we wipe a public toilet seat before using it, our dogs wipe the sidewalk or grass.

“We both like to be hygienic before doing our business,” Dr. Austin said.

He’s marking his territory

“Using scent glands on either side of his anus (the anal glands), your pup is telling the rest of his 'hood who he is and where he’s been — [so the message stays] even after you’ve cleaned up the evidence (hopefully!),” Dr. Austin said.

He likes to poop facing north (or something like that)

In 2013, some Czech and German researchers determined in a study of 70 dogs across 37 different breeds that dogs like to align themselves with the Earth’s magnetic poles when they’re going to the bathroom. They found that dogs like to find the north-south axis before they poop.

“However, the researchers couldn’t determine if this behavior was conscious or unconscious behavior,” Dr. Austin said.

Hopefully knowing what your dog’s thinking will make it less frustrating next time it seems like he’s taking 10 minutes to find the perfect spot — gotta find that north-south axis!