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Why Do Dogs Sniff Before They Poop?

By Aviram K.
Published in Training & Behavior
March 28, 2022
4 min read
Why Do Dogs Sniff Before They Poop?
✏️ This article has been reviewed in accordance with our editorial policy.
🏥 The information in this article is not a substitute for professional help.
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You’re working on your computer when you hear the familiar sound of your pup whining near the front door. Yep, it’s that time again…he’s gotta go potty.

As you lace up your shoes, you think, “I hope this doesn’t take too long; I have a deadline to hit!”

Sure enough, as your pup tramples out of the door and hits the green grass, he begins to meander.

Sniffing at this, sniffing at that…you don’t want to be a jerk, but you’ve got things to do! Why can’t he just pick a spot and go?

Dogs sniff before they poop to help them find the perfect place to potty. Sniffing tells them what other dogs have been in the area and whether any females are in heat nearby. They may also do this because they have anxiety or simply want to spend more time outside.

In this article, I will delve deeper into why dogs sniff before they poop. I will also give you some helpful hints on what to do if your dog takes too long to go potty.

It may look like your pup is wandering aimlessly, but there are reasons they are taking their sweet time before getting down to business.

So why not take a break from checking your watch as Fido lingers and allow me to help you understand why he may be dragging his feet.

Here we go!

Table of Contents
Why Dogs Sniff Before They Poop
Do This If Your Dog Is Taking Way Too Long to Go Potty
But Hey, a Dog’s Gotta Sniff!

Why Dogs Sniff Before They Poop


Watching your dog sniff everything in sight before finally deciding to poop can be frustrating. Some days you might not care, but on days where your schedule is tight, this can be maddening! Can’t he make it quick…just this once?

But just because you may be in a rush doesn’t mean your pup is! It’s just another day for him, and he’s in no hurry at all.

So, what could potentially be running through his head?

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons that your dog may sniff before he poops:

They Are Nosy

Dogs use scent to gather information about anything and everything in their environment. If another dog has been around, he needs to know about it. That goes double if a female dog in heat happens to be anywhere nearby!

It’s not that your dog is intentionally being a busy body; this behavior just comes naturally to him. Your pup uses scent to find out if there are friends or potential foes in the vicinity and even if there may be some tasty food around!

If it helps, think of your pup sniffing around like the equivalent of you scrolling on social media. The same way you seek to gain understanding about the people in your world, your pup has the need to seek info out. This is instinctual and totally normal!

They Are Feeling Anxious

Public bathroom performance anxiety in humans is a real thing. Some people find it difficult and stress-provoking to go potty in public places. Your pup could definitely share these anxious feelings!

Especially if your dog has an anxious-leaning personality, this may carry over into their bathroom habits. Your pup may be sniffing as a way to stall the whole bathroom process.

This may be the case if you find they do their business in secret later on. Your pup may poop in more hidden places, either inside or outside of the house, if they are struggling with anxiety in this area.

It’s the Magnetic Poles


This reason may seem as outlandish as blaming your dog’s bathroom habits on the planets being misaligned. But actual study data reveals that dogs may prefer to go number 2 when their bodies are lined up on the North-south axis.

And there seems to be something to this theory. Scientists were able to rule out other possible contributing factors like the way the wind blew, the angle of the sun, and the time of day.

So, your pup may be taking extra time sniffing around to line their body up just right on the earth’s surface.

Perhaps you can just catalog this one in the Strange-But-True files!

They Want to Stay Outside

Have you been spending less time with your pup outdoors than usual? If this is the case, your dog may be sniffing around before they poop to score more time outside!

If you suspect this could be why your pup is sniffing around so much, try taking them outside more. Making sure your pup gets tons of non-potty time outdoors may help them feel less like they have to cling onto and savor every moment outside as if it could be their last!

Do This If Your Dog Is Taking Way Too Long to Go Potty

On a typical day, you may not mind if your dog sniffs around and explores before doing their business. But other days, you’re pressed for time and may need them to speed up the whole process. Totally understandable!

Thankfully, it is possible to encourage your pup to get right to the point.

Try using this sequence of speech and action with your pup to get them to poop on cue:

  • Designate a specific place for your dog to go poop
  • Try using a Potty Attractant Spray to guide them to this spot
  • Say “go potty” calmly one time as soon as your pup begins to do their business
  • After they successfully finish, affirm them with treats and praise

Remember that going to the bathroom isn’t a uniform process (even for humans!) and might be trickier for your pup some days than others.

But implementing this straightforward system sets your pup up for success. This helps give them a basic structure for what to expect when it’s time to go poop, which may shorten the whole process from start to finish.

But Hey, a Dog’s Gotta Sniff!


There are certain things your dog is just going to do. Or else they wouldn’t be a dog!

Sure your pup taking their time and sniffing around before they go potty can be inconvenient at times. But imagine how odd the alternative would be: a dog who runs outside immediately stops and robotically drops some presents and is done…just like that!

Although it may sound tempting to get it all done so fast, this likely isn’t what you want. A dog who lives breathes, and is real is what you’re after!

Your pup may be sniffing around before they poop to understand their world because they’re anxious, to stay outside longer, or because the earth’s axis is prompting them to do so!

Whatever the reason behind their sniffs, a dog with a genuine sense of adventure, curiosity, and excitement for life is worth waiting a few extra minutes for!

Dog PoopDog Behaviors
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