Why Do Dogs Circle When Defecating or Urinating?

by Naomi Millburn
    "I have to find the perfect place to go."

    "I have to find the perfect place to go."

    Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images

    If you're a dog lover, you've probably witnessed the furry guys circling around things countless times, whether their cozy beds before they turn in for the night or even places to go to the bathroom. Although circling behavior might seem bizarre and inexplicable to you, the behavior is a common one in dogs.


    The classic canine "circle" prior to elimination entails walking around in circular motions over and over again. This behavior is often accompanied by a lot of sniffing of the ground, too. Once they're through with that part, they usually jump promptly from a single hind paw to the next one. Then, the preparatory process is seemingly done and the dog is ready to do the job at hand.

    Digestive System

    Dogs might go around in circles prior to eliminating as a means of getting their digestive systems ready for the task -- waking them up. By engaging in a little physical activity beforehand, dogs might be able to encourage a fast and smooth elimination experience.

    Scent Glands

    Dog feet are equipped with handy scent glands. They employ these glands for labeling their turf. By walking around his future elimination site in repetitive circles, your pet might simply be leaving a scent trail behind -- essentially communicating to the world that he owns the place.

    Wild Behaviors

    Dogs might even circle before eliminating as a relic of their wild origins. If a dog out in nature has to "go potty" in a setting chock full of plants, circling can be a way of smoothing the area out -- and therefore making for a comfortable and tidier bathroom experience.

    Before Sleeping

    Circling in dogs isn't an elimination exclusive. The behavior is also extremely in dogs who are about to retreat to catch some zzzs. By going around in circles -- and by delving a little into the dirt -- dogs essentially are working to make their sleeping spots as comfy and smooth as can be.

    Not All Dogs

    Not all canines circle and smell the ground before defecating or urinating. Some dogs, seemingly abruptly, just quit walking and proceed. Circling can undoubtedly be a helpful "preview" of things to come in many dogs, but not in all of them.

    Photo Credits

    • Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Naomi Millburn has been a freelance writer since 2011. Her areas of writing expertise include arts and crafts, literature, linguistics, traveling, fashion and European and East Asian cultures. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American literature from Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.

    Have a question? Get an answer from a Vet now!