Why Do Dogs Circle Before Going Potty?

By Naomi Millburn

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

Why Do They Do It?

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. Furthermore, 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. 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.

Circling 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 level as can be.

Not All Dogs Do It

Not all canines circle and smell the ground before defecating or urinating. Some dogs, simply stop walking and abtruptly do their business. For dog owners, circling can undoubtedly be a helpful "preview" of things to come in many dogs, but not all dogs are predisposed to circle around and thereby warn their parents that it's potty time.

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References
UCSB ScienceLine: Why Do Dogs Go Around in Circles Before They Go to the Bathroom?
VetStreet: Why Does My Dog...Do a Poop Dance?
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Digging Dogs
Italian Greyhound Club of America: Crate & House Training

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.