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How Does A Dog Decide Where To Poop? 9 Interesting Facts

How Does A Dog Decide Where To Poop

You have seen many dogs deposit their stools.

Some may take time before they do their business.

While others might find a pooping spot at the speed of light.

Which makes us wonder…

“Are they looking for something?

Or do they have some kind of criteria for it?”

Continue reading to discover:

  • 9 interesting facts on how dogs decide where to poop.
  • Why do canines look for a place to deposit their stools.
  • The real reason why they pee and poop in different places.
  • Whether the Earth’s magnetic field is affecting this behavior.
  • And so much more…

How does a dog decide where to poop?

A dog decides where to poop based on the Earth’s magnetic field. As well as their surface preference. They can also do it in areas that were previously soiled or in spots they’re claiming. While some might choose a noticeable area. But if they’re nervous, they may look for a safer place instead. 

How does a dog decide where to poop – 9 facts

#1: By using the Earth’s magnetic field

Well, it’s true.

Just like other animals, our furry friends are also able to sense the Earth’s magnetic field.

It’s known as magnetoreception. (Or ‘magnetic superpower’ as some people call it.)

This is used in knowing directions and locations. And this is the reason why birds can navigate flawlessly in the air.

Like they have a natural compass in their body. 

So, going back to the topic.

One study found that dogs are also sensitive to the magnetic field. And it could even affect how and where they eliminate.

“Really? How?”

The researchers studied 70 canines and 1,893 defecations.

They found out that dogs align their bodies along the north-south axis when they poop. And this only happens when the magnetic field is calm.

“But why do they do that?”

The reason is still a mystery.

Some experts say that dogs may do this unconsciously. While others think that it might only be a comfortable position.

Interesting fact: Can we humans also sense the magnetic field? Research says so. It was discovered that males can detect this with the aid of blue light. And they could do this as they search for food.

In the study, males and females were blindfolded. And their hearing was muffled too.

Then while they’re starving and sitting on a rotating chair…

Males oriented themselves to the north and east. Which are directions linked with food. And they did this without any help.

While females didn’t have the same response. As well as males that weren’t motivated by food.

Check out also: 7 Reasons Why Your Dog Constantly Sniffs The Ground

#2: Based on their ‘substrate preference’

Is your pup a picky pooper?

And do they only drop their dookie on certain surfaces?

If so, this could be due to substrate preference.

“What is it?”

It means that a dog has a preferred surface for elimination. And this influences their decision.

For example, puppies who are used to poop on grass may not defecate on bare soil or concrete. Or it could be vice versa as well.

Besides pooping, this might also be the case if a dog doesn’t like to pee in specific places.

“How do they develop this?”

According to Dr. Valarie Tynes, when puppies are 5 weeks old, they’ll start to have a favorite pooping spot.

Then, they’ll develop substrate preference between 8 to 9 weeks old. While other experts say that this could also last up to 24 weeks.

So during this period, pups need some ‘toilet guidance’ from their parents. Or else…

They’re going to develop their own preference. Which may or may not be appropriate.

Also, dogs must be exposed to different surfaces at an early age.

This is to prevent them from taking too much time before pooping. As well as from refusing to eliminate when their preferred surface isn’t available.

Note: It’s recommended to start toilet training when dogs are 7 to 8 weeks old.

#3: By marking their territories

Dog Decides Where To Poop By Marking Their Territory

It’s known that dogs can be territorial.

And to help them claim something, their bodies will release a liquid that gives off a unique scent.

Now, this specific odor will now serve as their ID. As it holds their basic information. Such as their age, gender, and mood. As well as their health status.

So when other Fidos smell it, they’ll be able to tell whose territory they’re on.

But wait, there’s more.

This liquid may also convey messages. And it can be used to communicate with other dogs.

Say, if they’d like to tell everyone to back off from their territory. Or if they just want to say “Hello!”

“So, where does this smelly fluid come from?”

Dogs can produce this in the sweat of their paws, urine, and even poop.

Most canines pee to leave their property signboards. (This is called ‘urine marking.’)

But, they could also use their stools for the same purpose.

Canines may decide to poop within their territory. And they do this to establish their area once more.


They might also take a dump in an unmarked area to claim it.

This is why your dog may poop in different spots. Or in new areas that they didn’t use before for toilet breaks. 

Interesting fact: This behavior is also seen in wolves a.k.a. dogs’ ancestors. So our furry pals might have inherited this from them. Research shows that wolves poop a lot in their area. And they do this to defend their territories as well.

Another study also has a similar observation. But in this, wolves tend to mark along their boundaries. Rather than pooping in the middle. 

And they do this especially in parts that are likely to be intruded. So it’s also their way of protecting their own area.

Reading tip: 9 Reasons Why Your Dog Pees On You + 5 Tips To Stop It & 13 Weird Reasons Why Dogs Roll In Fox Poo + 3 Tips

But aside from this, a dog may also decide where to poop…

#4: By looking for a noticeable spot

Other researchers say that wolves also have a strategy in marking.

“What is it?”

It was discovered that 60.1% of them usually leave their feces at crossroads. While 72.1% poop in places that are noticeable to other wolves.

They do these to make sure that their message won’t be ignored by others.

So, a dog who wants to leave some mail won’t also deposit their stools anywhere.

This is because they want it to be seen (and smelled!) by many canines as much as possible.

And to do this, they have to find a perfect pooping spot.

It must be easily seen and accessible. Just like how we post signs and boards. This is to make sure that they catch the attention of others.

But if it’s a more personal message, they have to ensure that they’ll drop it at the right place. So that only certain dogs can read it.

To give you more idea about this, let’s take a look at another study.

It was also observed that most wolves poop on plants

But, Isabel Barja says that they don’t do this in every grass they see. As they have some things to consider as well.

“What are those?”

3 things:

  • Height.
  • Species.
  • Diameter.

Barja noticed that the most marked plants are taller. And they’re also bigger than those without any deposits.

This made her think that wolves do this intentionally. And they pick certain spots that stand out. So their stools are easily seen by others.

She also told NBC News that certain species meet these standards. Which makes them a popular pooping destination.

These are:

  • Maritime pine.
  • White Spanish broom.
  • Poplar-leaved rock rose.

According to her, 3 wolves may defecate in the same spot.

Plus, she didn’t see any damage to the plants. And this is after wolves put their markings on them.

#5: By finding vertical objects or high places

Apart from leaving poop in noticeable areas…

Some dogs might also take scent-marking to the next level.

And when I say next level, it could be literally higher from the ground. Say, tall grasses, trees, walls, and such.

Yup. There are reports of dogs who love taking dumps on bushes. And their stools are often stuck on the top of the plants.

While other Fidos may even climb a couch. Or raise their bums as an attempt to poop against a wall.

Weird, isn’t it?

Well, dogs can do a lot of unusual things. But, there’s likely a reason for it.

“Why do dogs poop on vertical objects?”

There’s no specific research about this in dogs.

However, there are many studies about urine marking.

Peeing and pooping might be 2 different things. But in this case, the reason could be similar.

So, when canines urine-mark, experts say that they tend to pee on vertical objects. Like plants, walls, and fire hydrants.

One study also reveals that they raise their rear legs as high as they can while doing it.

This is because the higher they pee, the bigger they’re going to be perceived by other dogs who will see it.

And when it comes to wolves, research also found that they leave their droppings on top of mountains. As it’s an efficient way to spread their scent even further.

So, canines may poop on upright objects too.

They might do this to enhance their cues – in terms of visual and olfactory. As those things are easily seen in a landscape.

Plus, they’re also higher. And this helps them to disperse their odor in longer distances.

How clever!

Not convinced?

Well, watch how this pooch made a special wall graffiti made from their own…(you know what I mean):

Don’t forget to check out: Why do dogs scratch the ground after they pee and poop?

#6: By searching for their old toilet place


Oh, there you are!”

You’ll also notice that dogs smell a lot before they poop.

It’s their way of gathering information about their surroundings. But, they may also do it to find the traces of their old stools.

VCA says that canines have noses that are 10,000 times better than ours.

So let’s say that your dog pooped in the corner of your room.

Even if you wash the soiled area with a cleaner, there’s going to be some odor left on it. (Probably substances you can’t smell. Such as pheromones!)

Read this next to know how to remove this scent: 9 Tips To Keep The House Clean When Your Dog Is In Heat

So when they sniff the area for the second time…

It could trigger them to poop there again.

And this is why dogs poop and pee in the same spot in the house.

“Why do they do that?”

Because of their scent, they might find the area familiar. Which makes them feel safe and comfortable while doing their business.

And if they often do it in that certain place, they may think that it’s the right toilet spot for them.

#7: By seeking a safe area

While pooping, dogs might also feel vulnerable.

They’re in a difficult position (in a squat). And they have some intense focusing to do as well. (We can somehow understand this, right?)

Now, this makes it hard for them to defend themselves against a possible threat.

So, what will they do?

They may search for a safer place to do their business.

It could be a familiar spot. Like what I said in the previous reason. But, dogs can also take other Fidos’ messages into consideration.

“What do you mean?”

By sniffing the surface, canines may find some cues left by other dogs.

Those aren’t only for marking territories. As they could also be used as warning signs.

According to vets, dogs can drain their anal sacs too when they’re scared.

These are grape-like pouches inside a dog’s anus. And they’re placed at 4:00 and 8:00 positions.

These sacs produce an awful-smelling liquid. Which is the one that I discussed earlier.

And sniffing this ‘nervous’ secretion can notify dogs of a possible danger nearby.

#8: By looking for a quiet place

Some dogs might also prefer a peaceful toilet spot.

Say, places that are far from busy streets. Or areas with fewer distractions. Such as other people and animals.

This is more common in canines who are naturally fearful. As it’ll be difficult for them to poop under stress.

You might also like: Why hasn’t my dog pooped in 4 days?

#9: By finding other dogs’ poop

This is also similar to urine marking. Wherein dogs pee on areas that were previously soiled by other Fidos.

But instead of urine, they use their stools instead. And this is to mask the other dogs’ odors.

“Why do they do this?”

For some canines, it might be a battle of scents.

This can be done when claiming territories. Or if dogs are competing for a female in heat nearby.

But, it could also be that they’re only answering a ‘dog mail’ left on the ground. 

And this is why they poop over or near other dogs’ dung. 

Interesting fact: Like canines, wolves can also be attracted to poop on top of others’ stools. This is from the study I mentioned before about wolves. And it was also found that members of the same pack leave their droppings in the same area.

#BONUS: By picking an area away from their hangout places

Lastly, most dogs may also like to keep their spot clean.

So if they usually sleep or eat in a certain area, that would be off-limits when it comes to pooping.

They may do it at the farthest corner instead. Or anywhere that’s far enough from their usual spots.

“Why do dogs do this?”

They might not be concerned about germs like us. As well as the foul smell that’ll linger in the area.

Canines may only do this due to their instinct. Like how they groom themselves when necessary.

People also ask:

Why do dogs look for a place to poop?

Dogs look for a place to poop because they want to leave a message for other canines. They might also be anxious or in need of a quieter place to do their business. While other dogs may only prefer a certain surface. 

The first one is called ‘scent marking.’

Dogs use their stools to communicate with others. And this is because their feces hold some info about them.

So for their message to be noticed, they have to find the right place to deposit their poop.

There are fearful dogs as well. And they may not be able to eliminate when it’s noisy. Or when they’re uncomfortable.

This is why it may take some time for them to settle down.

But, some puppies might also have developed a liking towards a certain surface.

For example, grass or soil. And they’ll be hesitant to poop on other substrates.

Why do dogs pee and poop in different places?

Dogs pee and poop in different places to mark territories. They’re leaving their scent in the areas as much as they can. But, they can also do this so that their messages are easily seen by others.

This could be a learned behavior as well. As some puppies might be trained to pee and poop in different spots.