Most pooches exhibit this common behaviour before they do their business – they sniff the ground and go round in circles. While there hasn’t been any proven theory or study to explain the behaviour, a video by DNnews discussed various theories. Here’s three of them.
• Mark Their Territories
These territorial hounds are intelligent animals and naturally, they mark their territories with urine or faeces. The circling motion is their way of leaving their trail of scent behind and thus, telling other dogs that they have claimed the turf.
• Clean Environment
Just like people, dogs want a clean, neat and personal bathroom experience. However, they prepare for that by circling before they excrete. The repetitive motion helps them flatten the ground and trample down branches so that they can defecate in a safe and comfortable spot.
• Magnetic Fields
A 2013 study published by scientific journal Frontiers in Zoology and conducted by scientists from the Czech University of Life Sciences in the Czech Republic and the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany showed that magnetoreception might be the reason behind this circling behaviour.
Magnetoreception is a type of sensory perception when animals use magnetic fields to perceive direction, altitude or location. The study, which lasted two years, observed a total of 70 dogs (spread over 37 breeds) during defecation and the results showed that dogs preferred to excrete with their body aligned along the North-South axis under the earth’s magnetic field.
Circling could be their way of searching for the best alignment before they excrete. Researchers are still unclear on the reasons for this preference – whether they can sense the magnetic field and if they do it “consciously” or whether its reception is controlled by how they feel in a certain direction.
They mentioned that more research has to be conducted because ‘normal’ magnetic conditions occurred only in 30 percent of the cases studied for this work.
* This article was updated on 9 July 2020. It first appeared in Pets Magazine, 24 July 2017.