Dog Science Series: Why Do Dogs Stare at You When They Poop?

When nature calls there's only one thing to do: answer it.

Poo, poop, potty, defecation. No matter what each individual dog owner or pet parent chooses to call their pooch's potty break, every doggy does it. For most pet owners, a dog's bathroom behaviors are purely transactional. We walk them, or let them out the backdoor, they do their business, and then life goes on. If you were to delve deeper, however, you would find a world of scientific curiosity around the average dog's bathroom break.

Today we're going to answer the question, "Why does my dog stare and make eye contact while they go potty?" We're also going to explore some fun, science-related facts surrounding the subject.

The Science of Dog Poop

Poop is poop, right? At its worst, it's a pretty disgusting subject. At its best, it gives dogs, their owners, and their respective veterinarians a peek at a dog's general health. By examining your dog's waste products, you can tell a lot about the condition of the animal. A veterinarian can tell much more, even diagnosing major gut issues well in advance. There's more scientific value to your canine's behavior than simple medical interventions, however.

Next time you take your fur baby out for a walk, pay special attention to their body language when they square up to begin defecating. Nine times out of ten, your best friend will turn their body to face north. While scientists are still largely unsure of the significance behind this particular potty behavior, this shows that on some instinctual level that the animal can sense the earth's magnetic field. No matter the reason behind the phenomenon, researchers have directly observed this behavior in our canine companions for decades.

Here's one more fun and interesting fact about dog poop: it's loaded with high-value, canine-centric information. Dogs use urine and feces to mark their scent and claim territory. When dog A finds dog B's excrement, it tells them all manner of information, including:

  • The dog's general age
  • The dog's gender
  • The dog's health
  • The dog's emotional state when it eliminated

In a way, your dog's potty is like a cross between an online message board and a deed of ownership. Think of it as a greeting, a warning, and a fence all in one.

Why Does My Dog Look at Me While They're Pooping?

Now onto the central question: why does my dog stare when it is going poop? Fortunately, you don't have to visit a canine behaviorist in order to find the answer. As it turns out, the reason is simple and makes perfect sense given typical doggy nature.

In order to understand why your furry friend stares you down when they are going potty, you have to take typical canine behavior into account, i.e. the fact that dogs are pack animals that demonstrate a solid social hierarchy.

Chances are, your dog sees you as an alpha in the pack. That means that their stares, eye contact, body language, and facial expressions communicate a certain level of respect and deference to their primary human. But there's an even simpler explanation.

When a dog is in its pooping position, it is a very vulnerable moment for the animal. For a pack living out in the wild, exposing themselves in such a manner is a very danger situation to be in. Any number of predators could launch an attack against the dog while its attention is diverted. Therefore, a wild dog would maintain, eye contact with their packmates during this vulnerable position in order to mitigate potential disaster. In this case, that pack mate is you!

As with the majority of typical dog behavior, these habits are hard-wired into the animal's psyche, and those traits have made the transition to domesticated animals. So when you let your fuzzy pal out the backdoor for a bathroom break and they begin to stare straight through you, remember that it is for their own safety. As the dog parent, they are looking to you to watch their back and ensure nothing attacks or hurts them during their moment of extreme vulnerability.

To paraphrase Dr. Kathryn Primm, noted veterinarian and author, potty time is a dog's most vulnerable moment. That's why extra vulnerable behavior is perfectly par for the course during your faithful friend's bathroom breaks. Don't be creeped out when pooch maintains eye contact with you while they are doing their business. Our advice? Take it as a compliment!

Do Dogs Get Embarrassed When They Poop?

Let's take a look at the anatomy of your dog's potty session. If both your dog training and potty training efforts have been successful, your dog will eliminate outside after letting you know that they have to go. So you let your pooch out into your fenced-in backyard and wait for them to do their business.

First, they assume their pooping position. After selecting the perfect spot, watch for them to spin around and face north as noted above. If they don't, it's no big concern. And then it happens: the eye contact and stare down. Your pooch turns their head to look back at you and you see their dark, watery eyes looking sad, even embarrassed. Trust us, they're not.

Dogs don't feel shame or embarrassment over necessary, day-to-day activities like elimination. Instead, those sad, somber eyes are simply a defense mechanism that canines have developed over the years.

You want the best for your dog. For more great educational resources, as well as great products designed to help improve your pet's sense of wellbeing, please contact Animal Matter, Inc. today.

FAQs:

Do dogs like to be watched when they poop?

When in a pooping position, the dog's personal preferences matters very little. They aren't thinking about their likes or dislikes, only their safety.

What if my dog sits and stares at me while I'm on the toilet?

As long as you are ok with it, don't worry! It means that your dog trusts you, respects you, and cares about your approval. You are their pack leader!

What do dogs look at if they're outside alone while pooping?

Nature and instinct both present a harsh challenge to your pet. If they can't make direct eye contact with you, they will look toward their home, as well as periodically checking behind themselves for signs of danger.

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