Humans are often bothered when their dog stares at them while pooping. Yet, in a dog’s mind, staring while pooping is natural.
I thought my days of talking about poop ended once my sons matured and got past bathroom-themed jokes. Since we’ve had numerous clients question this behavior, we thought why not write a blog about pooping.
Here are several different possibilities for this behavior.
We are all familiar with the idiom don’t get caught with your pants down. Basically, dogs fear the same thing. When a dog goes to the bathroom, their posture leaves them vulnerable. This position slows the speed of their fight or flight capabilities.
We also know that dogs have a ‘fight or flight’ mentality. While our family dogs no longer have wild boar and mountain lions on their tail, they are instinctively aware of possible dangers. We can thank genetics for this.
This trepidation explains why some dogs will only poop in their yard, some dogs hide when they poop, and others stare at their owners while pooping. Basically, it is all about safety. When you added your dog to your home, you became a family. Or in the canine world, a pack. Just like family, there are unwritten rules for dog packs. One of those rules is to protect one another.
Therefore, one reason your dog may stare at you while he poops is to make sure you have his back. You can prove you’re reliable by using one of the following responses:
- Scan the area to ensure nothing scary will interrupt your dog while he relieves himself. If you notice something scary approaching, do your best to shield your dog from this possible trigger.
- Avoid sudden movements. Unexpected and quick movements could startle your dog or unnecessarily alert him to a danger that isn’t real.
- Look back at him every so often and praise him. Turning your back on your dog sends the message that you don’t have his safety in mind.
This behavior may also be your dog’s way of keeping an eye out for your safety too. He may stare to ensure nothing scary happens to you while he’s indisposed.
Have you ever paused to stare at a loved one while they were off doing something on their own? When they look back at you, your heart explodes with love.
Eye contact, touch, cuddles, hugs and kisses all raise your levels of the hormone known as oxytocin. Dogs experience the same hormonal highs. Oxytocin is also known as the attachment hormone. When you catch your dog staring at you, he is feeling all warm and fuzzy. Dogs just have no shame and have no problem multitasking while they poop.
When your dog stares are you, whether or not they are pooping at the time, smile back. You can even tell them that you love them. The sound of your voice will enhance their happiness.
Many of us suffer from FOMO (the fear of missing out). Just think back to the last time two of your friends socialized without you. Feeling left out never sits well with us.
Dogs are pack animals. In their mind, it is insane to spend time alone. The world is too dangerous for that. If your dog tends to look for, or follow, you on a regular basis, she is likely making sure you don’t disappear or have fun while she is on a bathroom break.
If this sounds like your dog, refrain from walking away. Remain in the area while she poops and maybe praise or speak a few words to her. It is not necessary to get close or pet your dog during this time. We all appreciate a little space while using the bathroom. This includes dogs too.
Approval and Rewards
What are two tips dog trainers and family members give when you are housebreaking your puppy? The first is to mark the behavior you are seeking. This is a common practice when teaching our dogs to eliminate outdoors. The second is to treat your dog for eliminating in the appropriate space.
Can you blame your dog for looking at you while going to the bathroom? Heck, you are the keeper of treats. The praiser. The feel-good person. Your dog knows exactly what she needs to do to get praise or treats. She eagerly stares at you, ensuring that you know it’s time to reach into your pocket and present that little bit of deliciousness.
When your dog looks to you while eliminating, even though housebreaking issues were solved years earlier, praise your dog.
While humans find it inappropriate and uncomfortable for dogs to stare at them while pooping, understand it comes from a place of love, trust and approval.
We want to hear from you. Does your dog poop and stare? What other strange habits does your dog exhibit?
Written by Katie McKnight
ISCDT‘s online program consists of 18 hands-on lessons, where students are required to work with dogs. Skill and ability is determined through a series of videos submitted to your personal ISCDT mentor. Students are also responsible for written homework assignments. In addition to the online program, we also offer one-and-two-week in-person internships. To learn more about the courses we offer, visit ISCDT.com
Photo credits: Top photo: Charles Deluvio, Second Photo: Richard Brutyo, Third photo: Charles Deluvio, Cover photo: Kieran white