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It seems strange seeing dogs circle before they do their business and go potty outside. What is going on here? Is there a rhyme or reason as to why they do a roundabout before they do their business? 

Circling before urinating and such is not uncommon but it’s also not a behavior that all dogs exhibit. What do we know about this pre-potty dance? While the facts are not strong and many are still scratching their head, there are theories and studies that have been conducted around this topic. Here’s what we learned.

Circling Before Release Explained

According to, the theory of this behavior of circling is your dog preparing for potty time. The movement encourages “a fast and smooth elimination experience”. In addition to that, dog paws have sweat glands that assist with marking territory, so they’re also marking their spot in the process. also theorizes that this behavior may be of their wild origins. 

They share, “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.”

Not all share this theory. In fact, according to a Reader’s Digest article, a Czech researcher by the name of Hynek Burda didn’t quite buy into those theories. The researcher expanded on his contrasting thought saying dogs evolved from wolves and they don’t have such worry about tall grass. Arguing against scanning the environment, Burda explained that if they were scanning their environment, keeping still and observing would be more of their nature than a quick scan of their surroundings. 

His claim? The magnetic field.

The Researcher vs. The Theories

Hynek Burda conducted a study that would have him and his team spending two years pooping and peeing in their environments. There was a common theme of dogs circling and facing one of the earth’s poles. 

Reader’s Digest summarized, “When the magnetic field was calm (which it is about 20 percent of the time when it’s light out), dogs preferred to poop facing either north or south. When the magnetic field was less stable, they faced any ol’ way.”

Supposedly this is also an explanation for why dogs kick up the grass after they’re done going potty. 

What do you do if they only circle and spin?

If your dog is struggling with potty time and you see them continuing to circle or move on to the next potential potty location, change your walking route or path to give them a lay of the land and options. If that doesn’t help, consult with your trusted local veterinarian. It’s possible that they are actually constipated and are strugggling to release. The veterinarian may recommend changes to your dog’s diet or a change in their exercising routine.

This is just a sampling of tips and informational posts we offer at Joyride Harness. You can find more content including tips and tricks and how-tos for caring for your dog on our blog in this section.

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