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Why do dogs smell before they poop?

Dogs have a keen sense of smell and rely on their noses to gather information about their environment. When a dog is preparing to defecate, it is normal behavior for them to sniff the area first. There are several reasons why dogs smell before they poop:

To Find a Suitable Location

Dogs like to relieve themselves in certain preferred locations, away from where they eat, sleep, and play. By sniffing around, they are able to detect a suitable spot to do their business that meets their preferences. This may be a particular section of the yard, next to a tree or bush, on a walk, etc. The smells help guide the dog to an appropriate spot.

To Mark Territory

A dog’s urine and feces carry its scent. When dogs defecate, they are essentially leaving their mark and communicating with other dogs that may pass by later. By sniffing before they poop, dogs can gather information about whose territory they are in and find the best place to leave their droppings and scent.

To Check for Hazards

Dogs have a strong sense of self-preservation. Before putting themselves in a vulnerable position to defecate, they will first sniff around to check for potential threats or dangers. This may include sniffing for predators, loud noises, or unstable surfaces. Their keen sense of smell helps them gather important safety information.

To Stimulate the Bowels

Sniffing stimulates the dogs’ digestive system and can trigger the urge to poop. The smells send messages to the brain to coordinate the body for pooping. So smelling around can actually help get the bowels activated to pass feces more quickly.

Instinctual Behavior

Most dogs have a natural, ingrained instinct to sniff around before they poop. Wild canines and wolves do this to scope out areas and select ideal spots. The behavior has continued in domesticated dogs, even though they may have less purpose when pooping on a leash or in a yard. The instinct persists.


Sniffing before pooping is completely normal behavior for dogs. They use their highly developed sense of smell to find the right place, get territory information, check for dangers, stimulate their bowels, and follow innate tendencies. While humans may find it a bit odd, it is important not to interrupt or discourage this natural canine behavior. Understanding why dogs sniff before they poop can help owners appreciate and accommodate this need.