How Dogs Choose Their Bathroom Spots

husky puppy sniffing in grass

Taking a dog out to do their business can sometimes seem like a circus act or performance act. Your dog may sniff and go, run back and forth a few times, spin around in a circle, and more. It can seem like a whimsical, nonsensical thing and may make you wonder what goes through your dog’s mind. Knowing how dogs choose their bathroom spots may help shed some light on this seemingly weird behavior.

How Does a Dog Pick a Bathroom Spot?

For the most part, the spot your dog picks to go to the bathroom is all about scent and scent marking. Although most people think of a dog peeing to mark their territory, they will also use poop to do it. Dogs’ noses can pick up a lot of information from scents. They can tell how many dogs or other animals have been nearby, whether they are friends or foes, and how long ago they were on “their” territory.

They can also use these scents as a warning sign and more. Sniffing everywhere before doing their business is your dog gathering information and then determining the best spot to place their own scent, whether it’s reclaiming their territory or marking new boundaries for other animals. Additionally, the olfactory cues they pick up from other dogs’ business can encourage them to go to the bathroom as well.

Why Does My Dog Take So Long to Choose a Spot?

If your dog seems to take forever to choose a spot to go to the bathroom, you’re not alone. For your dog, it can be a combination of territorial strategy, sniffing to gather information, getting distracted, being nervous, and more, including magnetic poles.

Surface Preferences

They may even have preferences for the surfaces on which they go to the bathroom. Some dogs will refuse to eliminate on bare dirt and will only go on grassy surfaces. Sometimes puppies who were potty-trained on paper or pads can find the transition to natural surfaces intimidating or difficult. Weather like rain, cold, or snow can also throw some wrenches into the equation as some dogs will refuse to go to the bathroom in certain weather conditions.

Nervousness or Distractions

A nervous dog or a dog experiencing anxiety often takes longer to go to the bathroom as that nervousness carries over into their outdoor time as well. Some dogs get what seems to be performance anxiety and have trouble going to the bathroom in public or they may have too many distractions. For these dogs, empty streets, quieter times of day, and some privacy can go a long way in making them more comfortable and getting them to do their business.

Magnetic Poles

It sounds like something straight out of a science fiction novel, but there is some evidence that it’s true – dogs are sensitive to the magnetic poles. They tend to like to go to the bathroom along the North-South axis. So, yes, the earth’s magnetic fields may have an influence on how your dog chooses a bathroom spot and where they go. This may also help explain why some dogs spin around before they go to ensure they’re doing their business in the right direction.

Spending More Time Outside

Your dog also likely takes a long time to choose a bathroom spot simply because they like being outside. They enjoy taking in the smells and walking around. If you tend to keep walks shorter or go back inside right after your dog goes to the bathroom, they may take longer to choose a bathroom spot as a way to stay outside longer. Adding more leisurely walks into the mix or spending more time outside after your dog has eliminated can help them realize that they don’t need to hold it as they’ll still get to stay outside after they go.

Having some insight into why your dog does what they do can help you understand your dog’s behavior better and respond to it more effectively. You can even train your dog to respond to a “potty cue” that helps encourage them to take care of business faster, so you both can enjoy more time outside together.