Why oh why does my little dog sniff?

Wow. Don’t get over here to GQ much. I like what you’ve done with the place. Anyway, my question:

When I take my one dog out to poop, he always walks all over the place sniffing the ground, then suddenly finds his spot and lets fly. What the hell is he sniffing? Isn’t one place on the grass just like another? He dosen’t even pick the same place consistantly.( I always scoop, so if he was looking to fill up one spot, it would always be empty. Which brings up another point. I wonder if my dog is looking at me as I scoop up his business thinking " Why in the blue blazes does he want THAT??) My other dog just stops whatever he is doing and crouches. He makes absolutely no pretense of looking for a 'spot", he just lets go. Can anyone answer this question? If its relevent, the first dog is a Shephard/Rottie/Beagle mix and the second a Lab/Border Collie mix. Dog pictures here.

Please note that the above refers only to solid waste. I know dogs use urine to mark territory.

I’m not a dog expert, wierddave, but it’s my understanding that dogs will also use poop piles to mark their territory. The difference in behavior between the two dogs is probably just plain old personality differences - dog 1 feels a need to mark his territory, dog 2 could care less, he just wants to shit and get it over with.

We sometimes have dogs boarding at the vet clinic that won’t used the bathroom in our outdoor exercise pen (which we shit-scooping professionals prefer), so we have to hand walk them outside. We’ve found that walking them over to a spot where a dog has previously defecated will usually inspire them to do the job right then and there, instead of wasting 10 minutes carefully sniffing the entire lawn. They just gotta compete with that other dog’s shit!

Dogs definitely have scent glands that, shall we say, flavor their feces. Exactly what purpose it serves, I don’t know, but territory-marking may have something to do with it. My younger dog sprays anal fluid when she is fightened, and damn! but it stinks. Unfortunately, she gets fightened by just about everything, especially unfamiliar people.

I would also guess that the sniffer is the more dominant of the two dogs. More dominance = more territorial behavior. Even though you pick up the poop dogs have excellent noses and he can most likely tell where it was. He’s spreading his influence. Does he ever scrape the ground afterwards? This would be additional dominant/territorial behavior.

My german shepherd is Mr. Alpha Male in our 3 dog pack, and he does this intent sniffing-around bit before pooping, too. The other two don’t bother - just plop down wherever. It’s even funnier when they pee. Dog C pees right away, just wherever, with dogs A and B watching closely. Then both A and B pee on that spot (with A always peeing last.) Then B goes off and pees somewhere else. A proceeds to pee all over B’s spot, then goes off and pees on several other areas. No one ever bothers to pee on A’s spot, since they know he would just pee there AGAIN. It’s his job, you see. They have this dog “business” hierarchy all worked out.

Dogs act a lot out of instinct - not that we always understand them! Desmond Morris explains a lot of this interesting behavior in Dogwatching.


Thank y’all for your input. I am not sure if the dominance theory hold water, because I don’t know which one of the dogs is the alpha dog.(I’ve even talked to the vet about it, and she seems baffeled too.) Both exhibit A dog behavior. Both pee on t’others spot. Both do things to the other that A dogs doo. It’s a real puzzle. Of course, I have established myself as the Alpha dog,( you shoukd have seen me peeing around the neighborhoot. How the neighbors stared!:D) so maybe I just have 2 beta dogs who can’t sort things out between them. There is no doubt amongh the dogs, however, that I am the boss. Any other ideas?