Why do dogs run after pooping? It's almost a comic scene, your dog has a bowel movement and the next thing you know he's running off as if some imaginary poop on legs is chasing him, what gives?
Rest assured, you are not alone, countless dogs engage in this behavior and it's one of those favorite "why do dogs?" topics at the dog park. Turns out, as with many other dog behaviors that appear quirky to us, dogs may have several good reasons for doing the "victory race" after having a BM.
Introducing "The Poop Party"
If you have trained your dog to go potty outdoors, most likely you have provided some form of positive reinforcement when he successfully eliminated in the yard instead of on your expensive Persian rug.
Whether you gave praise, treats or a rewarded your dog with a fun game of tug, your dog likely learned to throw a little happy party after eliminating. "Look at me, look at me, I just pooped!"
If your dog therefore comes running towards you with a happy expression on his face, it is possible that this behavior stems from all these past positive associations with the act of eliminating.
A Matter of Negative Reinforcement
The act of eliminating has somewhat an element of reinforcement on its own. Negative reinforcement takes place when something unpleasant is removed the moment the dog (or an living organism) engages in a certain behavior.
Because that certain behavior feels good, providing relief, it's prone to repeat in future instances. That's the power of reinforcement. Reinforced behaviors tend to strengthen and repeat.
For instance, if a dog feels the heat of the sun, moving to a shady area will provide reinforcement as the dog has escaped the unpleasant feeling of heat and it feels good to be in the shade.
If the dog is thirsty, a trip to the water bowl will provide reinforcement as it removes the sensation of thirst. When a dog is hungry, eating provides reinforcement under the form of satiety.
Ever seen dogs throwing a little party after eating? It's quite common too and explained more in depth here: Why do dogs go crazy after eating? Some call them these the "post-prandial zoomies." Something similar happens as well when dogs get the zoomies after a bath.
In the case of eliminating, it may feel good when the dog eliminates as he removes a sensation of pressure, especially if he has been holding it all day when the owner was at work since 8 in the morning!
Of course, emptying bowels is something totally natural, but it's reinforcing nonetheless. Throwing a little party by romping around may be the dog's way of celebrating the sensation of relief. Perhaps this moment of "poop-phoria" is simply the dog's way of saying; "Ah! I feel so much better now!"
A Sticky Situation
There's an additional form of negative reinforcement that may be at play when a dog runs after pooping. Let's face it, dogs have hairy bottoms. Not all of them do, but several dog breeds are hairy back there and sometimes their poop gets stuck on their hair.
On other occasions, if the dog recently ingested grass or even your hair, it may happen that the poop is hanging by a hair or blade of grass and the dog feels it and grows concerned.
So sometimes, poop may get caught back there and the dog immediately feels that something is wrong. Some dogs run and get panicky when this happens and they'll even try to rub their bottoms on objects or even on their owners, but "ahhhh" it feels so good when that piece finally falls off.
Soon, the dog therefore learns that running a victory lap after pooping feels good even when there's no piece stuck back there.
Check the 'Exhaustion"
In some cases, running after pooping may be a sign of something not right in the dog's rear end compartment. The dog may feel some sort of itch or pain back there.
It's not a bad idea to have a mechanic, errr veterinarian.... check the dog's anal glands to make sure they're not full, something likely especially when the dog has a history of scooting or licking his rear end, suggests veterinarian Dr. Bone.
Another possibility is the presence of parasites which are known for causing annoying irritations. So not a bad idea to also get those doggy stools checked.
Did you know? Dogs who do the poopy dance after going potty where they kick the dirt with their back feet do so as a way of marking. This is because dogs have glands in their feet that secrete pheromones, and those backward scratches do a good job in releasing those chemicals.
Now That You Know...
As seen, dogs have their own good reasons for running after pooping. If your dog likes to do the victory dance after pooping, most likely he's just celebrating a sense of relief.
However, if your dog seems in distress or in pain, it's a good idea to visually check things back there and consult with the vet if the behavior persists.
A word of caution is needed in the case of dogs who have ingested some foreign body like cloth, strings or debris that is sticking out of the dog's butt. In such cases, it is best not to pull considering that these strands may be caught on the dog's intestines and pulling them even slightly could tear into them, warns veterinarian Dr. Hughes.