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.
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 game of tug, your dog likely learned to throw a little happy party after eliminating. If your dog comes running towards you with a happy expression on his face, it's possible that this behavior stems from all these past positive associations with the act of eliminating.
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. 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. 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!
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, but several dog breeds are hairy back there or sometimes their poop is hanging down by a string of ingested hair or blade of grass. Doggy dingleberries, anyone? 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 on their owners, but "ahhhh" it feels so good when that piece finally falls off. Soon, the dog 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 vet.... check the dog's anal glands to make sure they're not full, something likely especially if 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. According to Dr. Patty Khuly, dogs have glands in their feet that secrete pheromones, and those backward scratches do a good job in releasing those chemicals.