Why Does My Dog Smell His Own Poop? Instincts

If you’re a dog owner, you may have observed a peculiar behavior in your furry friend: smelling their own poop. 

While this behavior can be quite perplexing to us humans, it is essential to remember that dogs are driven by instinct and have a unique way of perceiving the world. 

In this article, we will explore the reasons behind why dogs smell their own feces, shedding light on their natural instincts and behaviors. 

Understanding this behavior can offer valuable insights into the minds of our canine companions and enhance our relationship with them.

The Incredible Canine Sense of Smell

To comprehend why dogs engage in this seemingly unpleasant behavior, we must first appreciate their extraordinary sense of smell. 

A dog’s olfactory abilities are thousands of times more potent than ours, allowing them to detect scents we cannot even fathom. 

From identifying various substances to understanding the emotions of their fellow canines, smelling is an integral part of how dogs experience the world.

Gathering Information

One primary reason dogs sniff their own feces is to gather information about their health and well-being. Canines possess a scent memory, and they can recognize their own smell. 

By smelling their poop, they can gauge their health, assessing any changes in their diet or potential illnesses. 

This behavior may also help them determine if they are adequately digesting their food or if there are any abnormalities in their gastrointestinal system.

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Communicating Through Scents

In the wild, canines use their sense of smell as a form of communication. By leaving their scent on feces or urine, they mark their territory and convey essential information to other dogs in the vicinity. 

This instinctual behavior dates back to their ancestors, the wolves, who relied on territorial markings to establish boundaries and avoid conflicts.

Covering Their Tracks

Dogs are descendants of predators and prey alike, and the instinct to cover their tracks is deeply ingrained. In the wild, leaving feces out in the open could attract predators or alert prey to their presence. 

By sniffing their poop and potentially covering it with dirt or grass, dogs are instinctively protecting themselves from potential threats.

Seeking Comfort and Security

Believe it or not, your dog may find comfort in the familiar smell of their poop. Puppies, especially, are known to engage in this behavior as it brings a sense of security. 

When they were with their mother and littermates, the mother would stimulate elimination by licking them and cleaning up afterward. The scent left behind provided comfort and reassurance.

Nutritional Reasons

In some cases, dogs may not fully absorb all the nutrients from their food, leading them to detect the lingering smell of undigested material in their feces. 

This can lead to them re-ingesting it to gain those essential nutrients. If you suspect this might be the reason, consult your veterinarian to ensure your dog’s diet meets their nutritional needs.

Boredom or Anxiety

Just like humans, dogs can develop behavioral quirks when they are bored or anxious. Sniffing their own poop could be a result of stress or a way to alleviate boredom. 

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Providing mental and physical stimulation through interactive play and regular exercise can help curb this behavior.

Medical Issues

In some instances, excessive poop sniffing could indicate an underlying health issue. 

Gastrointestinal problems, anal gland issues, or dietary allergies could cause changes in the odor of their feces, leading to increased interest in sniffing. 

If you notice a sudden and persistent change in this behavior, it’s essential to consult your veterinarian to rule out any potential health problems.


While the behavior of dogs smelling their own poop may be puzzling to us, it is essential to remember that they are driven by instinct and have unique ways of perceiving the world around them. 

Their extraordinary sense of smell and their ancestral history play significant roles in this behavior. As responsible dog owners, understanding these instincts can help us provide a loving and enriching environment for our furry companions. 

If you have any concerns about your dog’s behavior or health, consulting with a professional veterinarian is always the best course of action.