Facts about the animal kingdom

Why Does My Dog Look at Me While They Poop?

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: September 1, 2022
Why Does My Dog Look at Me While They Poop?
Dogs

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It is not often we have someone try to make eye contact with us when we do our personal business. When a dog looks at us when they poop, it can seem disconcerting. It may even make some people feel uncomfortable as we don't quite understand why a dog wants to share this personal moment with us. Making eye contact while defecating is a natural canine behavior and it shouldn't have any negative connotations. Moreover, it is likely an example of the strong bond you share with your animal.

If you want to know more, AnimalWised asks why does my dog look at me while they poop? By explaining this behavior, you will not only alleviate any doubts, but you'll be able to focus more on enjoying your time together.

Contents

  1. Why do dogs look at you when they poop?
  2. Dog stares at you while pooping due to positive reinforcement
  3. Why does my dog look directly in my eyes?
  4. Why does my dog look at me out of the corner of their eye?
  5. Why does my dog look at me while I sleep?

Why do dogs look at you when they poop?

Dogs preserve certain instinctive behaviors inherent in their species and passed down from their wild ancestry. In the wild, defecation is a delicate time for these animals. They are more vulnerable to environmental risks such as an attack by a predator or rival. In order to urinate or poop, they must assume a certain body position which takes effort and compromises their ability to escape quickly. The act of evacuating themselves will also distract their other senses and reduce alertness to their surroundings.

At these moments, a ‘surprise attack’ could be fatal. The position in which the dog holds themselves means they may not be able to defend adequately against an attacker. Escape is also made much more difficult. For this reason, animals usually search out safe spaces in which to meet their needs. These are places which are less exposed, hidden from others and where the animal knows a suitable escape route.

Looking vulnerable is often more frequent in generally fearful or insecure dogs. This insecurity can manifest in many ways, such as when dogs are afraid of people. More confident dogs will use their feces as a way to mark their territory and show dominance.

Although we may not think of our garden or the local dog park as a wild environment, our dogs may do so. They will often feel more vulnerable in these spaces, perhaps getting more confident the more they get used to them. When they poop in these places, they may look to you for reassurance that they are safe and no threats are present. A dog will often do this by looking at you out of the corner of their eye, but they equally might stare directly at you when they poop. This helps them feel more secure as you are their guardian who meets their needs in other ways (food, shelter, etc.).

When people ask themselves why do dogs look at you when they poop, many people think it is due to embarrassment. This is not the case. It is easy to understand why they think this. The expression dogs make when pooping often connotes embarrassment, as if they are ashamed of pooping outside. This is a misunderstanding of their communication.

A dog's body language involves postures, movements and facial expressions. The stare a dog gives when pooping is practical alertness, not a display of shame. Dogs are incapable of feeling shame in the same way as humans do and they would not feel embarrassment about pooping, something that is completely natural to them. They are certainly not ashamed for being watched by their trusted guardian.

It is this trusts which explains why dogs stare at you when they poop. When a dog has a healthy bond with their human, based on trust and affection, they want to look at you for reassurance. This is a practical reassurance against threat, not because they are worried about human constructions like social stigma.

Dog stares at you while pooping due to positive reinforcement

When we adopt a dog into our lives, one of the fundamentals of training is to teach them to poop outside or in a specific location. It is important to remember we can also train adult dogs to do this, as long as patience and positive reinforcement is employed. Rescue animals often need this training due to their previous states of deprivation.

During the dog training process, positive reinforcement is used, often in the form of treats. Treats are given once the dog defecates in the right place to show them they have done a good thing and encourage them to do it again in the future. Dogs can assimilate this exchange as habit and come to expect it every time. This means that when they poop, they may be looking to you expectantly for their reward.

This is why we must vary the elements we use as positive reinforcement. Using treats only will not only lead to unhelpful expectations, they might lead to poor health in terms of weight problems. We should offer them toys, walks, petting and other forms of entertainment to encourage healthy cognitive, emotional and social abilities.

Read our related article to learn more about how using positive reinforcement in dogs can benefit them.

Why Does My Dog Look at Me While They Poop? - Dog stares at you while pooping due to positive reinforcement

Why does my dog look directly in my eyes?

As we often discuss here at AnimalWised, dogs predominately use nonverbal language to communicate with us, other species and other dogs. Their entire body is used to transmit useful information about their mood, emotions and understanding of the world around them. Their eyes are a fundamental tool in terms of body language, especially when they stare at us. They convey a lot of information about their personality, desires and state of well-being.

To communicate with our dogs and establish a positive relationship, we must know how to interpret their body language and what their facial expressions may be trying to convey. Dog owners have a responsibility to ask questions and seek to understand what their pets are trying to say to them. Understanding our dog’s needs will build up the relationship and you will reap the rewards just as the dog will.

Unfortunately, much of the resources available online either present misinformation or provide contradictory advice. For example, some sources claim staring at a dog is the equivalent of giving them a hug with your eyes. However, staring intently and directly at our dog is more likely to be seen as an act of aggression or at least a ploy for dominance. If we do not already have a positive relationship with our dogs, it can result in distrust towards both us and other animals.

Why does my dog look at me out of the corner of their eye?

Often dog owners will wonder why their dog looks at them out of the corner of their eye when they poop or at any time. They may even worry this is a sign of distrust. When this is done while pooping, it can seem inconsistent with their general feelings towards us. However, as well as looking at our types of body language, we must try to understand the different looks our dogs give us.

If your dog looks at you out of the corner of their eye, but otherwise shows signs of calm (such as yawning or putting their eyes back), it usually means they don't understand you. If you try to call out while they are pooping or are even addressing someone else within their earshot, they may look out of the corner of their eye in confusion. If this happens regularly, it is possible it can generate some discomfort. However, more often than not they are isolated incidents which don't need much consideration.

Why Does My Dog Look at Me While They Poop? - Why does my dog look at me out of the corner of their eye?

Why does my dog look at me while I sleep?

Hopefully a dog staring at you while you sleep isn't also pooping at the same time. This could mean you wake up to an unpleasant situation in the morning. However, it is quite common to wake up to a dog staring intently at us. This is a very common behavior in many dogs. The explanation is not completely unrelated to why a dog stares at us when they poop.

In the wild, sleeping is also a vulnerable time for dogs, much more so than when they defecate. As dogs are pack animals, they will often sleep in shifts with one or more animals staying awake while the others sleep. This is so they can observe their territory and sound the alarm if a threat arrives. A dog might be staring at you while you sleep as they are trying to protect you.

Some believe that dogs also watch over their owners if they worry about them. Many people suffer from sleep problems such as apnea. If we make changes in our breathing or movements while sleeping, our dogs might be looking at us to ensure our well-being. There have even been reports of people being woken by their dogs due to their having stopped breathing, although these may be difficult to substantiate.

As much as we try, we are unlikely to ever fully know what a dog is trying to communicate. Getting to know our pets and strengthening our bonds will help us to best interpret their needs. When it comes to dogs looking at us while we're sleeping, however, there is another important reason. They want something from us, whether it is a walk, breakfast or simply some company.

If you want to read similar articles to Why Does My Dog Look at Me While They Poop?, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

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Katherine Laramy
Great Information
Administrador AnimalWised
Thank you Katherine!
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Why Does My Dog Look at Me While They Poop?