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Why does my dog like to smell poop?

Many of us have noticed some strange behaviors in our dogs. Many of them revolve around their bathroom habits. One of the most puzzling things our pooches do is smelling poop. It smells horrible to us, but dogs seem fascinated by it.

Why does my dog like to smell poop?

Why do dogs smell poop? Essentially, it’s because they use poop and urine as a form of communication. When your dog is smelling poop, they are gathering a huge amount of information. 

Dog Poop Sniffing Anatomy

Dogs have two anal glands. These glands apply the dog’s scent to their poop, which gives them a way to mark their territory. However, they learn much more than who has visited the area. 

Dogs have noses that are 10,000-100,000 times more sensitive than humans. They also have the ability to pick up individual information within the overall smell.

For example, when you smell a perfume, you likely aren’t picking up individual notes of rose, vanilla, sandalwood, and musk. Your dog, however, would pick up on these details and much more. While humans devote 5% of their brain to smell, dogs use 30% of their brain to process scents. 

Dogs actually have a Jacobson’s organ, just as snakes do. In addition to using their nose to smell, they use the Jacobson’s organ as well. This allows dogs to process things that have no detectable scent, including pheromones. 

What Do Dogs Learn From Poop? 

Information contained in poop includes the dog’s diet, sex, age, health, and if they are open to breeding. Other information includes the dog’s emotional state and details about their home environment. Even a human’s dating profile doesn’t contain nearly this much information!  

Why does my dog like to smell his own poop?

A dog sniffing another dog’s poop certainly has a gross-out factor for us, but at least it makes sense. They want to learn about their neighbors. But why on earth would they need to smell their own poop? 


Curiosity is a trait common in dogs, and it’s thought it may have developed as part of their survival mechanism. Your dog may be smelling its own poop out of simple curiosity. 

Familiarizing With Their Smell 

Your dog may smell their own poop just to get familiar with their own scent. It’s important for your dog to be able to identify their own smell, so they can distinguish it from the smell of other dogs. 

When they are sniffing the local poop mail, they want to know if it’s theirs or someone else’s. This is common in puppies and young dogs, because they are just starting to learn their own scents. 

Health Check-In

It might sound strange, but your dog can actually perform a health evaluation by smelling their poop. 

Your dog can pick up on lots of health information from their poop. It can let them know if they are developing a health problem, if they need to adjust their diet, and lots of other information. 

Checking Their Message

When you send a text message, you often read it to make sure you are conveying the right message. Your dog can do the same by smelling their poop. 

Of course, its benefits after the fact is limited. Ask anyone who has ever sent a text message they immediately regretted. But it does give your dog a clear picture of exactly what the message said. 

Why does my dog smell other dog’s poop?

Your dog smells other dog’s poop to learn about them. As we learned earlier, poop is a major method of communication for dogs. Dogs essentially explore the world with their noses and their mouths, where humans rely on their eyesight. 

Because poop contains so much information about the dog, it plays a role in their social structure and relationships. 


Dog’s developed such sensitive noses because it was best for the survival of a species. It may seem frivolous to us, but your dog is acting on their natural survival instinct. 

Can dogs get sick from sniffing poop?

Sniffing poop is a normal part of socialization for dogs. Unfortunately, there are many diseases that can be passed to dogs in poop. Even close contact like sniffing can expose your dog to disease. 


Intestinal parasites are a common problem for dogs. They may not show any symptoms early on, allowing them to expose other dogs through their poop.

As the worms reproduce inside the dog’s digestive system, they may lose weight, become anemic, and be lethargic. They may experience stomach issues, including vomiting and diarrhea. Severe infections often cause coughing as well.

Parasites that can be passed through dog poop include hookworm, tapeworm, and roundworm. People can also contract these worms if they handle or step on infected poop. 

Salmonella and E. Coli

Salmonella is rare in dogs, because their immune systems are usually able to fight the disease off. E. Coli is more common. In fact, there have been dog food recalls because they were contaminated with E. Coli. 

Both cause gastrointestinal distress, including diarrhea and vomiting. These diseases often require veterinary treatment. Antibiotics can be prescribed for salmonella. 

In severe cases, the dog needs to be hospitalized. This prevents dehydration, which can be deadly if fluids and electrolytes aren’t restored in the body with iv fluids. 


Parvo is a serious and highly contagious virus. The technical name is canine parvovirus. It usually infects the intestines, causing diarrhea and vomiting. Loss of appetite, rapid weight loss, and fever or low body temperature can also occur. 

However, in young puppies, it can infect the heart. This is known as cardiac parvo, and dogs who contract it rarely survive. 

Infected dogs release high concentrations of the virus in their poop. If a healthy dog smells the poop, or even an infected dog’s butt, it can contract parvo. 

It can also be contracted from shoes that have picked up the virus from contaminated feces or soil. In fact, parvo can survive for one year in the soil, and dogs can get infected by coming into contact with infected dirt. 


Distemper is a viral disease. It can be transmitted through secretions from the eyes and nose, urine, and feces. Objects that come into contact with infected fluids or poop can also infect dogs. Your dog can contract distemper from smelling poop. 

Fever, reddened eyes, and a watery discharge are early symptoms. As the disease progresses, symptoms include lethargy, tiredness and eventually anorexia.

Coughing, vomiting and diarrhea can occur during the advanced stage of the disease. The virus can affect the central nervous system, causing seizures and paralysis. 

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough causes a forceful cough. It can also cause a fever, runny nose, loss of appetite, and lethargy. Treatment often consists of rest. Inhalers and steroids may be given as well. 

Kennel cough is very contagious. Other dogs can contract it from airborne particles released when coughing or sneezing, as well as from feces. 

Canine Influenza

Dogs can get the flu, just like humans can. It is also highly contagious. Droplets from coughing and sneezing, objects exposed to the virus can also transmit it. It’s also transmitted through feces. 

Symptoms of canine influenza include sneezing, coughing, fever, lack of appetite, and fatigue. Some strains of canine influenza can also be transmitted to people. 

What should I do about my dog smelling poop?

Smelling poop is a natural instinct for dogs, but that doesn’t make it sanitary or safe for them. It’s best to prevent your dog from smelling poop whenever possible, to avoid exposure to diseases that could harm your dog. 

Pick Up Poop

One of the simplest ways to keep your dog from smelling poop is to pick it up before they get the chance. Do your part to prevent poop smelling by picking up your dog’s poop. Consider bringing extra poop bags when you go for walks and pick up any piles you find left behind. 

Keep Your Dog Leashed During Walks

It’s difficult to keep your dog from smelling poop if you can’t control them. Leashing your dog when walking will help your dog avoid potential hazards, including poop. 

Be vigilant when something catches your dog’s eye, or nose. If a smell that’s caught their attention, ensure that it’s not a pile of poop they want to investigate. If it is, lead your dog away from the poop. 

Leave It

The Leave it command is useful in many everyday situations. When it comes to poop sniffing, it’s particularly useful when your dog isn’t leashed.

Essentially, any time that your dog goes for something you want them to leave alone, you say leave it. It’s easy to see how handy this is, but it does take some training.

Start with a treat in a closed fist. Hold it out in front of you. Your dog will likely sniff and nibble your hand. Eventually, they should stop and move away. 

As soon as they do, say “Yes” and give them a high-value treat from your other hand. Never give the treat in your closed fist, because this is what you are teaching your dog to “leave”. 

When your dog reliably backs away at the sight of your closed fist, start saying “leave it” as soon as they start to move away. Then give them the high-value treat. 

When you are confident your dog has a solid grasp of this skill, you’ll increase the difficulty. Place the leave it treat under your shoe. Begin by saying “Yes” when your dog backs away. Then move to saying “Leave it”. Reward your dog with a high value treat each time they “leave it”. 

Next, place the leave it treat in front of your shoe. Follow the same process, until your dog is reliably following the command. Lastly, you can try a trial run. Place a few items your dog enjoys but isn’t allowed to have, like paper, socks, or shoes, in the yard. If they walk towards them, say “leave it”. If they comply, give them a treat. 

Now your dog should be ready to follow the “leave it” command when they encounter poop. If they are successful, be sure to give them lots of praise. They are going against their own instincts, so it’s not an easy thing to do. 

Wash Your Dog’s Feet 

It’s a good idea to wash your dog’s feet after walks. Even if you don’t see any poop piles, it could be mixed into the soil. Some diseases can be contracted through the paws. Washing your dog’s feet will ensure that any parasites or diseases they picked up on the walk will be removed from their feet before it can make your dog sick.