#029–When dogs do their thing outside, what are they sniffing for?

(I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I LOVE “The Great Mouse Detective”–especially Toby, the hound).

Okay, so this is one the internet can help me with, but beyond the clinical gland secretions, marking and urination descriptions, most of these sites wouldn’t tell me one simple thing:

Are the dogs trying to find a spot to poo that is close to those other dogs, or far away from them?

After some more research, it seems to be either…depending on the situation.

It took me a while to get those answers, because my lovely dog, Bessie (aka, Puppy, aka, “you piece of shit”–said with all due affection by my dad which gets her little nub of a tail wagging) will not keep the nose to the ground like a hound dog in cartoons. But what she’ll do is sniff a bit, walk around, drag me behind her on the leash about 10-20 feet, sniff some more, wander around, make like she’s going to go (and with that close-bobbed tail, you can ALWAYS tell when she’s about to poo), changes her mind, walks some more…and on and on until she finally goes.


Yep, Miss Bessie on yard work day. She’s got the cutest face, but every time she sees my camera, she HAS to ruin her close-up. Huh–guess she really is my dog. I hate posed pictures.

It makes sense that dogs are looking for scent markers of other dogs. I’ve wondered about what is transmitted in those scents, and one article I found indicate that they’re basic communication (I call them “wee-mails”). Apparently, the secretions can warn other dogs of danger or something that scared the original “marker”…but what kind of danger prompts that response, I’d love to know.

I live out-county on a couple acres of land, and most people let their dogs have the run of the neighborhood (fencing’s not enforced in this neck of the woods). The worst thing about where I live is the major road is about a hundred yards from me. Since I’ve been here, it’s been known as a stretch of road where people dump their dogs and haul ass when they don’t want them anymore. Thankfully, I haven’t seen any new pup-faces around, but sometimes there’s a sudden influx of dogs.

This causes some problems, I’m sure, with the dogs that are already here, and the newbies–unless seemingly accepted or tolerated quickly–don’t last long. They end up living out by the main road; roadkill central, and not a pretty sight.

This is how we got Bessie. The vet told me most owners don’t like keeping female Heelers for some reason (she also says she’s a blue heeler/red heeler mix, with maybe a little something else in there). The owner was likely the one who bobbed her tail because no vet would make it crooked like it was. That might’ve ruined a chance to sell her, so they dumped her. She adopted us after taking shelter from a storm under our house–head-butted my dad behind the knees and then lay down belly-up like “I like you, pet me, please” when he went to check the mail. She’s been with us ever since.


Her first day in her new home, June 2014. She was 5 months old and 26 pounds. And boy does she STILL have abandonment issues.

Now that she’s a veteran dog, she ends up running next door to find out all the info she can on the dogs that have been coming by to leave wee-mails on my neighbor’s plants (and then I have to get the leash and drag her home).

I wonder if that’s some of the dangers these “home-dogs” are sniffing for, trying to see if any newbies have moved in or are trying to. Many home-owners around here can try to be compassionate (nobody wants to see a dead dog), but they can only do so much and don’t want to entice reluctant owners to keep doing what they’re doing on that main road.

A vindictive part of me would like to set a trap for the idiot who decided to get a dog and then just abandon them like that–I’d love to find a way to get them in trouble–grr!

Perhaps that’s the biggest danger around here, but I wonder if they can smell how ill another dog might be (something I read once suggested the possibility). According to one vet on VetStreet.com, most of the time dogs are sniffing for the pecking-order, and marking over others below their social status.

Hmm…what does the social status of dogs look like? Funny how my sillier questions always generate bigger ones.

In my case, the hierarchy and marking patterns may be a way of telling newbies to move on. Some newbies, though, if they come through too quickly or too many at one time, have caused problems. My neighbor across the street found her dog dead after being chased and fighting with a group of dogs that had just shown up. They apparently left (or were probably killed in the interest of protecting other dogs and property–that does happen around here).

I wonder if that’s some of the danger they find…and that’s why my Bessie’s going to stay in the backyard with me and the frisbee or on the leash when we’re out and about. She’s super friendly, but has target fixation…at least the squirrels give her decent exercise when she gets tired of walks!

Still, makes me wonder about the lives of dogs, especially the fixed ones that can’t go dating (and no, I don’t care to watch the urban-sanitized comedic version in “Pets.” Rural dogs have it a LOT different out here).

4 thoughts on “#029–When dogs do their thing outside, what are they sniffing for?

  1. PiedType.com says:

    I live in the suburbs and Annie only gets to do her business in my fenced backyard. Which raises a different but related question: What is she sniffing for when she’s in her own yard, where no other dogs have visited? When we’re out on walks, she can only go as far as her leash allows, but she sniffs everything within reach, especially posts, fire hydrants, etc. She doesn’t mark them like a male would, but I guarantee she knows every dog that’s ever stopped there.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Andrew says:

    I know that canines have an ability of scent several times beyond the most sensitive human, so I imagine what they’re smelling are sorts of things within 100 or so yards upwind. My dog, a German Shepard, is a serial sniffer and will run around with her nose scraping along the ground seemingly smelling nothing in particular, then suddenly, ninja poop and keep moving. If I’m not watching her, I only see her doing it about half the time. Doesn’t make for a good relationship with the people in the neighborhood. My opinion is that she’s just looking for some rabbit poop to snack on, but I have no real proof. The logical part of me says that they’re just marking up their territory for other dogs to stay away or to say they’ve been there.

    Liked by 1 person

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