Have you ever noticed how your pooch seems to stare at you while going potty? Not all dogs do it, but most do. And there’s a good reason for it. While we enjoy privacy when using the bathroom, it turns out our dogs want the exact opposite. Your pup not only doesn’t want to be alone, but also wants to be able to see you and know that you’re there… watching. The reason for this somewhat awkward moment finds it roots way back in history.
So, what it is that makes for this uneasy exchange? The answer is, in a word, primal.
Let’s go back 15,000 years or so. This is arguably around the time we “domesticated” dogs, although some would claim they domesticated us. Before this, dogs stuck together, taking care of one another. Just like people.
Around this time the Ice Age is coming to a close. This is a time when wooly mammoths and saber-toothed tigers walk the Earth. It’s a very dangerous time for both people and animals. This is the Stone Age. We are limited to basic tools, such as spears and blunt instruments, to keep from being part of the menu. However, with the addition of dogs to the clan, we now have someone who can help keep us safe, and we do the same for our furry friend in turn. But make no mistake, this is still a dangerous time when being a part of a clan, or a pack, isn’t just more enjoyable, but your life depends on it. It’s about survival.
Today, it’s very much the same way. For a dog, you are part of its pack. A major part… the alpha. We like to say our pup is a part of the family. Either way, there is a tremendous amount of love, respect and expectation that comes along with this. It’s a huge responsibility.
You Watch My Back. I Watch Yours.
Your dog will always be there for you. And you will always be there for your dog – I think we can all agree on that. With that being the case, when our pooch needs to “use the facilities,” there is a huge amount of trust that our dog places in us: that we will watch his back, warn against impending danger and defend him – with our lives if necessary. When a dog defecates, it’s a very vulnerable time. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “get caught with your pants down?” It’s the same for dogs. When they go to the bathroom, they aren’t in a great position to defend themselves, and they are aware of it. So they look to us to do it for them.
What Should You Do?
When your pup is doing his duty, he looks to you and your body language to signal if he should be afraid of impending danger. He may also be looking to you to possibly defend him should the need arise. If you react suddenly, your pup will react and be prepared to pounce. While you may find it uncomfortable just standing there, watching your dog go potty, it brings your pup a sense of peace. So take it as a compliment. This is a sign that your fur ball truly trusts you. Here are a few additional things you can do when your dog is answering nature’s call.
After all, this is why your pup is looking at you. Be aware of any potential threats or danger. If something doesn’t look right, be prepared to keep your furry friend safe. And it’s not just danger you’re looking out for… a passerby, a loud car or other noise can also be alarming, so keep a watchful eye.
Don’t Make Any Sudden Moves!
Unless necessary, don’t make any sudden or jerky motions. This will cause your dog to think something is wrong, or there’s an impending danger. Just imagine yourself using the bathroom, and some smarty-pants outside yelling, “FIRE!” Not funny.
Say something nice.
“Who’s a good dog? You’re a good dog!”
It may just be “going potty,” but praise your pup. If you’ve ever potty trained a dog, you know exactly what I mean. Use a calm, soothing voice. And if you notice something that you think might startle your pup, assure them that everything is normal, and there’s no cause for alarm.
Give Them Space
Even though they look at you, they still need a little space to do their business. No one knows your dog better than you, so just how far will depend on your pup. Just make sure they know you’re there.
Make Eye Contact
This may be uncomfortable for some, but it’s a great way to reassure your dog that everything is okay. “No need to worry. I’ve got your back. Just do what you’ve gotta do.” In fact, looking into your dog’s eyes may be good for you, too.
Eye contact isn’t a one-way street. It benefits you, as well. A 2009 study of hormones and behavior concluded that when your dog gazes at you for an extended duration, a hormone known as Oxytocin is secreted by the posterior lobe of your pituitary gland at the base of the brain. Oxytocin is also known as the “cuddle hormone” or the “love hormone” due to its release when people snuggle up or bond socially. This physiological response is very similar to that shared by a mother and infant.
The Scoop On Poop.
While all of this may seem a little strange, it’s just part of the relationship we have with our canine companions. Not all dogs are alike, so pay attention. Some dogs may need to look at you once just to make sure you’re there while others may need constant eye contact. Find out what your dog likes. After all, it’s all the little differences that make our pups such a wonderful part of the family.