If you have ever noticed your dog kicking its back legs after going number two, you are not alone. Not all dogs exhibit this behavior but it is completely normal. It looks like they are trying to cover it as a cat would after doing its business in the litter box. The truth is, it’s an important way of communication and has nothing to do with cleanliness.
How Is This A Form Of Communication?
When you notice your dog forcefully kicking up the dirt and grass behind them after defecating, they are exhibiting the behavior known as “scrape behavior.” This is a unique and lesser-known way they mark their territory.
A dog’s paws are much more complex than our feet and serve more purpose than just cushioning their stride. There are glands within the paws that release pheromones that are left behind as travel. These pheromones are much stronger and stick around much longer than the feces they just dropped or even the urine that is used to mark territory. When your dog goes number two, the scents are combined for a stronger message.
The release of pheromones within the paws is a form of communication between dogs that goes completely unnoticed by us humans. It all comes down to their keen sense of smell. Other dogs that come across the territory will be aware this area has already been claimed by another canine.
This behavior can be a visual display for other dogs as well. In addition to the scent message, the disturbed area in the grass will let other dogs know that another has already been here. You may notice some dogs will only kick after defecating if another dog is present.
Why Do Dogs Mark Their Territory?
Our canine friends have evolved over thousands of years for species survival. As we know, dogs are descended from wolves, the wild wolves and other species of wild dogs must claim their territory for the sake of obtaining prey, land area and to keep competition away.
When your dog marks their territory, whether by spreading their pheromones with their paws by kicking up the area around them or by urine-marking they are telling other dogs that they are present in this area, and it is already claimed.
Can This Behavior Be Stopped?
The good news is that this is a completely normal, healthy behavior your dog is displaying and there is no need to be concerned. The bad news is that this can cause damage to the lawn or area they choose to do this on. Some dogs will display this behavior on other surfaces within the household.
Typically, the behavior will not cause any harm to your dog unless they hurt their pads on rough surfaces or debris. It can however damage a well-maintained lawn or surfaces within your home. If it becomes too problematic, you can work to train your dog to stop the behavior.
If you plan on training your dog to stop this behavior, redirection and positive reinforcement are key. Refocusing their attention before they act is essential for redirection to work effectively. If your dog does this behavior regularly, you will be able to pick up on cues as to when they are about to start kicking.
The redirection needs to take place just before the kicking begins. This could be done by offering them their favorite chew toy or starting a game of fetch just after they’ve relieved themselves. Make sure to reward them when this is successful and keep consistent with this training.
You can always designate an area of your yard for your dog to use the bathroom and ensure they have already pooped before going on a walk through the neighborhood to avoid lawn damage. Keep in mind this is a natural behavior and if they are not causing damage, there is no harm in letting dogs be dogs.
It turns out that when your dog poops then begin to kick up dirt and grass afterward, they’re combining the scent of the feces with the pheromones coming from the glands in their paws to send a message that this territory is claimed. The rustled grass can also act as a visual cue for other dogs. This is normal, natural behavior that has been passed down over thousands of years and is used in wild by wolves, coyotes, and other wild dogs.
Featured Image Credit: Pezibear, Pixabay