After going potty, you might have noticed that dogs have a tendency to use their paws to kick and dig up the surrounding areas. At first, it might seem like they’re simply covering up their poo or wiping their paws — but as it turns out, there’s an actual reason and logic behind the habit!
Almost every dog owner has noticed their pup engaging in this behavior, and most people don’t really give the action a second thought. Our dogs, however, are much more interesting and complicated than we give them credit for.
Kicking their paws up in a backward motion is so much more than just wiping off a mess.
Dogs have glands located in their paws that release unique pheromones; they often will rub or scratch their paws along the ground to release a “territorial scent.” This might explain why your dog might seemingly stop in their tracks to kick backward for a moment or two — they’re letting other dogs know that they’ve “claimed” the area.
This type of behavior within canines is the way they establish a hierarchy and who is in charge within that territory. Much like urinating on objects in the area, releasing their pheromones through their paws lets other dogs know who’s boss.
Whether it’s establishing rank in a new territory, or defining an alpha-dog status, dogs will do their “potty dance” for dominance reasons.
This behavior doesn’t only apply to the biggest or scariest dog — both Chihuahuas and German Shepherds alike perform this normal bathroom behavior. In fact, a previously dominant or alpha-dog may cease to scratch their paws on the ground if another dog has established a stronger presence.
Another reason that dogs may engage in kicking up the dirt or grass after going potty may be the fact that they are literally trying to spread the scent of their “business” to more ground. Both male and female dogs engage in this type of behavior.
Wolves, foxes, and dingoes also exhibit this type of scent marking in the wild.
Backward kicking or scratching with their paws is completely normal behavior. In fact, if you notice a change in behavior or cessation in kicking or scratching, you might want to consult your veterinarian as there could be a larger underlying issue. This type of change could mean your dog is suffering from a paw injury or arthritis.
Although this type of behavior is very normal, it can wreak havoc on your lawn and grass. To prevent as much damage to your back or front yards as possible, make sure to take your dog for long and frequent walks, so they do their business away from that hard-earned green grass.
It might seem like kicking up their paws is silly, but as it turns out — there’s a rhyme and a reason for their odd behavior!