When your dog is done doing their business, they might kick at the grass underneath them in a backward motion, almost as if to wipe their paws and cover up the damage. While it looks like they are trying to be helpful by “cleaning up,” there is more to the act than it seems.
It can be embarrassing enough when out with your dog, and they decide to poop on someone’s front yard or right next to the sidewalk as the homeowner looks directly at you. But it can be even worse when they kick the grass and tear it up in clumps.
In this scenario, you might not even know how to proceed. Do you try to put the clump of grass back into the earth? Will that even work? How about a sheepish wave and apologetic grin to the homeowner?
If you’re wondering why your dog does this behavior and if there is a need to stop it, keep reading to learn more.
Is Kicking Up Grass Normal for Dogs?
The behavior of kicking up grass after using the bathroom is quite normal for dogs of all shapes and sizes. This behavior is known as ground-scratching; it’s a signal that helps other dogs in the area know that your dog is around. Ground-scratching is a way for your dog to communicate with the other dogs in the neighborhood by combining both visual and chemical components.
Most behaviors you see from your dog do have a reason, and this one is no different. While it’s considered normal for a dog to kick their hind legs back and scrap them on the ground after using the bathroom, it might not be so widely accepted by humans.
Many people become embarrassed by the damage it can cause and will try to stop their dogs from doing it: This can be difficult because it is a natural behavior that your dog has ingrained in them.
Reasons Why Dogs Scratch Up the Ground
Dogs don’t just do things to do things, usually. We might not fully understand, but most actions your dog does have a purpose behind them.
Scientists have studied this phenomenon and come up with a few different reasons for what could be happening when your dog kicks the ground:
For one, when a dog kicks at the ground after they have gone to the bathroom, they are spreading their scent. Not only will this action kick the urine or feces particles further from the spot where they lay, but by scratching, your dog leaves their scent directly from their paws.
Scent can be released from your dog’s paws, so this is a way to leave a mark for longer than the urine scent might last. (PS: dog paws are pretty awesome — dogs sweat through their paw pads!)
Your dog might be trying to mark their territory when they kick the ground. This often depends on how close to home your dog actually is because you might notice this behavior is strictly happening on and around your own property.
When they do this, it signals to other dogs that they frequent this location. It’s not likely aggressive, either. It might be because your dog wants to let other dogs know that they exist and are not a threat — an “I come in peace” type of thing.
One study found that ground-scratching was noted more frequently when other dogs were present. This means that it might be more likely to happen at dog parks or when surrounded by other dogs. It’s a way for some dogs to show dominance and can deter other dogs from approaching if they see it happening.
It might also attract more canines to come over and smell the ground and maybe even mark it as well, but usually, this is done after the first dog has finished.
When dogs are in a space that they’ve never met before, ground-scratching is a way to assert some sort of dominance in the scenario. This is more likely to happen when a dog is unfamiliar with another dog and might want them to stay away from them.
Ground-scratching seems to have some sort of hierarchy to it, with more dominant and self-assured dogs doing the behavior the most to uphold their high status.
Will It Become a Problem?
This is a very natural behavior that you don’t necessarily need to stop, only if it becomes dangerous to the pet or damages a neighbor’s lawn. If your dog exhibits this behavior frequently, you’ll want to keep an eye out for damage to their paw pads.
The scraping, especially if not always done on grass but concrete, can cause cuts or burns on your dogs’ paws that could be extremely painful.
How To Discourage Ground-Scratching
If your dog kicks chunks of grass up every time they go to the bathroom, you might need to stay vigilant so that they don’t damage you or your neighbor’s lawns.
To stop a pup from doing some personal landscaping after using the potty, you can try to distract your dog with a high-value toy or treat. You could also try to replace the kicking with a trained behavior — a spin, high-five, or similar trick.
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Ground Scratching by Dogs: Scent, Sight, and Ecstasy | Psychology Today
Scent‐Marking Behavior in a Pack of Free‐Ranging Domestic Dogs – Cafazzo – 2012 – Ethology | Wiley Online Library
Ground Scratching by Male Domestic Dogs: A Composite Signal | Journal of Mammalogy | Oxford Academic