When you let your furry friend out to do their business, have you ever noticed them kicking up grass, sand, or dirt behind them? You might think it’s just a way for them to keep their area clean, but it’s actually much more than that. This behavior is a form of communication and a safety mechanism for dogs.
A Sophisticated Communication Network
Dogs have glands in their paws that release pheromones, triggering social interaction with other dogs. These pheromones last longer than the scent of urine or feces, making them more effective as a communication tool. So, when your dog kicks the ground, they’re actually marking their territory and sending a message to other canines.
If you’ve ever sniffed your dog’s paws, you might have noticed a specific smell that isn’t necessarily a sign that they need a bath. It’s likely that your pup has recently stimulated the pads on their paws to produce pheromones and spread their unique scent. While we can’t see these chemical reactions, they’re as powerful as putting a mailbox with your last name out in front of your house to claim your property.
This behavior can be traced back thousands of years when dogs lived in the wild and had to fend off predators. In the presence of other dogs, kicking the ground acted as a protection method. So, your dog isn’t trying to ruin your lawn, but rather asserting their dominance and letting other dogs know who’s in charge.
But kicking the ground isn’t always a warning signal. It can also serve as a way for dogs to communicate to their fellow canines that there isn’t a present threat in the area. If another dog comes near, they’ll immediately know that another member of their species is close by. So, when surrounded by other dogs at the dog park, it’s normal for this action to go into overdrive.
When Kicking Becomes a Problem
While kicking grass is a natural behavior for dogs, they sometimes perform this action on other surfaces like kitchen tile, concrete, the living room carpet, or even the sofa. Not only can this result in damage to your property, but it can also be harmful to your furry friend if done repetitively on rough surfaces.
If you notice your dog kicking excessively, be on the lookout for signs of injured paw pads. Their pads can become sore, damaged, and could eventually crack or bleed. If this happens, consider using paw balms and creams temporarily to provide relief.
It’s also essential to pay attention to when kicking becomes an aggressive behavior or a sign of anxiety. If your dog has started kicking grass more frequently, try to identify any factors that might be contributing to their behavior. It could be a new puppy in your home, a new dog in the neighborhood, or perhaps something else that has changed recently, making them feel anxious.
Training to Help Curb the Behavior
Fortunately, if kicking has become a problem, you can train your dog to learn coping mechanisms that can help improve their manners and social skills. Consider enrolling your dog in Canine Good Citizen (CGC) training, where they can learn practical skills such as sit, come, down, and stay. By teaching your dog incompatible behaviors, you can redirect their excessive kicking.
The Canine Good Citizen program is open to dogs of all ages, both purebred and mixed-breed. There are no limitations on who can participate, and the American Kennel Club (AKC) offers separate training for puppies called AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy. They can help you find a CGC evaluator near you who provides training and testing.
Remember, when your dog kicks the grass, they’re not just trying to keep things clean. They’re communicating with other dogs and asserting their presence. So, embrace this fascinating behavior and let your dog be a dog!