Have you ever witnessed your furry friend kicking their hind legs right after doing their business? It’s quite an amusing sight, almost as if they’re tidying up by wiping their paws. Not all dogs display this behavior, and its intensity can vary. Some may simply kick each paw once and move on, while others kick and alternate their legs multiple times.
The exuberance with which some dogs kick can sometimes embarrass their owners. They might even kick up clumps of dirt and patches of grass, leading to irritated homeowners scolding you for allowing your beloved pet to ruin their neatly maintained lawns. But what prompts these kicking episodes, and is there anything you should do about it?
Is It Normal For Dogs to Kick After They Poop?
The act of kicking their hind legs after elimination is commonly known as ground-scratching, and it is entirely normal dog behavior. Interestingly, this behavior is not unique to domestic canines but has also been observed in their wild counterparts, including wolves and coyotes. Many animal scientists believe that it serves as a form of communication among dogs.
Ground-scratching is considered a composite signal that encompasses both chemical and visual components of communication. The kicking motion serves as a visual display for other dogs and helps spread the scent of urine. Since urine odors dissipate quickly, the marks left on the ground through scratching act as longer-lasting indicators of the dog’s presence in the area.
Some scientists propose that this behavior aids in scent dispersal, not just through spreading urine but also by leaving odors from the dog’s paw pads. Scent can be released from a dog’s interdigital pads, commonly known as paw pads.
On the other hand, some researchers believe that dogs employ ground-scratching as a means of conveying visual messages to their canine peers. When dogs engage in ground-scratching, they typically score the ground with slashes. These slashes tell a story to any dog that comes across them, even in the absence of other dogs.
Interestingly, a study by Bekoff (1979) on free-ranging dogs revealed that ground-scratching was more likely to occur when other dogs were physically present. It often accompanied a raised-leg display, with or without urination, and could also follow defecation. Male dogs engaging in ground-scratching were frequently avoided by other dogs during and immediately after the act. However, the presence of urine or slashes on the ground did not deter other dogs from approaching.
Are Certain Dogs More Likely to Kick After Pooping or Peeing?
Ground-scratching is observed in both male and female dogs of all sizes and breeds. According to Bekoff’s observations, approximately 9% of males and females exhibit this behavior. Free-ranging dogs tend to display ground-scratching more frequently when conflicts arise with other dogs outside their pack.
Another study focused on shelter dogs found that senior dogs were more likely to engage in ground-scratching compared to adult and juvenile dogs (McGuire, 2016). Moreover, they were particularly inclined to do so after defecation. Dogs that scratched the ground after defecating also displayed this behavior after urination at least once.
It should be noted, however, that ground-scratching does not always occur after every urination or defecation. Sometimes, it may occur after a dog has simply sniffed the ground.
Reasons Dogs Kick Their Hind Feet After Pooping
Having established some insights into why dogs kick up grass or scratch the dirt after relieving themselves, let’s explore the reasons behind their behavior.
Research suggests that ground-scratching occurs more frequently along territorial boundaries in free-ranging dogs. For pet dogs, you might notice that they are more likely to exhibit this behavior in your yard, in front of your home, or in areas near your residence. It’s possible that dogs use this behavior to signal their frequent presence to other dogs in the vicinity. Remember, when they kick their hind paws, they also leave behind the scent from their paws in the dirt or grass.
In the case of free-ranging dogs, ground-scratching behavior is more likely during encounters with unfamiliar dogs. Within a pack, higher-ranking dogs tend to engage in ground-scratching more frequently. Other dogs tend to keep their distance from individuals displaying this behavior. It could serve as an intimidation display, leaving visual markers in the form of scratches on the ground. However, scratches might be less noticeable when urban dogs kick up their paws against hard sidewalks.
Feel free to let your dog kick their feet after pooping or peeing, as long as they aren’t excessively disturbing the dirt or grass or causing harm to their paws or nails through vigorous scratching.
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