By Dr. Alison Birken, DVM
One of my favorite parts of being a veterinarian is hearing and seeing all the funny and quirky things that pets do. Many times, pet parents want to know if a certain behavior is normal or acceptable from their pet.
One of the most common dog behaviors I get asked about is the bizarre instance of dogs kicking back their hind feet after pooping. Is it normal? Should you be concerned? Why do they do that?
Why Do Dogs Kick Back Dirt After Pooping?
While it may appear that dogs are doing this to cover up their mess, this is in fact not the case. This dog behavior is a way to mark their territory.
By nature, and in the wild, canines are territorial. Marking an area with scents from urine, feces and their paws sends the message to other canines that this is their territory.
In fact, canines have scent glands in their feet that secrete pheromones, a chemical that triggers social reactions and interactions amongst other canine species.
The scents released from dogs’ feet is more pungent and lasts longer than the scents of urine and feces. When a dog kicks the ground after defecating, they are releasing pheromones onto the ground.
In addition to the scents from feces and urine, these pheromones relay territorial claims, sexual availability, possible food trails and warnings of danger. This act of releasing pheromones as a form of communication also affects a dog’s behavior as well as their overall body functions, involving organs, hormones, behavior and makeup.
Should I Be Concerned That My Dog Is Kicking Back After Pooping?
This dog behavior is harmless, and you should not be concerned about it. Kicking dirt after defecating is an instinct and part of their dog pooping habit. It is natural for them to communicate this way, and I encourage my clients to let them go about this dog pooping ritual uninterrupted.
Although my first response is to allow dogs to perform this behavior, many pet parents do not want their landscaping destroyed with holes and ripped-up grass.
If this is the case, I recommend walking your pet on a leash a few times a day so they can do this elsewhere. You may also try to designate an area in your backyard that is acceptable for your pet to use, and train them to go to that area.
I hope this article helps to clarify one of the mysteries behind this funny, quirky dog habit. Try to keep in mind that this behavior is instinctual for them, and they not only feel compelled to communicate in this way, but they also enjoy it. So the best response might be to stay out of their way and take a video of this strange and funny ritual.
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