After doing her business, my dog Sookie will almost always kick up the grass with her paws. And if there's a dog nearby, she'll kick longer and with more vigor. My previous dog, a male Corgi mix named Mikey, would do this whenever he saw other dogs, and I've always wondered if she got the habit from him.
Many dogs do this backward scratching, and many owners assume that it's to cover up the spot they just went to the bathroom or clean their paws. It can be annoying for some people, especially if your dog is kicking up your freshly landscaped flowerbed or leaving divots in your lawn. Or, in Sookie's case, kicking dirt onto passers-by on the sidewalk — that's always fun.
Why do dogs kick their feet after going to the bathroom? Let's look at their true motives.
Why Dogs Kick and Scrape Their Feet
Your Dog is Scent Marking
Dogs use scent to mark territory and send messages to other dogs. There are scent glands on and in between your dog's paw pads. Scratching the grass after urinating or defecating helps spread the pheromones secreted by these glands around the area.
Scent marking isn't only about marking territory and isn't limited to just male dogs either. Dogs gather quite a bit of information about each other from smelling where other dogs have gone to the bathroom or kicked their feet, including the age, gender, stress level, how healthy the marking dog is, and whether they are open to any "special attention." When your dog is doing their post-potty dance, they're letting the world know who they are and that they've been there.
Should You Be Worried About Your Dog's Kicking?
This kicking behavior is completely normal dog behavior. But sometimes they might start kicking in not the best choice of location. When Sookie starts kicking in an inappropriate spot (like when she starts to kick dirt onto the sidewalk), I simply redirect her attention to me using her name and then continue on our walk. If your dog is scent marking in your yard, consider taking them on leashed walks to provide an outlet for their scent marking and kicking. Or designate a particular area of the yard for bathroom business and kicking, away from your flower beds or garden.
Check Your Dog's Paw Pads After Kicking
After your dog kicks up grass, be sure to check for things like rocks, burrs, or foxtails that might have gotten in between their toes. You don't want their harmless kicking to turn into a medical emergency! Click here to learn more about caring for your dog's paw pads to keep their feet clean and healthy.