Why Do Dogs Kick Up Dirt After They Potty

by Perfect Puppy Care

Dirt Pile

You’re certainly not alone if you have ever puzzled over why dogs kick up dirt and grass after they relieve themselves. This may be one of the most asked questions since man domesticated dogs.

The answer in a nutshell is that the dog is marking his or her territory by leaving a message about themselves. Marking is one of the main components of a canine’s natural and instinctual ability to communicate through their own kind of messaging system. It also allows them to leave messages for other species of animals.

The marking of grass and dirt is successful in part due to the fact that dogs have scent glands in their paws. The scratching movements release secretions that provide a lot of information about the dog.

Dogs exude pheromones when they urinate or defecate. While the pheromones may mean nothing to us, they speak loads to other dogs. Pheromones include information about a dog’s gender, age and overall health. The secretion of pheromones is a means of leaving messages about themselves that other animals will understand.

A dog that marks his or her territory could be telling other dogs that this is their turf. It warns other animals to the fact that the dog has claimed a particular territory and there could be consequences for any animals that invades it.

Some experts believe that dogs scratch up dirt and grass because they feel the need to cover one’s own scent from the enemy. This is a trait that is said to have been instinctively learned from wolves.

One might ask why do dogs mark areas they have never before visited. In some cases, it may be that the new dog in town is making a show of dominance. The visiting dog could be showing intentions of taking over and becoming the alpha dog. The dog could also be communicating that he or she is capable of being strong in battle, so it is wise to allow the visiting dog pass through without incident.

In other cases, it can also be a case of the dog communicating through the release of pheromones that it means no harm by infringing on another dog’s territory. Their scent tells other dogs that they have no intentions of encroaching on another’s territory. They just want to pass through without intending harm to any animal.

Although it is almost impossible to change a dog’s natural instinct, there are a few things you can try if Fido is being too destructive to your yard. Start by observing what your dog does when he or she does their business and follows with the scratching and covering movements. Take note to how many steps your dog takes when doing the actual marking.

Once you identify a pattern, you can try to interrupt it. It may be possible to use the dog’s favorite squeaky toy. Simply squeak the toy just before the dog begins his or her scratching routine. This may be enough to make them forget the need to scratch and cover. If your dog is motivated by treats, try offering a treat in place of the sounding the squeaky toy.

If the need to break your dog of the natural instinct to kick and scratch up grass and dirt isn’t a priority to you, you can minimize the damage done by the dog’s nails by keeping them trimmed. Longer nails will dig up more grass and dirt and do far more damage than shorter ones.


  1. Phoenix Thread says:

    I have three dogs, and I was never surprised when the boy would kick and scratch after he “did his business.” I figured it was something about marking his territory, like your post suggests.

    But when my two female dogs started copying the behavior, I was perplexed. I didn’t think females were supposed to mark their territory.

  2. Shayde says:

    My female pit always kicked and scratched when she did her business. I always thought it was because she was happy with herself since it looked like she enjoyed doing it so much. My M-I-L had 2 cocker spaniels, one male, one female and they both kicked. The female learned from the male and we always encouraged them to do it. I have a new puppy now, she’s 3 months old, and she hasn’t kicked yet, but I hope she does, it is such a cute behavior and every dog I’ve seen doing it looks like they’re having fun.

  3. Milo's Dad says:

    I always thought it was Milo, my male Boxer, revving up his gears after her relieved himself….letting me know he was about ready to take off, kind of like a bull that is about to charge. He does all four paws, and I have to take strong hold of his leash, otherwise, he’s gone.

  4. Trey says:

    I am fairly sure they do this to make sure their feet are clean and to remove anything that may have gotten on their paws. I have a female lab that does it all the time.

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