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Why does my dog kick the ground with his hind legs?

 by lucy on 09 Nov 2016 |
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Many dog owners are puzzled when their canine companions tear at the ground with their hind feet after eliminating. Often, they assume the behavior is similar to a cat’s— that their pooch is attempting to “cover up” his mess. This couldn’t be farther from the truth, though. As the act of eliminating itself is one of your dog’s ways of marking his territory, so is the foot shuffle that follows.


Foot scraping is a relic of dogs’ past, when their wild ancestors needed to mark off vast swaths of territory. Compared to humans’ 5 million scent glands, dogs have a whopping 125 to 300 million— meaning their sense of smell is magnitudes higher than our own. Dogs have glands in their feet that secrete pheromones—chemical signals that help animals communicate with each other— and a few backward scratches in the dirt releases those chemicals into the area and the noses of other hounds. This likely came in handy when our canines’ relatives needed to mark and protect territories too large to for them to patrol on a daily basis. Feces loses its scent once it dries out, after all, but the scent from dog’s feet lasts longer. This not only may have helped our canines’ ancestors protect valuable hunting grounds, but also guard fertile pack mates.
 
Dogs’ foot scratching almost always follows defecating or urinating, and this makes sense when we consider our pets’ behavior surrounding the ritual: Every owner has patiently waited as his dogs picks the perfect spot to perform his duty, after all. Eliminating is just one way your dog leaves his scent behind, and hind-leg scraping is Fido’s way of doubling down on his territorial cues. Because this is about marking his property, rather than asserting dominance, dogs of both genders and with a variety of temperaments are known to engage in foot scuffing.
 
Hind-leg scraping is a normal, non-destructive behavior, so there’s no need to try to change your dog’s habit. In fact, the only cause for concern should be if your pet normally scuffs his feet and suddenly stops. A shift in behavior can signal something is hampering your pet’s mobility and can lead to more serious problems down the road. If, however, your canine companion continues business as normal, your only concern should be waiting for him to stop his back-foot shuffle before picking up after him— lest you get dirt or something much worse kicked up in your face.

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