Dogs are such fun and watching them (and trying to explain their behaviors) is almost as fun as people-watching at the mall! We have all seen dogs madly kick at the ground behind them after they eliminate. Some people think that they are trying to “clean up the mess” by covering it, but “cleaning up” isn’t exactly our dogs’ forte!
If a dog is truly attempting to cover the excrement, it is more likely to be an effort to hide the evidence of his presence rather than a desire to be tidy. We know that wastes can be a dog’s calling card in the wild. The reason for the frantic kicking could be an attempt to cover or hide it and stay more incognito. Dogs doing this might appear to be sneaking and trying to stay low profile.
But dogs doing the “post poop kicking” do not usually seem submissive or surreptitious when they perform the behavior. In fact, it seems to be quite the contrary. They seem assertive, as they firmly and stiffly kick and claw. Their ears are usually up and their backs straight. It would seem more like they want to broadcast their message to those that pass by rather than hiding it.
If we consider that dogs may also be able to release pheromones from between their paw pads when they scratch, we have support for the public calling card idea. Think of it like your dog’s graffiti. He doesn’t spray paint the wall or bridge with his mark for rivals to see, but he might as well have. Other dogs are very tuned into his message and they can then make a choice to mark over his message or to avoid the area completely.
If your dog is tearing up your grass with this behavior, you can try to interrupt before he begins and gently redirect his attention. This is usually easy to accomplish with a high-value treat, like a tiny piece of boiled chicken (cooked with no seasoning and set aside for this purpose- I keep a dog treat freezer bag at all times). If your dog learns that you are watching for him to eliminate and will reward him immediately after with something he really wants, he may just skip leaving his mark and come straight to you!
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