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Why do dogs kick after pooping? What's normal and not

why do dogs kick after pooping?
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Just why do dogs kick after pooping or peeing? As dog owners, we can easily understand a lot of our pet pooches’ behavior: running round, chasing balls and even bizarre sleeping positions all seem easy to explain. 

Some other canine quirks, though, are a bit more obscure - particularly in the poop department! Why do dogs roll in poop? Why do dogs eat poop? It all seems pretty baffling to us humans. 

Don’t worry though, kicking back is all part of a complex canine communication system – and we’ve got the answers right here.

Is kicking back after pooping normal? 

The short answer is ‘yes, absolutely’. Kicking the ground after your pooch has been to the bathroom is completely normal behavior and is known as ‘ground scratching’. When your doggo kicks that ground, there’s a lot going on.

According to award-winning scientist and animal behavior expert (opens in new tab) Marc Bekoff, there might be up to three things happening at once.

When your dog kicks after pooping, he could be spreading his scent – not only physically spreading the excretion, but also spreading his own smell via scent glands in his paws. 

Vigorous ground scratching can leave marks on the ground, a visual aid which signals to other passing dogs “I was here.” This isn’t necessarily aggressive or dominant behavior, just a form of communication that tells other dogs who’s in the neighborhood.

There’s also sometimes an auditory element – some doggos make a deep, rumbling, chuckling sound as they scratch and often look like they’re really enjoying themselves. 

Scent marking is really important to some dogs and they can even learn to waddle around while pooping to spread their pheromones over as wide an area as possible. You can check out our veterinarian’s guide to why dogs walk and poop for even more reasons.

The relationship between dogs and their doings can be complex. The important thing to remember, though, is that when dogs kick after pooping they’re displaying completely natural behavior, even if it doesn’t make much sense to us.

why does my dog walk and poop

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Do all dogs kick back after pooping? 

If you’ve ever owned more than one dog, you’ll probably already know the answer to this one – no, they don’t. Only around 10% of dogs do it, and while it’s more common in males, females can do it too. 

It’s not limited to any particular breed or size of dog, either. Studies have shown, though, that dogs are more likely to do it when there are other dogs present. One obvious conclusion is that ground scratching can be partly motivated by some kind of territorial marking.   

How do I get my dog to stop kicking after pooping? 

As we’ve already seen, dogs kicking back after pooping is an entirely natural behavior. Many of them seem to really enjoy it, as you’ll know if your pooch is a ‘chuckler’! 

If you can, it’s best to let your pet indulge as it’s important behavior for them. However, if your doggo is a very enthusiastic scratcher it could be causing a few issues! 

Big dogs and sandy soil can result in everything in your yard getting covered in exuberant dirt. If you like to keep your yard looking nice, then ground scratching can cut furrows in the dirt and leave a bit of a mess.

As to stopping the behavior, there are two possibilities:

Distraction

The first is distraction – every time your pet eliminates, distract him with a toy before he can start scratching. You could also try getting him to sit immediately afterwards and rewarding him with a treat or ear scratch. 

As it’s a genetic behavior the urge to do it can be very strong, so your pooch may decide not to be distracted! 

Containment

In that case, the second option is containment. Fence off a small area of your yard as a doggy bathroom and encourage him to do his business in there. 

At least that way only a bit of the yard suffers and you can always plant some shrubs to screen it off. Changing the times you walk your doggo might help too, so that he doesn’t need to toilet at home.

In the end, though, you might just have to learn to live with it, particularly if your furry friend really enjoys it.

How to stop a dog kicking up grass 

As outlined above, stopping a dog kicking up grass can be very difficult. Grass kicking, while irritating, can also be better than the alternative. If your pooch is ruining your yard, you might be tempted to only let him kick on hard surfaces such as concrete or asphalt. 

This can be more trouble than it’s worth, however. While you might save your yard, it might damage your pooch’s paws or claws, particularly if he’s a young pup. 

dog running through grass

(Image credit: Gabriel Crismariu via unsplash )

Is kicking back after pooping ever a problem? 

Although this behavior is normally perfectly natural and also enjoyable for many dogs, there’s a chance it could be a sign of a problem. 

If you notice a change in how your pup is acting, for example scratching much more frequently or for longer periods, it could be a sign of something wrong. Sometimes it’s just that there’s a new dog on the block and your pooch is trying to communicate. 

Obsessive scratching can also be a sign of stress, though – perhaps he’s scared of the new arrival or there’s a change in the household. 

If the behavior doesn’t settle down, consider consulting an animal behaviorist or your veterinarian to get to the root of the problem.

Summary

Next time you notice a dog kicking back after pooping, you’ll have a better understanding of what’s going on. He’s spreading his scent, leaving a ‘wee-mail’ for passing hounds and generally having a good time! 

It’s normally an entirely natural behavior and most doggos prefer to be just left alone to get on with it. Although it’s possible to train the behavior away, it’s an important communication method and best to live with it if you can – who needs a pristine yard, anyway?