Why Do Dogs Kick the Ground After They Poop? Is This Normal?

By: Brittany NatalePublished:

why do dogs kick ground after they poop
Chewy Studios, Rob Kemp/Shutterstock

Why Do Dogs Kick the Ground After They Poop? Is This Normal?

Q:I noticed that my dog will kick and scratch at the ground for at least a few seconds immediately after he poops. Why do dogs kick the ground after they poop? Is this normal?

A: If your dog scratches or kicks the ground after they poop, rest assured this is normal animal behavior. In fact, dogs do this for a few reasons, ranging from scent marking to something as simple as cleaning their paws.

What Does This Ground-Scratching Behavior Look Like?

Most dog parents have been there—you’re taking your furry friend out for a walk, they go No. 2 either on the sidewalk or grass and the next thing you know, they’re kicking and scratching at the ground. Rest assured, ground-scratching behavior is quite normal, and sometimes chuckle-inducing.

“Kicking and scratching after defecating is a normal behavior for many dogs,” shares Dr. Penny Coder, DVM, a senior veterinarian at Small Door Veterinary based in Washington, D.C. “It’s a natural part of their instinctive behavior and is generally nothing to worry about.”

Courtesy of Rebecca Wright

Depending on the dog, it can look different but, usually, ground-scratching behavior in dogs typically involves the use of both front and hind legs, explains Erin Askeland, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA, Camp Bow Wow’s animal health and behavior consultant. It often appears as a “rhythmic kicking or scratching motion” that’s done right after a dog defecates.

How Long Does This Last?

The ground-scratching and kicking your furry friend does after they poop often doesn’t last long. “The duration of this behavior can vary from dog to dog, but it usually lasts for a few seconds to a minute,” Askeland says.

Do Dogs Also Do This When They Urinate?

Yes, a dog may scratch the ground after the dog pees, although it’s not as common. “While ground-scratching is more commonly associated with defecation, some dogs may also exhibit similar behavior after urinating,” explains Askeland. “Although it’s not as common and often not as distinct.”

Do Both Male and Female Dogs Do This?

There isn’t a big difference between male and female dogs when it comes to this behavior, according to Dr. Coder. “Both genders may exhibit kicking and scratching after defecating,” she says.

Reasons Why Dogs Kick the Ground After Pooping

There are several reasons why dogs kick and scratch the ground after pooping; some may surprise you.

Scent-Marking and Communication

Dogs may do this to mark an area with their scent, which they use as a form of communication, says Dr. Nicole Savageau, VMD, an Austin, Texas–based veterinarian with the national mobile pet care service The Vets.

“Dogs have scent glands in their paw pads,” explains Dr. Savageau. “Kicking the ground after pooping can spread their scent, marking their territory and communicating with other dogs.”

Dogs also have glands located near their anus called anal sacs or anal glands, which are also used for scent-marking.

“These glands produce a unique scent that dogs use for communication,” Dr. Coder explains. “When a dog defecates, these glands are naturally expressed, and some dogs may feel the need to kick or scratch the ground to spread their scent further, marking their territory.”

Covering Up Waste

Another reason why your dog may kick and scratch after they poo is because they’re trying to cover up their waste.

“Instinctually, dogs may try to cover their feces as a way to hide their presence from potential predators or rivals,” explains Askeland.

It’s an instinct they inherited from their wild counterparts.

“In the wild, dogs may kick dirt or leaves over their feces to hide it from predators or competitors,” explains Dr. Savageau. “This instinct can still be present in domestic dogs.”

But wait—wouldn’t the act of scratching at the ground to cover their waste inadvertently spread their scent? Yes, but hiding the poop is worth it. “Dogs don’t have a choice if they leave a scent,” Dr. Coder says.

Cleaning Their Paws

Sometimes, a dog may kick and scratch the ground or grass after going potty simply because they’re trying to wipe off their paws.

“Some dogs may kick the ground to clean their paws after eliminating,” says Dr. Savageau.

If your pooch isn’t successful with cleaning off their paws, there’s a wide range of pet cleaning wipes that can easily and quickly help you get the job done:

Nature's Miracle Deodorizing Dog Bath Wipes, 25 count, Fresh & Clean
$7.99

Temporarily out of stock

Dexas Popware for Pets MudBuster Portable Dog Paw Cleaner
$11.20
Burt's Bees Multipurpose Wipes with Honey for Dogs, 50 count
$9.44

When You Should Be Concerned

Overall, a dog kicking the ground after they defecate is usually harmless. “Since it is a natural, normal behavior for dogs, it’s not something that’s generally necessary to stop,” shares Askeland.

In most cases, dog parents should allow their dogs to engage in this behavior. “Trying to stop them may lead to frustration or anxiety,” Dr. Coder says.

However, there are couple circumstances that would warrant concern and require you to step in:

  • If your dog is excessively scratching, scraping or seems to be in discomfort. That would require a talk with your vet. “A veterinarian [can] rule out any underlying issues such as anal gland problems or skin irritation,” Dr. Coder says.
  • If they’re damaging their paws or toenails. After-poo scratching should be safe for dogs to do on hard surfaces, like sidewalks and concrete, Askeland says, but keep an eye on their paws and toenails to ensure they’re not hurting themselves. If it becomes an issue, you may need to stop the behavior and redirect them. (More on that below).
  • If they’re damaging property. This may include digging up plants, tearing up flower beds or scratching surfaces, all of which could be a concern if walking through a neighborhood. Again, you may need to stop the behavior and redirect them.

“If a dog is excessively kicking to the point of causing harm to themselves or the environment, [such as] digging up plants or damaging surfaces, which could be a concern if walking through a neighborhood, it may be appropriate to halt the behavior and redirect them,” Askeland shares.

How to Stop Your Dog From Kicking After Pooping

If your dog’s ground-scratching is causing damage to property or causing them to hurt themselves, follow these tips from dog trainer Askeland to stop them.

Direct Their Focus Elsewhere

“Encourage your dog to focus on something else immediately after they finish their business,” says Askeland. You can do this by: Giving them treats Pulling out a toy Engaging in a quick training session “Sometimes, even a short jog away—an increase in speed—can help distract them and move them away from the area to prevent them from kicking or scratching at the ground,” Askeland adds.

Limit Their Access To Certain Areas

“Limit your dog’s access to areas where they tend to engage in destructive behavior,” says Askeland.

For example, don’t allow them to go near certain landscaping or flower beds while out on walks. “For your own yard, make sure to provide them a spot where ground kicking or scratching is appropriate, and reward them for doing so only in that designated spot,” Askeland suggests.

Teach Your Dog an Incompatible Behavior

Askeland also recommends teaching your dog an incompatible behavior, such as targeting or heeling. An incompatible behavior prevents or interrupts a dog from doing another behavior since the dog cannot simultaneously do both behaviors at the same time.

“They can perform [this] instead of scratching or digging, while also helping move them away from that area,” she explains. “Reward them for offering the desired behavior in situations where they might otherwise scratch or kick up the ground.”

Have more questions about your pet's behavior? Get expert advice through Chewy’s Connect With a Vet service, available daily.

Overall, your dog kicking or scratching the ground after they poop is typically normal. It’s OK to let your furry friend engage in this behavior, but just keep an eye out in case they are causing damage to property or hurting their paws or nails.

That being said, taking your dog out to do No. 2 can get, er, interesting at times—did you know that sometimes dogs will try to eat their own poop? Here’s exactly what to do if your dog does this.

Expert input provided by Erin Askeland, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA, animal health and behavior expert at Camp Bow Wow; Dr. Penny Coder, DVM, senior veterinarian at Small Door Veterinary in Washington, D.C.; and Dr. Nicole Savageau, VMD, a veterinarian at The Vets in Austin, Texas. 

Share:

By: Brittany NatalePublished:

BeSmart