It’s safe to say that dogs have some pretty weird behaviors, most of which are coming from instincts that these animals used to experience in the wild. Dogs can track smells, sense danger, and even use their bark to communicate particular messages. These behaviors are very easy to deal with, but when it comes to kicking up chunks of the lawn after going to the bathrooom, their instinctual nature doesn’t seem so cute anymore.
Pro tip: Having a hard time keeping the house clean with your pet around? Every dog and cat owner should know these 14 cleaning tips.
Kicking up dirt after peeing isn’t actually a common behavior. According to Rosie Bescoby, a clinical animal behaviorist who spoke with LiveScience, only 10 percent of dogs will actually carry out this kind of behavior. This behavior is called “ground scratching,” and is a passed down trait from wolves and coyotes. In order for pack leaders to claim proper territory, they would use this behavior to set a boundary of where “not to cross the line.” Peeing in the spot doesn’t just sent the signal—spreading the dirt helps to draw that line.
Although the trait is not directly inherited, the nature of it still applies to dogs. Now dogs aren’t exactly trying to mark their territory with other dog packs of any sort. For domestic dogs, it’s a statement for other dogs (or animals) to show that they exist in this particular place. Typically, this happens near a tree, which is also a similar behavior for wolves and coyotes.
Surprisingly, spreading the dirt isn’t just to spread around the now peed-on soil, although that does help a bit. Breaking up the dirt and creating a territorial spot is exposing other animals to the pheromones in the dog’s feet. Even if your dog doesn’t tear up the grass behind them after going to the bathroom, they may wipe their paws around the area in order to leave that same scent. This will tell other dogs, or animals, that there’s a dog nearby.
Now although this behavior is more friendly than aggressive, it’s still breaking up your lawn. Although some would say this is a natural extinct that you should leave alone, others have successfully attempted to train their dogs out of this habit. People have attempted this by providing prizes immediately afterward, to distract the dog from the kicking process.
However, some veterinary experts would disagree and would tell you to let your dog practice this invisible communication between other wild animals. It’s also their way of making your house their home.
Looking to understand your dog (or cat) even further? These 17 best tips for pet care and pet safety should teach quite a few tricks!