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

 by lucy on 09 Nov 2016 |
6 Comment(s)
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.


Dwight  - Comment
Dwight 02 Oct 2020Reply
My dog does it after he urinates or defecate. I don't mind so much in our yard, but when I walk him he does it every time he stops and makes his territory. He just doesn't want to stop and can be pretty destructive. He is 8 yo and has only started it about a year ago.
Bev - Comment
Bev20 Jan 2021Reply
Sure she kicks her hind legs after bathroom use, but tonight out of no where she started kicking her hind legs running around inside home then lay down for few minutes then run around and doi it again. She doesn't seem to want go out for bm .. feeling puzzled
Taddy - Comment
Taddy20 Jan 2021Reply
My dog doing same thing and he started today
Kathryn Baylis - Comment
Kathryn Baylis13 Mar 2021Reply
OK, but what if my dog does this even if he’s not eliminating? And will sometimes do it on hard enough surfaces, and long enough, to sometimes make his feet bleed? Also, he sometimes does it on backwards circles. I took video of it and showed it to my vet, and he said he’s never seen behavior like that.
It’s almost like it obsessive; like he zones out and does it until you physically stop him, then he just snaps out of it. He was a rescue straight off the street, so I don’t know his history. I suspect he may have either been born with a brain defect, or sustained a head injury that brought it on.
Any ideas?
Linda Bird - Comment
Linda Bird13 Apr 2022Reply
We have a little (pug x chihuahua?) rescue dog aged 11 months who scratches her hind feet on the floor when you talk to her or if another dog has a toy she wants - almost as a frustration release. She has neurological damage from untreated distemper as a pup which has left her hyperkinetic and I think is why she displays this unusual behaviour......
Lorrie Maiorano - Comment
Lorrie Maiorano20 May 2022Reply
I love when my little Pomeranian does this! She does it when she is playing and getting Rowdy … she likes to do it when she wants something to like she wants to be the boss ! I love it so cute!
Kathy - Comment
Kathy30 Jul 2022Reply
My shishon does this when she wants attention. That is the ONLY time she does this. She is tearing up my carpet because the force is so strong. But like I say the only time she does this is when I am on the computer, telephone or watching tv and she isn't getting attention, lol

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