Does your dog do this frequently? After using the bathroom, they stand up and kick their back legs out once or a few times before leaving the site.
Is this normal behavior? Is it something you should be worried about? Why do they do it? Do they just want to tear up your lawn and annoy you?
Let’s find out!
What Is Ground Scratching or Scuffing?
If you’ve ever spent time around dogs you’ve probably seen a dog do this. After going to the bathroom, they kick their back legs out behind them.
They might do this once per leg or they might do it several times before walking away. They might even do it randomly without having just gone to the bathroom.
But they’re not just kicking their feet out like a Taekwondo black belt for fun. They’re actually scratching the ground, often leaving deep grooves in the dirt or tearing up the grass.
There isn’t an official name for this action, but you might hear it referred to as ground scratching or scuffing. Some people will simply use the highly sophisticated term “kicking.” Regardless, it all refers to the same thing.
Apart from looking funny and tearing up the yard, why do dogs do this? While researchers aren’t 100% certain, there are several reasons that seem plausible.
Scratches Mark the Spot
One possible explanation is that the dog is simply marking the spot. He may be marking it for himself as a “safe” spot to come back to the next time they need to use the bathroom.
Alternatively, he may be leaving the marks as a warning to other dogs.
When a dog scratches on the ground like this, scent glands in its paws leave its scent around the area. The scent from these glands will last longer than the smell of urine and serve to warn other dogs that this area has already been claimed.
The scratch marks on the ground also serve as a visual display offering the same message. A dog already lives here and strangers aren’t welcome!
You may also notice your dog kicking the carpet aggressively just after it’s been cleaned. Don’t worry, this (usually) doesn’t mean they’ve just urinated on your nice clean carpet. Rather, they are trying to reintroduce their scent since it has been washed away. However, some dogs will take it one step further and pee on your freshly cleaned carpet so beware!
Dogs typically will not scratch the ground after every time they eliminate. But they are more likely to do it if there are other dogs around.
The assumption with this is that the dog is displaying their dominance. The action itself shows other dogs that this spot of ground has already been claimed. Plus, the slash marks left on the ground indicate the same thing.
If you have more than one dog, you may notice that one tends to scratch the ground more often than the others. This is not necessarily to prove their dominance to the other residents, but to show outsiders there is an alpha dog protecting the pack.
Sometimes dogs scratch the ground after pooping, but some dogs will do it after urinating instead or as well. Again, they may just be trying to leave their scent around the area to claim it as their own.
Alternatively, they may have sprinkled a little on their back paws and are trying to wipe them off. They can’t get back there too easily with soap and water while scrubbing thoroughly through a rendition of the “Happy Birthday” song. So wiping their feet against the ground or grass will have to do.
A Happy Dance
Another possible explanation for this odd behavior is that the dog is simply excited and is doing a happy dance. This type of ground scratching can happen at any time, not just after going to the bathroom.
If the dog is excited and a lot of tail wagging accompanies the action, excitement may be the cause.
There’s Something on Their Leg
Another reason why your dog might randomly kick out their back legs is simply that something is on them. Perhaps an insect is bugging the dog or a piece of wet debris is stuck to their leg.
Just as you would shake out your arm if you felt something on it, your dog is trying to shake off whatever is on its leg.
Is Ground Scratching Something to Worry About?
Generally, no. This is normal behavior for dogs. Of course, modern dogs don’t need to protect their territory as aggressively as their ancestors. Yet it is still hardwired into them to do that strange little dance, particularly after using the restroom.
What if your dog is ground-scratching, yet none of the reasons we’ve mentioned seem to apply? Or what if this behavior is not normal for your particular dog but they suddenly and aggressively start up the habit?
In some situations, you may want to consult with your vet. If your dog is kicking a lot, appears to be in pain, or their behavior suddenly changes, it is always good to speak with a professional about the issue. There may be an underlying problem that needs to be addressed.