It’s a familiar ritual. A dog urinates or defecates and then scuffs dirt, grass, or gravel into the air in what looks like a celebration or at least a mark of completion. Why do dogs do this? Here are some theories.
- Dogs kick the ground to mark their territory (scent marking) in order to keep other dogs or animals away or to notify them of the kicking dog’s presence.
- Kicking the ground stimulates scent glands in the dog’s feet, spreading pheromones (scent marking, continued).
- This is an instinctive behavior, inherited rather than learned.
- Kicking the ground is a form of visual messaging or a social display.
- Kicking the ground is a way of hiding or burying waste.
Some studies have shown that males perform this ritual more often than females, and males do it significantly more when observed by other dogs.
In 2019, Psychology Today published “Ground Scratching by Dogs: Scent, Sight, and Ecstasy” by Marc Bekoff, Ph.D., a professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. According to Dr. Bekoff, dogs kick the grass for many reasons, depending on who else is around and what they’re trying to communicate with visual, olfactory, and auditory signals. He says that dogs who do this behavior enjoy it, and it appears to be meaningful to them.
If your dog’s grass kicking damages your lawn or causes other problems, create interesting distractions and reward alternative behaviors until this one is under control. Otherwise, take Dr. Bekoff’s advice: “Let your dogs finish their message – give them time to scratch after they have peed or pooped – before continuing your walk.”