Canine Behavior

Why Does My Dog Scrabble Up the Earth After Peeing or Pooing

Jane Davis

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When your dog finishes eliminating, you might notice it engaging in a curious behavior: vigorously kicking and scratching the ground with its hind legs.

This action, often described as ‘scrabbling,’ serves several purposes in the canine world.

Contrary to what some might think, this is not merely a random or playful act; it’s a deliberate form of communication and territorial marking.

Through scrabbling, dogs leave behind a visual mark and a scent signal.

The pads of their feet secrete pheromones which, when deposited in the kicked-up earth, broadcast a message to other dogs. This behavior is a dog’s saying, “I was here,” and can be comparable to humans leaving a note or a signpost.

It’s an integral part of canine instinct and social signaling that gives insight into your dog’s interpretation of its environment and social structure.

Understanding Canine Post-Elimination Behavior

After your dog finishes eliminating, it may exhibit certain behaviors that seem curious to you. These routines are natural and have distinct purposes in the context of canine instinct and communication.

Territorial Signaling

When your dog kicks back dirt or grass after elimination, it engages in territorial signaling. The act spreads the dog’s scent, which is contained in glands on its feet, to mark its territory.

This scent marking tells other dogs your dog has been in the area. It is a way to establish a presence and claim space without confrontation.

Instinctual Actions

The actions your canine takes post-elimination can be traced to instinctual behaviors. These behaviors have been passed down from their ancestors and are deeply ingrained.

Even if your dog is not living in the wild and the necessity for such behavior is unclear in a domestic setting, these instincts remain strong and guide your dog’s actions.

Communication Through Scent

Dogs have a highly developed sense of smell and rely on it to communicate and understand the world around them.

By scratching the ground and potentially leaving more scent on their paws, they are sending a message to other canines.

This can convey information about their size, health, and reproductive status.

It’s a complex communication form primarily aimed at other dogs.

Influence of Domestication on Canine Behaviors

Domestication has significantly reshaped dogs’ behaviors, distinguishing them from their wild ancestors.

Historical Perspective

Historically, dogs are descendants of wolves, animals that marked their territories to communicate with other pack members and potential rivals.

When your dog scratches the ground after elimination, it engages in primordial behavior, a form of scent marking.

Domestication has not erased these instinctual actions but adapted them to fit new, often human-centered environments.

Modern Dog Training Insight

In a practical sense, training methodologies recognize natural behaviors like “scrabbling” and often integrate them into behavioral expectations for your dog.

Many contemporary trainers advise allowing your dog to express these natural actions to some extent, as suppressing innate behaviors can lead to stress and other issues.

That said, proper training can help manage these actions, especially when they could lead to damage or unsafe situations.

Managing and Redirecting Scrabbling Behavior

It is possible to manage and redirect your dog’s instinct to “scrabble” or kick up the earth after elimination.

Techniques involve consistent training and providing adequate environmental stimulation.

Training Techniques

Direct Command: Introduce a command like “Leave it” or “No dig” immediately as your dog begins the behavior—reward compliance with treats or praise.

  • Use positive reinforcement when your dog obeys the command; never use punishment.
  • Consistency is vital; practice this command regularly during walks.

Leash Guidance: Keep your dog on a leash during elimination.

  • Gently redirect your dog with the leash if they start to dig.
  • Use a firm voice for the command to reinforce that you expect obedience.


Jane Davis

Hi, my name is Jane Davis, and I love dogs. I own a labrador retriever named Max. When I was growing up, we always had dogs at our house. They provide us with such unconditional love and companionship, and I can't imagine my life without one by my side.

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