Ground Scratching - Why Dogs Do It After Bathroom Breaks
Here’s the reason behind our dogs’ strange behavior after taking bathroom breaks.

Is your dog a scratcher? Does he scuff the ground or sometimes kick the grass after peeing or pooping? You might have witnessed this odd behavior many times and wondered what compels your dog to do it. Are dogs trying to clean up after themselves?

To humans, it might look that way. Dogs appear to be covering up their urine or feces when they kick dirt on it. But ground scratching, as veterinary experts call this behavior, is common to other canines too, such as wolves and coyotes. This act isn't an attempt to hide something. In fact, it's actually the opposite.

Scent Markers

Wolves urinate inside their dens to mark their space and create a perimeter in their territory. Since scent is very important to canines, they use their own odors as scent markers to let other wolves know the spots they have claimed.

So, when your pet dog pees and scratches the ground, he's doing the same thing as his canine cousins. He's letting other dogs know that he has marked and “owned” a spot. By scraping the dirt or kicking the grass, he's leaving another scent marker from the pads of his paws to tell other dogs, “I was here!”

The sweat glands in dogs are found underneath their paws. Since pee and poop dry out faster, its smell also fades. So, dogs use their paws to deliver more scent that lasts longer.

Communicating With Other Dogs

Communicating With Other DogsIn the canine world, dogs communicate with other dogs through the odors they emit. For instance, when dogs come across other dogs, they smell each other’s rear-end to detect the other dog's anal glands. Odd as this may seem but this behavior is the dog's way of saying, “Hello!”

Experts, however, say that not all canines scratch the ground. In wolf packs, it's the most dominant animal that displays this behavior to communicate a warning to the other pack members. But since domesticated dogs live differently than wolves and other canines in the wild, warning others by scratching the ground doesn’t seem to make sense.

Some pet owners might regard ground scratching as a behavioral problem, but you need to look at it from the perspective of your pet. It's their natural instinct to communicate with scents, which they have inherited from their ancestors.

Many dogs also scratch their bed or sleep area before lying down and the reason for this is the same as ground scratching. It is the dog’s way of claiming the resting space as his, even if no other dog is present in the house.

See, from a dog's perspective, he can never assume that there is no other dog. His instincts, however, tell him to mark his territory before sleeping to let potential threats know not to attack him when he’s vulnerable (sleeping).

Preventing Ground Scratching

Ground Scratching - This Is Why Dogs Do It After Bathroom BreaksNow that it’s been established that ground scratching isn't a serious cause for concern, dog owners should not shun or prevent this behavior in their pets. Only, the more enthusiastic scratchers might end up ruining the lawn in the backyard, so some owners might not be able to control their disgust when their dogs do this.

If this is the case, then it's best to schedule a dog walk around the block at least two times a day so that the dog can pee and poop, as well as scratch the ground, as much as he wants. Make sure, however, that you're not trampling on a neighbor's private property when you're out walking the dog. Always use a gentle nudge to let your dog move away from an area you don’t want to be ruined.

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Camden Savage is a Phoenix based writer, vegan, cupcake addict and dog lover. Years in the animal rescue trenches have taught her every aspect of dog ownership from behavioral problems, personality and breed specific trait differences of all dogs.