You’ve probably seen your dog kick their back legs after pooping.
Many pet parents wonder if their dog is trying to – without success – bury their poop.
Sometimes, your dog might actually manage to fling some grass over it, but most of the time, the poop will still be out in the open.
Is your dog trying to bury their poop, and if so, why are they so terrible at it?
Why Dogs Kick Up Grass After Pooping
Both Matilda and Cow go into a kicking frenzy after pooping.
Just this morning, Cow kicked directly into her poop, getting it between her toes on her hind paws. This is the third time she’s managed to do it. Usually I can get her to move to the side before kicking. But if I’m not fast enough, I’ll end up having to wash off her poopy feet before letting her go back inside.
Why would a dog try to get poop on her feet? Why wouldn’t she avoid having to get her feet washed?
Now that we have a cat, I can see just how simple it is for an animal to successfully bury their waste. It’s not that hard. Why are my dogs so bad at this?
While we can’t directly ask our dogs why they do the things they do, we can look at context clues like anatomy, behaviors of other animals, and situational variables to take a pretty good guess at what could be going on.
Pooping for Scent Marking?
You probably know that some dogs, especially males, lift their leg to pee on vertical objects as a way to leave a territorial scent marking.
But did you know that poop, too, has its purpose in helping dogs mark their territory?
Every time a dog poops, two glands located on either side of their anus empty, releasing a pungent, fishy-smelly oily fluid. You might be familiar with anal gland fluid if your dog ever releases that awful odor when they’re nervous or excited.
Anal gland fluid is a scent marking that all dogs, both males and females, leave behind everywhere they go.
So it would make sense that a dog would want their poop to be noticed, rather than hidden. They want other dogs to know “I was here,” with their poopy, anal-gland-smelly signature.
Some animal behavior experts theorize that kicking after pooping is a way for dogs to help spread their scent further.
Scent Glands in Paws?
Do dogs sweat? Kind of.
Dogs have two types of sweat glands. They have apocrine glands, which are located all over their body. Apocrine glands release sweat into the follicle of the hair, keeping your dog’s fur naturally moisturized and conditioned.
Merocrine sweat glands release sweat directly onto the surface of the skin. These are the sweat glands that we humans rely on to help us stay cool. Dogs only have this type of sweat gland on their paws. So, dogs only visibly sweat from their pawpads. I haven’t seen this in action, and a small population of dogs actually sweat profusely through their paws.
The main purpose of mercocrine glands in a dog’s paws may be to leave additional scent markings.
So your dog might kick after they poop to spread their scent from the sweat glands in their paws.
Zoomies, or Frenetic Random Activity Periods (FRAPs), is when dogs “go crazy” and run around in circles. You’ve probably seen this after you’ve given your dog a bath.
Frenetic activity is usually triggered by pent-up stress. Dogs may run around when they’re finally released after a bath, and frantic to shake, rub, and run off all that water.
Pooping relieves stress, too, and may trigger dogs to go a little crazy afterwards. This could be why dogs go nuts with the kicking.
Kicking Around Other Dogs
I notice that on a typical walk, my dogs may kick a few times after pooping, but that’s it.
When there are other dogs around, especially when we’re in a different environment like at a park, they kick a lot more.
To me, this is powerful evidence that dogs kick because they want other dogs to notice. It’s their way of saying, “I was here! I pooped!”