Most dog owners will agree that their pooches can display some odd and bizarre behaviors, such as chasing their tails, walking in circles before lying down and sniffing other dogs' butts. But perhaps no action is as mysterious or remarked upon as when dogs poop and then kick afterward.
The act of kicking after pooping looks strange to dog owners, many of whom may assume their pup is trying to cover up the waste so other dogs can't find it. There is much more going on behind this habit, however, than an attempt to hide the poop from other animals.
Kicking up dirt after pooping is one way for dogs to mark their territory. Canines' wild ancestors were territorial, and domesticated dogs are no different. Kicking after pooping was a way wolves and wild dogs left clear signal to other animals and potential competition that the territory was spoken for. The scrape marks left by the kicking action also relayed messages about the kicking dog's size and strength.
By using their feet to kick up dirt from the ground near their poop, dogs are saying to any other animals that come by "I was here; this is my waste and my place." This same instinct is the driving force behind the kicking action that sometimes occurs after dogs urinate.
Veterinarian Dr. Alison Birkin explains how dogs mark their territory in this manner: "Canines have scent glands in their feet that secrete pheromones, a chemical that triggers social reactions and interactions amongst other canine species." The scents released from these glands are stronger and last longer than the smell of poop and urine alone.
Aside from territory demarcation, dogs kick after pooping to leave pheromone messages that warn of danger, indicate potential food sources and trails, and declare their sexual availability. This action is a form of communication, and the act of releasing these pheromones affects dogs' behaviors and overall body functions.
When your dog kicks after pooping, consider the number of messages being left behind for other dogs and animals who will walk near and smell that spot shortly. Watch the video below for more information on this common canine behavior, and the next time your dog kicks after going to the bathroom, make sure you are not standing directly behind.