Have you ever noticed that when your dog pees or poops, he will then instinctively kick his hind legs back and kick the grass up? It seems like they are using grass to cover their shame and it’s a strange action that you see often in cats and other animals too.
I decided to find out what causes the instinctive act of a dog kicking up grass after pooping, and also ways in which you can stop them. After all, not only does poop and urine ruin your well-kept lawn, but the act of the dog kicking up grass will also cause havoc.
Firstly though, let’s look at the reasons why dogs kick up grass after a poop, as this will lead us down the route of understanding how to stop it.
Why do dogs kick up grass after pooping?
Dogs like to kick up grass after a poop or pee as an instinctive action. Experts believe it’s the dog’s way of letting other dogs know that this is their territory, as by kicking up grass and urine, their scent is being spread further.
Based on that, pooping and kicking up grass is not an actual problem behavior in itself and isn’t something you should be alarmed by.
But if you want to save your yard or garden lawn from being completely destroyed by your dog’s natural kicking up of grass, distraction is your very best method of attack. However, there is more you can do which I will explain further down the page.
The instinct behind dogs kicking up grass after a poop
In the intro I joked that dogs kick grass over their poop to cover their shame, but this is not the case at all. As a pet owner, you will know that dogs have zero shame!
Kicking grass after a poop is actually a way of marking their territory. The scent of your dog’s paws, poop and pee are all indicators to fellow dogs of territorial boundaries, or to send a signal they have been in the neighborhood.
When I initially found this out, my assumption was that the scent in the urine was being spread by grass kicking. It’s not actually the case, but instead is scent from the dog’s paws. According to the American Kennel Club:
“Dogs have glands in their paws that release pheromones that trigger social interaction with other dogs. These pheromones from dogs’ feet last longer than the scent of urine or feces, making them more effective as a communication tool.”
This means that when your dog starts kicking the grass up with their hind legs after a pee or poop, the invisible pheromones will also fly through the air. Next time another dog comes along and see all this carnage, they will know exactly who has been here.
Having a poop and then kicking the grass up is an instinctive behavior that dogs have shown for thousands of years dating back to when they lived in the wild. It would have helped put off potential predators or other canine invaders coming into their territory.
How urine marking is also used to show territory or communicate
You know when you are walking with your dog and they drag you to the nearest tree to sniff something intriguing. Sometimes they are “peemails” – the pee of other dogs. Sometimes it’s the pheromones left by the scent of a dog’s paws.
Handy Hint: If you have a tree on your property that is being destroyed by dog urine please read my 6 tips on how to protect it from damage.
Your dog’s nose is a pretty powerful instrument that can extract a lot of information from a single swipe of the paw. In the wild, the scent left behind can apparently communicate the territory, food trails, sexual availability, and even signify to other dogs where danger may be lurking.
Quite impressive messaging from a simple kick of the paw or kicking up of grass.
Cats and wolves also kick their hind legs after defecating. It’s a natural action in the animal world.
Handy Hint: Here’s my advice on what to do with smelly dog poop before garbage day arrives.
How to stop a dog kicking grass up
I know it is frustrating to see your lawn torn up by the kicking of your dog. I really must stress, though, that this is an entirely unconscious, natural action. How do you stop a natural body movement?
I will be honest, it’s not the easiest dog habit to try and stop. However, you can try distraction as this the best method.
Here are the steps I follow to stop my dog ruining my yard by kicking grass up after a poop or pee.
Step 1. Supervise your dog when they need to pee or poop
First thing’s first – you need to know when your dog is likely to strike. The next time they go out to pee or poop and a grass kicking session, perhaps accompany them out to the back yard.
Don’t stalk as you’ll probably make them uncomfortable but keep a watchful eye.
Step 2. Bring a toy or treat
If you can tell your dog is about to poop, grab their favorite chew toy or treat to have at the ready. You’ll need it to make the smooth distraction tactics work.
Step 3. Distract your dog before they start to kick their back legs
Kicking their hind legs into the grass is subconscious so you have to override the natural action with something more enticing. As soon as your dog has finished their “business”, be ready to wave your dog over to play with their favorite toy or give them a big treat.
If you do this before the kicking starts, your garden lawn will be saved!
Step 4: Train the dog to pee in a new place
You can also try to train your dog to pee in a new place outdoors. Do this by using my more extensive guide which shows the steps. Alternatively, you might have better luck by hiring a professional.
If you decide to train the dog yourself, you should take your dog out in the yard with a leash to a preferred area for your dog to relieve themselves.
After walking around this area for a little while, your dog should eventually pee or poop. After they finished their business, reward them with a treat and extra playtime. After many repetitions, your pup should begin to favor this area and leave the rest of your yard alone and help to protect the grass.
Sometimes your dog is particularly adamant to kick the grass before they come to play with you or accept your offer of a treat.
I find that usually when this happens, my dog will do a somewhat lifeless kick and run over to me because the appeal of a treat is just too good to miss! These light kicks shouldn’t make too much of a dent in your garden lawn.
Handy Hint: Often dogs will eat grass when they have an upset stomach. But is it ok? Here’s all you need to know?
Stopping your dog from kicking their hind legs in the house
If your dog is kicking their hind legs in the house, then this is clearly not linked to the poop behavior. This is all about being territorial and marking their space. Dogs are known to kick carpets, tiling, couches, their beds – you name it.
Usually, this behavior is a symptom of anxiety in their surroundings. It’s most often seen in newly adopted dogs who haven’t quite settled yet.
You only mark your territory when you feel it is not yet your territory. When this kicking is combined with peeing in the house, act now (here are some tips).
You can use distraction techniques to snap out of their trance. You can also focus on making your dog feel as comfortable as possible in their surroundings.
If this becomes a pervasive issue that won’t go away, do consult a professional behaviorist or trainer to help you get to the route of the problem.
I don’t mind the dog kicking his legs after a poop, but not on my own grass! Before I stopped him, I would cringe each time as my beautiful lawn was unceremoniously donkey-kicked into the stratosphere.
The remnants lie on the ground and the pit holes stay visible for ages. I’ve even had to fill the holes and re-seed the grass…
But sure, it may be annoying but they aren’t consciously trying to annoy you at all by kicking up grass. They are just doing what dogs do.
This is very different to digging with front paws. Digging is a conscious action that you can train away more easily.
In that vein, you shouldn’t punish your dog for kicking grass after a poop at all. It’s like punishing your dog for shaking after they get wet. They just have to do it!
Disclaimer: I am not a dog behaviorist, just a humble dog lover. If you are having a huge issue with your dog digging up your garden, do contact a professional dog behaviorist or trainer.
You might also like…
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Image in header https://unsplash.com/photos/aeYCIEvitLQ