Though they’ve been domesticated for thousands of years, dogs still exhibit behaviors that can prove puzzling to their human companions. They dig seemingly at random. They’re prone to hiding under beds. They sometimes make a snack out of other dogs’s excrement. And when they empty their own bowels, some kick their feet afterward. Roughly 10 percent of canines do it.
Why? It’s instinct. Dogs are ever-vigilant of other canines encroaching on their territory—be it in their backyard or the park. They consider defecation a message to other dogs that the pooped-on property belongs to them. By kicking up dirt after the deed, they’re compounding the scent by stirring up the bathroom scene along with pheromones, which come from glands on their feet, to create a strong smell. The kicked-up grass is also a visual cue. All of this poop and disrupted earth is a warning to other dogs that they’re treading on hallowed, stinky ground.
The pheromones from the kicking are actually stronger than the odor from urine or feces. Alongside territorial claims, the pheromones can let other dogs know things like possible food trails or even potential danger. While it may ruin your carefully landscaped lawn, it’s best to let them get on with the behavior. If you interrupt, they might begin to feel more vulnerable. It’s wise to just stand out of the line of fire and allow nature to take its course.