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The Root of the Behavior
Protection against predators is also a powerful motivator that could explain this behavior in the modern dog. Since excrement emits a potent odor, it serves as a "marker" to other animals that there might be prey nearby. This would be of major concern to dogs in the wild, and they would go to great lengths to cover any lingering scent or residue that might alert predators to their presence or the presence of their young. In this case, it would be a strong preservation instinct. To survive, a wild dog would have to take great precautions and to always be one step ahead of any animal that could potentially harm the pack. Hiding any evidence of their presence would be a critical survival tactic. Still, there are other reasons that deserve equal consideration for this mystifying canine behavior. Some experts suggest that the "poop dance" might be our dogs' way of marking their territory. Dogs often mark places they have frequented or consider their own personal space with urine, but it is interesting to note that this is not the only method dogs employ for this purpose.
Encouraging the Behavior
Did you know that dogs possess scent glands in their feet? These glands are capable of releasing powerful pheromones. Pheromones emit a fragrance that is unique to your dog. It is possible that as your dog is digging at the dirt and grass surrounding his latest "contribution" to your yard that he is attempting to leave behind his scent as a reminder to other dogs that he has been there, and that he will be back! Other experts suggest that this behavior finds its roots in a different survival technique enjoyed by wild dogs. Being able to spot predators before becoming their victims was necessary to ensure the safety of the pack. Wild dogs would often engage in a type of circling and digging up of the earth. This would accomplish two important purposes. The beating down of the earth would naturally lower the dog's standing surface thus allowing the dog to view things but also to remain better hidden from the view of others. At the same time, the circling provided an excellent vantage point from which to spot potential enemies intent on harming the wild dog or his pack. When you consider all of the different factors, it is easy to see that this is far more than a spurt of excess energy or a desire to entertain. It is definitely instinctive in nature and is but one of many traits that remain in our dogs after years of powerful survival techniques engrained into the wild dog's composition. For most homeowners, this behavior does little more than provide them with their daily chuckle. Most dogs don't do much harm with their little poop dance and rarely is there much digging involved that causes any real property destruction. In fact, with most of our canine companions, their attempts at covering their own mess appears to be half-hearted at best.