Does your dog kick grass? You know, that strange behavior where his back legs go into a sort of frustrated bicycling mode for a minute or two before he ends in a stance which closely resembles that of a stricken ballet dancer. The one where his back leg is extended behind him with half your lawn stuck between his claws? Sound familiar?Forget the idea your dog may have watched a few too many episodes of Bryce Lane's “In The Garden” and has decided to take up horticulture as a profession, because while you are thinking that, he will be out there scratching up more grass, which is probably not what you had in mind when you were considering landscaping the backyard.
So why do dogs kick grass?
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The Root of the Behavior
You might be surprised to find out that dogs kick grass for a number of reasons. It may all seem pretty baffling to us humans, but to your dog it makes perfect sense no matter how weird it appears. It is also true that your dog will probably do it at the most inconvenient moment. Yes, you know the moment. The one when you're doubled over trying to do your best with the poop bag, his back legs start twitching and he'll go off on a grass trimming session which means you have to move pretty speedily to avoid the flying debris.
This may seem a slightly obscure question, but have you ever sniffed your pup's paws and thought they were a bit smelly? Surprisingly enough, they're not stinky because they are dirty. They smell the way they do because a dog has scent glands between the pads of his paws. When your dog kicks grass, what he is really doing is stimulating those glands to work and then spreading his scent on that small piece of ground. He is laying claim to it. After all, he pooped on it so in his mind that patch of turf is now his property.
If your next door neighbor has a dog, and yours and theirs can meet nose to nose at the dividing fence to your properties, you may have noticed that an encounter with his canine counterpart can set your dog off kicking grass. Your neighbor's dog will probably go into lawn mower mode too. This is their way of communicating with each other. Roughly translated, what they're trying to say is, back off, buddy, this is my backyard. Those choreographed leg moves which are ripping up the grass by the roots means they are marking their territory to let the other dog know what belongs to who.
Encouraging the Behavior
Kicking grass is a natural thing for a dog to do. He's spreading his scent and letting other dogs know who's boss in that particular zone. A dog marking its territory goes back to when they lived in the wild and needed to fend off other hounds so as not to deplete the food supply in their particular area.
Your dog may even make backward kicking motions in the house if you've got a friend visiting who has brought their pooch with them. It's genetically ingrained in your dog’s brain to leave his mark by kicking grass but he'll be quite happy to do it on the kitchen tiles too, even though there's probably more than enough kibble and treats to go around. He's just telling the other pets not to get too comfortable in his house and as long as he doesn't leave scratch marks in your favorite flooring, there's no harm in it.
Dogs kicking grass can ultimately do an awful lot of damage. If you have a lawn in the backyard or in front of the house even, your dog going into territorial mode can leave you with some serious bare patches which take absolutely ages to regrow. If his grass kicking develops into a solid habit, you'll be forever behind him with a packet of seed and a watering can in an attempt to repair his statement of ownership around the place.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Dogs don't just kick grass. They will kick on carpets, tiles, and sometimes even concrete. If your dog does this often enough, he could damage the pads of his paws and leave them red and sore. If his kicking becomes excessive, you might want to consider why he's suddenly started doing so much of it.
Ask yourself, has there been some change in his environment which has left him feeling insecure? Maybe a new dog in the nearby neighborhood or even a new puppy in your home can upset what he classes as his territorial rights. If not, is he just being overly proprietorial? If so, why not consider going through a few sessions with a qualified dog trainer who will be able to teach you the correct distraction methods to prevent him from trying to take over the world.
Dogs kick grass to scent mark where they've been and to let other dogs know that the place where they did it is now considered, by them at least, to be their territory. Grass kicking in a dog's world makes perfect sense and so, taking all that into consideration, he really isn't trying to uproot you a bunch of daisies in an attempt to say thank you for taking him to the park.