Why does my dog “scrabble” up the earth after he eliminates? (What’s he really saying??)

Question: I have an intact male who is five years old and we live in the countryside so he mostly walks off-leash. When we go out for our first morning walk, one of his first jobs is to find a secluded place and relieve himself, but as soon as he’s done so he stretches out his body with his back legs, exuberantly gravels up the earth in long channels scratching it up with his claws as soon as he finishes his job, he joins me and continues his walk.

What is he doing and why?

Answer: dogs know that they are temporarily very vulnerable when they’re eliminating, and are at a temporary disadvantage. You may often notice that they look for a place to go in a bush or a tree so no one can sneak up on them. Once the deed is done however your dog has a second job to do and that’s the explanation for the very energetic scrabbling. He’s distributing his scent as broadly as he can to let other dogs know who he is that he was there.

These very distinctive scents communicate a lot of information to our dogs and their smell can be  as separate and identifiable between dogs as fingerprints are in humans. Smell is extremely important to dogs. When your dog is spreading his scent, he kicks vigorously backward to ensure that he is marked as wide of an area as possible. Not only is he letting other dogs know he’s been there, he’s also leaving as strong of  an impression as possible and trying to look as large as they can with those scrabbles. And then they usually jog happily away with a look on their face like, “Good job well done!”
Weird fact: tree-dwelling monkeys can’t Scrabble in the same way a dog does, but some species will disseminate their scent in a different way. The capuchin monkey urinates onto its palms and soles of his feet and then rubs it’s scent  along branches as it climbs, leaving as strong of a signal in the trees as a dog leaves in the ground.

Leave A Comment