You watch your dog do their business. Before they come back inside, they insist on covering their poop. Are they shy, or is there another reason they cover their pile? Cats are known for covering their poop, but do dogs have similar reasons for the behavior? 

Why do dogs cover their poop?

Dogs can cover their poop for several reasons. In many instances, they aren’t actually trying to cover their poop, but highlighting it. 

Communication

Dogs use poop as a communication tool. Your dog’s poop can leave behind an amazing amount of information. Other dogs can learn their age, health status, recent diet, and sexual status from your dog’s leavings. For dogs, poop serves a similar purpose as Facebook does to humans. 

Dogs are social animals, which means communication is very important to them. They can remember dogs they have met before, and they often form friendships. When your dog is inspecting another dog’s poop pile, they may be checking up on their best friend. 

Marking Territory

We often think of dogs using pee as a way to mark their territory, but poop is also used for territory marking. In fact, dogs are more likely to scratch the ground if they are on the edge of their territory. It’s their way of saying “this is my space”. 

Paw Scent Glands

Dogs have scent glands in their paws and in their anal glands. When they poop, the anal glands are squeezed, and the smell coats the poop. This is part of how they communicate with other dogs. It’s their signature scent, and a way dogs identify each other. 

The scent glands in the paws help to highlight the dog’s smell. Think of it as their way of highlighting a note so other dogs will notice it and read it. 

 Covering Their Tracks 

Dogs often appear to be covering their poop as a way to highlight it. However, they will sometimes cover their poop as a way to protect themselves from predators. 

This is a behavior that dates back to wolves and wild dogs. They would cover their poop so they wouldn’t alert predators they were in the area. They may also cover their poop if they are a beta, so they don’t offend the alpha of the pack. 

Sanitation

This reason also comes from their wild ancestors. Dogs in the wild don’t have anyone to scoop their poop. If they eliminate near their home, they will cover it for sanitation resasons. Poop can carry diseases, and it also draws flies and parasites. Covering their poop helps to eliminate this elimination problem. 

Problematic Covering

Dogs covering their poop is a natural behavior and isn’t usually problematic. However, some dogs tend to attempt to cover their poop no matter where they potty. 

If your dog is attempting to cover their poop pile on your linoleum floor they can damage the floor, particularly if they poop in the same spot repeatedly. If the surface is very hard or rough, like concrete, they can injure their paws pawing at the surface. 

It can also be a problem in your yard. No one wants bald spots or holes in their lawn from their pooch. 

Training Your Dog to Stop Covering Their Poop

Before you train your dog to stop covering their poop, ask yourself if it’s necessary to do so. Is there another area they could eliminate in that wouldn’t be problematic? Can you lead them to different areas so they don’t keep scratching the same place? 

You may be able to train your dog to stop covering their poop if it’s a problem. Bring treats when you take them out for bathroom breaks.

As soon as they are finished pottying, use the treat to get their attention and lure them away from the pile. Give the dog the treat, and then move on with your walk. 

It isn’t advisable to drag your dog away from the pile, unless they are at a risk of injuring themselves on the surface. Gentle redirection is the better option. 

Should You Be Concerned If Your Dog Stops Covering Their Poop? 

Training your dog to cover their poop can be a good idea. However, if they suddenly stop covering it without any prompting, they could be suffering from a health issue. Often, a dog with arthritis pain or reduced mobility will stop covering their poop because the movement is painful. 

It’s also possible that they have an injured paw. If the paw is injured, scratching at the ground is painful, and your dog will likely avoid it. 

Why do dogs kick after they pee or poop?

Dogs kick the ground after they pee or poop for several reasons. For dogs, using the bathroom isn’t simply a utilitarian function. It’s also a means of communication and socialization. 

Ground Scratching

When a dog scratches the ground after pottying, it’s called ground scratching. Dogs typically ground scratch for a few reasons. It may look like they are attempting to cover it, but in most cases, they are doing the opposite. 

Spreading Their Scent

Ground scratching allows dogs to spread their scent in two ways. First, the scent on their paws enhances the marking. 

Second, they are physically scattering bits of pee or poop around by scratching the ground. They are not only spreading the scent from their pee or poop. They are also spreading the scent from their paws. It can make the scent more noticeable to other dogs passing by. 

Visual Display

Some experts believe that ground scratching is primarily a visual display. Dogs use sight as a secondary sense, with scent and hearing  being primary. However, sight is still an important sense for dogs, and they use visual cues as a nonverbal communication method. 

You may notice your dog bowing to another dog, wagging their tail, or appearing to smile. These are all ways they communicate visually. Dogs are more likely to ground scratch when they have other dogs for an audience. 

However, it’s theorized that they may scratch the ground to leave the visual cue of scratch marks behind when there aren’t any other dogs around. 

Perhaps it’s similar to our tradition of carving our name into a tree. A physical reminder and notice of our presence. 

Intimidation or Dominance

Some researchers believe that ground scratching is used to assert dominance or intimidate other dogs. High level pack members are more likely to ground scratch than lower members, and other dogs tend to keep their distance from the dog that ground scratches, particularly if they are unfamiliar. 

Why do dogs cover their poop with grass?

Dogs usually cover their poop with grass for one of two reasons. Either they are ground scratching, or they are attempting to hide the poop. 

Ground Scratching

Dogs may cover their poop by ground scratching in order to mark their territory or alert other dogs to their presence in the area. It can be a dominance display, or simply social interaction.

They may also cover their poop as a means of scent dispersal. Dogs have very sensitive noses, and can easily pick up individual scents. You may smell a strawberry cake, but your dog will be able to smell strawberries, sugar, eggs, and even oil separately. This means that grass won’t interfere with other dog’s ability to smell your dog’s pile.

Covering Poop

It’s possible that your dog actually intends to cover the poop instead of ground scratching. They may do this for sanitation reasons. Some dogs are more finicky than others, and prefer not to have a yard full of land mines. 

Even though domesticated dogs needn’t fear predators, they still have their innate instincts. Some dogs will cover their poop as a way of hiding from predators, particularly when they are close to home. 

Why does my dog try to cover their pee?

Dogs attempt to cover their pee for the same reasons they try to cover their poop. Again, they may be trying to highlight the pee or genuinely trying to cover it up. 

Scent Dispersal

Scratching at the dirt that they just peed on is an excellent way to disperse their scent. If they are marking their territory, they may do this to make their scent more noticeable to other dogs. They may also use the scent glands in their paws to enhance the scent of their pee.

Pee Mail

Just like poop, pee carries some interesting facts about your pooch. Other dogs can learn a great deal from your dog’s pee. This includes their gender, sexual maturity, and even their mood at the time. It’s a great way for dogs to communicate and get to know each other. 

Hiding From Predators

Of course, some dogs cover their pee as a way to hide from potential predators. Suburbia may seem perfectly safe to you, but your dog is acting on instinct. 

They may understand that there is no threat at the moment, but from an evolutionary perspective, it’s natural for them to cover their tracks to avoid being found by predators. 

Sanitation 

Lastly, your dog may cover their pee for sanitation reasons. Pee is certainly less problematic than poop, but dogs have an instinct to keep their home sanitary. 

This is why crate training is effective. It’s also why dogs tend to have accidents in areas of the house they don’t frequent often, far away from where they sleep or eat. This same instinct to keep their home clean can lead them to cover their pee. 

Author

I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.