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Dogs Wiping Their Feet After A Toilet Session

Parent Category: Dog Talk
Created: 24 July 2014

Have you ever seen your dog wipe their hind paws on the ground after they toilet? This may seem absurd but is a very common and natural thing for a dog to do – and they may not ‘need’ to do it every time!

It is a misconception that dogs wipe their feet to clean their paws, this behaviour is all about scent marking is a very natural instinct and communication tool for many animals, including domestic dogs. Since dogs have sweat glands only in the pads of their feet, the scratching movement releases pheromones and leaves a message about them for any other dog (or animal) visiting the same spot. It is more likely that your dog is expressing its feeling of superiority when they leave ‘extra’ scent in this way.

By wiping their feet your dog is marking their territory and of course, depending on where they are, they may not always feel the need to do this. Not only will this depend on where they are, but it will also depend on what messages already have been left in that spot. It is more likely your dog will leave their scent in an area which they see as theirs or a place where they often and normally go. For example, if you live in an area where foxes visit your garden, your dog will pick up on this and may want to leave a message for any visiting fox.

Dogs also produce pheromones when they go to the toilet and these give lots of information that other animals will understand, about the dog’s gender, age and overall health. Some experts believe that dogs sometimes scratch up dirt and grass to cover their scent.

Here’s a short video demonstrating the action: 

If your dog has this behaviour and it is something you want to stop because, for example, it is damaging your lawn or your flower beds (worse still perhaps someone else’s while you are out on a walk), then you could try watching your dog and noticing at what point they wipe their feet, then practice distracting them by whatever you know that will motivate them to pay attention to you instead. This could be via a favourite treat, by making a noise (for example clapping or with a favourite squeaky toy) or throwing a ball, and this may be enough to interrupt the behaviour. This may not be an easy thing to do as the need to leave their scent may be very strong.

Alternatively if you don’t want to stop the behaviour but would like to minimize the damage, some people believe it may be useful to keep your dog’s claws trimmed short.

On a serious note, there is one last thing to say about this if your dog has been a regular paw-​wiper and seems to stop doing this… it may be a sign that they have some health issues with their paws, legs or joints and it may be useful to check whether or not they have pain and visit your vet to have them checked for early signs of arthritis or bone related problems especially with the cruciate and Achilles tendon.

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Be Safe With Your Dogs!