Why Do Dogs Scratch the Ground After Peeing?

Updated February 21, 2017

Your dog urinates on a tree, then kicks up some grass with its hind legs and scratches the ground. When your canine engages in this behaviour, it may trace back its early ancestor, the wolf. This behaviour is a way of communicating messages, such as dominance and territory boundaries, to other canines.


The canine act of scratching in a backward motion with its legs is called a ''scrape.'' Dogs usually use their hind legs for this, but some may scrape the ground with their front legs. This primal behaviour is seen in both wolves and domestic dogs, according to the non-profit Wolf Education & Research Center (WERC), based in Portland, Oregon.

Claiming Territory

Scraping is performed by a dominant wolf to mark its territory and send out other messages. This mark signals a territory boundary to other wolves in competing packs. Dominant wolves also scrape to signal their leading status to their own pack. The behaviour also may be used to claim a food item, according to WERC.

Dog Signals

Domestic dogs engage in scraping behaviour after urinating for many of the same reasons wolves do, according to WERC. The scent they're leaving behind can signal a variety of messages to other dogs. It can be a sign of the dog's stature, age, gender, and even availability for mating.

Scent Glands

Wolves and domestic dogs both have scent glands between their paw pads. Each scrape of the paw leaves a trace of the canine's distinctive scent. For domestic dogs, who no longer live in packs, scraping is probably a natural wolflike instinct or drive. Dogs function 80 per cent by instinct, according to Flockguard Training & Behavior.


The dog's urine contains its unique scent. As the dog travels along, it leaves traces of urine behind, which is used to communicate messages to other dogs. The scraping behaviour after peeing not only spreads the scent of the urine, it adds another unique scent to it. Dogs may also engage in scraping behaviour after defecation for the same reasons.

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