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Time for some “Canine Trivia”. Here are a couple of common behaviors many people ask me about. You may already know the answers, but if not read on .

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Why does my dog kick, scratch and scrabble up the earth after he/she urinates or defecates?

Many dogs (including my own female husky, Sedona) will urinate or defecate and then, with their back legs, exuberantly kick up dirt, rocks and turf in long channels, scratching it out behind them. After the deed’s done, your dog has a second job to do, and that’s the explanation for the energetic scrabbling/kicking. He is distributing his scent as broadly as he can to let other dogs know who he is and that he was there. When your dog defecates, he simultaneously exudes a minute amount of oil from the anal glands that are located at each side of his rectum. The glands are pea-sized and unless you’ve ever had a dog who had problems with retention of fluid there, you may never have noticed them. They are a key part of your dog’s anatomy, that fluid gives him an absolutely unique smell: as separate and identifiable between dogs as fingerprints are in humans. And, as we know, smell is extremely important to dogs. We can’t know if at a conscious level, he’s thinking “The wider I spread my scent, the larger and more important all the other dogs will think I am!”. Most humans observing this behavior would agree that a dog trotting happily away from his scent marker gives off the distinct air of a “good job, well done”.

Why does my dog roll in smelly things?

There are several opinions put forward by behavior experts for this one. I tend to go with the thought that dogs choose to roll in foul-smelling things to mask their scent, just as wolves do. Wolves may roll in decomposing carcasses or the feces of herbivores (plant eating animals) to disguise themselves. They want to cover their own odors so their prey will not be alarmed by their scent. This way, they can sneak up on their prey and have a chance of making a kill. Some behaviorist feel dogs may roll in smelly things to “advertise” what they have found to other dogs. No matter the reason, unfortunately, some of our domesticated friends have held onto this trait. How many of us have given our dog a bath only to find him running outside to again roll in something foul?

I hope this explains some of the quirky behaviors our “best friends” do. If you have any other “why does my dog do that” questions, or wish to explore customized dog training, please feel free to contact me. Text/cell: 480-652-4900 or email

Kathy Fabish

Pet Services of Ocean Isle Beach

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