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Why Does My Dog Wipe His Paws?


You’re enjoying a pleasant walk, and then your dog stops to do his business. While you stand by idly waiting, he finishes up by dragging his paws backward along the ground, kicking up some leaves and grass at you in the process. It may seem like cat-like behavior — after all, felines are known for meticulously burying their waste. But that’s probably not what drives this behavior.

Many dogs make a practice of “wiping their paws” after they go to the bathroom. While no one knows for certain what controls the behavior, the common belief is that the dog is marking his or her territory.

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Instead of sweat glands throughout their bodies, as with people, dogs’ sweat glands are located on parts of their bodies that lack fur, such as their paws. The perspiration released by their sweat glands has a scent unique to each dog, which they use to mark their territory. For some dogs, just depositing waste in an area is not quite enough — they kick and scratch around the waste to add more of their scent to the area, expanding their territory.

Your pup may perform this behavior regularly, but it’s more likely he does it when you’re in an unfamiliar area, or in a place that gets heavy animal traffic. And while some dogs are frequent paw-wipers, other dogs may never engage in the habit. But no one knows exactly why.

This behavior is seldom a problem, but it can be annoying, particularly if he’s kicking up your landscaping, or if you’re in a hurry to get on with the walk. The best way to stop him is through a distraction — cheerfully coerce him along, or even remind him of the tasty post-walk treat that’s waiting back home.

Paw wiping is unlikely to be related to a medical reason. In fact, if your dog’s paws were sore or swollen (a condition known as pododermatitis), he’d be limping or avoiding putting pressure on his paws, which is the opposite of rubbing them along the ground. If he’s only scratching and wiping them in conjunction with going to the bathroom, he’s simply claiming his turf.

So if your dog is a paw-wiper, no need to wonder if he’s mimicking the neighborhood cat. Just steer him around your favorite garden beds at potty time, and applaud his efforts to leave his mark on the world.


unnamed Debbie Swanson is a freelance writer, published in numerous national and local outlets. An avid vegetarian, animal lover and reader, she loves learning about healthy eating and finding natural cures for everyday ailments.

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