By Nan Talleno

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – As a canine behaviorist, I’ve been asked many times ‘Why does my dog kick up so much dirt especially, after soiling?’ The answer, as you may guess, is territorial marking overall but it has different layers of meaning.

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Marking territory is a natural way to communicate; a way of leaving a message or information behind. It lets other dogs or animals know of their intention. It’s a very instinctual behavioral trait and has its roots in primal behavior.

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Dogs, like their wolf ancestors, have scent glands between the pads of their paws that secrete pheromones which can be readily released through a few backward scratches. These scratches are called “scrape behavior” in wolves and are used primarily to mark territory but their domesticated relatives may not always have the same motivation.

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If not used to mark territory or claim that area, it may also be a way for a dog to cover up the soiled area as to clean up, so to speak, which is instinctual too. It may also be direct information for telling other dogs that he/she is not a threat and for permission to pass peacefully through the area, especially if the area is foreign.