DEAR DIDI: I am writing to you because I have a 5 year old Dachshund that has a very annoying behavior and I don’t understand why he does it. He has been doing it since he was 6 months old! Every single time he poops or pees....he does what I call “the potty dance”. He kicks his hind legs out and tears up grass into the wind. He is quite energetic about it! Is he actually trying to bury his “stuff” like a cat does??-curious mommy in Manteca
DEAR CURIOUS MOMMY: I just had to laugh out loud when I received your question. I love that you call it the ‘potty dance’! Anyone who has a dog that exhibits this behavior either thinks it’s cute or gets angry about the damage to their lawn. Either way it really confuses owners as to exactly what their dog is trying to accomplish.
He is not trying to cover his poop or pee like a cat. In fact, he wants others to notice it so badly that he kicks up dirt to further mark where it is. Dogs have scent glands in the pads of their feet and the scratching allows pheromones to be deposited on the ground. To another dog that may happen along a few hours from now this is a flashing arrow pointing to the place where your dog eliminated.
“Why in the world would my dog want others to sniff his nasty stuff?!”, you may ask. Well, a dog’s sense of smell is estimated to be around 200,000 times better than ours. The best analogy I have to help people get a realistic idea of what this means is to think of walking into a house where brownies are being baked. A human walks in and smells brownies, “yum!”. A dog walks into the house and smells the sugar, eggs, flour, butter, chocolate, salt, and baking powder! This capability allows them to sniff another dog’s feces and basically read his resume.
Some dogs are pretty proud of their stature/resume so they want all other dogs to sniff and know that they are the king of that territory. This is typically more of an issue with males that have not been neutered but it is sometimes displayed in females that are more confident or males that were neutered later in life. Dogs are able to discern age, health level and attitude just by smelling another dog’s poop. Pretty impressive but I will stick to handing over a piece of paper to my future employer.
If you are intent on curbing the behavior then there is really only one way. Your dog must be on leash to go potty. The second he is done...distract..distract..distract. Be exciting, show a toy, show the yummiest treat ever, run away from the spot he did his job, whatever it takes, but be quick about it. He is in the habit of marking his territory, you have to surprise and distract before he does it but not before he has finished eliminating. It may take a while to instill new habits in a dog that has been practicing this behavior for 5 years but it can be done. Neutering him will not stop the behavior. It is already learned. I always recommend neutering, however, because of the 75% chance that your male dachshund will get prostate cancer. Save him from that agony if you haven’t already! -if you have a question for a canine behaviorist send it to firstname.lastname@example.org