As a dog mom and pupper blogger, one question keeps knocking at my den door. “Why do dogs kick their back legs?” And today, my dear paw-comrades, we are deciphering the mystery of dog kicking.
Do you want to know more about reasons why dog kick their back legs? Then use the table of contents below to jump to the most relevant section. And you can always go back by clicking on the black arrow in the right bottom corner of the page. Also, please note that some of the links in this article may be affiliate links. For more details, check the Disclosure section at the bottom of the page.
Here's what we'll cover:
- What is Dog Leg Kicking?
- Medical Reasons for Dog Leg Kicking
- Behavioral and Environmental Factors
- Solutions and Remedies
- When to Seek Veterinary Advice
What is Dog Leg Kicking?
Well, if you observe keenly, you’ll notice your dog kicking their back legs when they are scratching a sweet spot, playing in the yard, or maybe after doing their business. It’s a common doggy gesture we’ve all seen, and it’s hilariously cute, just like when they wag their tails in joy. Yet, dogs kick their back legs not only as a show of excitement. There are other intricate reasons too, from marking their territory to underlying health concerns.
Understanding the kicking behavior
Dogs are complex creatures but one dog communication is clear, the “dirt-scratch.” It’s when they’ve defecated and then start kicking their hind legs, quite fervently, you might think they’re either trying to cover it up or doing a post-potty dance! It’s more of an alpha dog protecting his resource– it’s his way of marking his territory. So, they are not just scratching the ground but sending out a message, “This is my zone, buddy.”
Normal behavior or cause for concern?
Indeed, the act of kicking their back legs can be completely healthy behavior and as far as they are not bringing down the fence with those jerky motions, it’s pretty normal. Though if you see your dog kicking their back legs excessively, it might be worth a visit to the vet, back to the next time you have an appointment.
Canine sleep cycle and leg kicking
Ever see your pooch twitching or randomly kick their hind legs in sleep, almost like dreaming of a thrilling dash in the dog park? That’s part of their REM sleep, where twitching or brief spasms of the back feet is pretty common. Worth the concern only if these muscle spasms continue when they’re awake.
Behavioral and neurological aspects of dog’s kicking
While kicking behavior is often tied to a dog’s genetic predisposition to mark their territory or a result of an itch, sudden increase in their leg kicking or if it’s specifically one back leg, it could also carry neurological hints of conditions like partial seizures.
Breed tendencies and leg kicking
Interestingly, while this can happen to any dog, certain breed dogs, like the German Shepherds or Labrador Retrievers, are known to be big on ground scratching. But regardless of the breed, this behavior is more common in male dogs.
Medical Reasons for Dog Leg Kicking
Well, if your beloved furball is consistently seen kicking their back paws, especially after exercising, it could point at possible medical issues. It could range from something as mild as an irritation to severe conditions like medial patellar luxation often seen in dogs with hip dysplasia. This could also manifest in older dogs, which suffer from joint pain or arthritis. Drafting this post was like an exciting fetch game for me, one that I’m tossing back to you so you can piece together your dog’s behavior, and keep an eye on those kicking legs. Remember, dogs are complex creatures, and understanding them is a constant learning curve. So, every time you see your dog kick their back legs, remember, they are leaving you clues sharper than any veteran detective.
Muscle spasms and leg kicking in dogs
Ah, the unexpected leg kick in our dogs, comparable to our sudden sneezes perhaps? Well, one of the common reasons for this behavior is a muscle spasm. Your furry companion’s paw twitches, followed by them attempt to kick out their back legs. Sometimes dogs experience this due to strain or injury, compulsion to scratch, or weird sleeping positions. Now, don’t over-read into this. Sure, muscle spasms can be painful, but they typically resolve themselves without any need for dire concern. But if they occur repetitively, the cause could be more serious. Always remember to check with your vet for a professional opinion.
Possible neurological causes for dog’s leg kicking
You know when you randomly hit a specific spot on your knee and your leg jolts out? Dogs have a similar response, known as the scratch reflex. But sudden leg kicks may also be a symptom of a seizure. Other neurological conditions that may cause your dog’s kicking include distemper or canine cognitive dysfunction. If your dog’s kicking episode is followed by confusion, disorientation, or an abnormal behavior pattern, it’s probably time for a visit to the vet.
Arthritis, Degenerative Joint Disease, and leg kicking
Our fur babies aren’t immune to the ailments of aging. Arthritis and degenerative joint disease (DJD) commonly affect older dogs, causing them to feel discomfort, leading to that inevitable leg kicking. It’s a subtle sign of the cartilage, which has no nerves, deteriorating due to wear and tear. The sad part is that arthritis and DJD can afflict any dog, even the lively ones that have always been fit as a fiddle. But the good news? Depending on the severity, it’s often manageable with the right care and medication.
Lameness, Hip Dysplasia, and leg kicking in dogs
Hip dysplasia can sneak up on your four-legged friend, like a cookie thief in the night. It’s a skeletal condition that leads to your dog’s hip joint no longer fitting into its socket, causing lameness and yes—you guessed it—leg kicking. But don’t get overwhelmed just yet. Although this condition can be inherited, hip dysplasia can be prevented with a proper diet, exercise, and weight management. So, let’s keep those tails wagging.
Patellar Luxation and its relation to dog’s leg kicking
Patellar what? Don’t worry, it’s just a fancy term for a dislocated kneecap. Patellar luxation causes our furry prince or princess to kick their leg due to discomfort or pain. Although it’s most common in smaller breeds, it can affect any dog. Your pup may look like they’re prancing around, but really, they might just be trying to relieve the anguish.
Behavioral and Environmental Factors
Emotions run high, even in our pups. Behavioral reasons for your dog’s kicking could include anxiety, excitement, or even fear. Sometimes, they’re just trying to get your attention. Environmental factors, like annoying itchy grass, could also be the culprits. You know what they say, if your dog loves you, they’ll share everything with you—even their nervous quirks.
Dogs marking their territory through kicking
Like online influencers leaving hashtags everywhere, dogs also love to leave their scent. The kicking behavior after “taking care of business” is just another way of serving territorial realness. There’s a gland in their paws because, well, nature is clever! This is fairly normal, and you don’t need to be alarmed. The smell of their paws lasts longer than the smell of their business – a fun fact that’s somewhat less fun when it involves your expensive rug.
Excitement and dog’s kicking behavior
Woo-hoo, someone just said “treat”! Excitement could cause our furry pals to kick. They’re overjoyed and they just can’t contain it. It’s similar to us having a little happy dance. It’s like dogs coming to a party, and their feet are the first to arrive.
The protective or alpha dog and leg kicking phenomenon
Ever seen your mutt aggressively kicking their feet after a hearty poop? They’re probably just playing out their role as the head honcho. This kind of display might give you a laugh, but don’t be fooled, they’re serious about it. Could be their charming way of showing who’s the boss around here. Maybe we should start taking notes. After all, everyone loves a confident leader!
Scratch reflex and dog’s leg kicking
One of the sensations you may notice in your beloved pup is a particular insistence on kicking their back legs. This may startle you at first, but in many cases, it’s just their natural “scratch reflex.” This reflex is commonly seen in dogs and is a neurological response to an itch or stimulation. Just imagine that itch you couldn’t get rid of, and how your body decided to flex to handle it. It’s a dog’s way of trying to find relief from what they perceive as an annoyance. It could also react to touch and become more pronounced if there’s a constant cause for the dog to feel itchy. So don’t worry, this kicking is normal behavior, not some kind of sleep cycle nightmare.
Leaving scent marks and dog’s leg kicking
Has your pup ever looked like a bull, scraping the ground after pooping, seemingly trying to cover up their deed? Well, it’s a little more complex than that. Dogs have scent glands in their paws, they are essentially trying to leave their mark on their territory. When your dog scratches or kicks the ground after doing their business, they are probably not trying to cover their business. Instead, they may be marking that area with scent glands in their paws. They use their body to communicate to other dogs that they were here, and this is their territory.
Solutions and Remedies
Now, while most leg kicking in dogs is due to these perfectly normal behaviors, occasionally you might notice that your pup is engaging in excessive leg kicking. This could lead to wear and tear on their legs, or even lameness in extreme cases. One solution is to provide your pet with more mental and physical stimulation. Dogs that are well-exercised and mentally stimulated are less likely to engage in excess leg kicking, just as they’re less likely to engage in other destructive behaviors. Ultimately, you know your pup best, so keep an eye out for anything unusual.
Physical therapy and management of dog’s leg kicking
If you notice an abnormal pattern in your dog’s leg kicking, physical therapy could be a solution. Neurological disorders or nerve damage can lead to excessive or uncontrolled kicking too, and these require professional intervention. Physical therapy can help manage your dog’s compulsion to kick. This type of therapy can increase flexibility and reduce the tightness of muscles, contributing to abnormal kicking, mainly if the issue is due to shallow femoral grooves.
Medical intervention and treatment for abnormal dog leg kicking
Sometimes, the excessive leg kicking in dogs might be the result of another medical condition. In such cases, medical intervention is necessary. From a simple allergy triggering a compulsive scratch reflex to more complex neurological issues that need veterinarian attention, it is essential to determine the cause.
Training practices to address dog’s excessive leg kicking
If your dog’s kicking has become a problem, training him or her to stop could be an effective solution. This behavioral adjustment can be achieved through positive reinforcement and should take several minutes every day until the behavior improves.
Behavioral modification techniques for dog’s kicking issues
If the leg-kicking behavior is amenable to modification (not all types are!), you can work with a professional dog trainer or behaviorist to implement changes. They will review the dog’s overall health and the specifics of their kicking behavior to find the most suitable solution.
Preventive measures and strategies for excessive leg kicking in dogs
Keep a keen eye on your furry friend to be aware of excessive leg-kicking. If you suspect it’s due to their natural need to scratch or mark their territory, providing ample outlets to do so in safe, healthy ways can be a preventive measure.
When to Seek Veterinary Advice
Finally, if you notice any abnormal leg kicking in your dog, such as a sudden increase in the frequency and intensity or resulting lameness, call your vet right away. It’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to your pup’s health. This is especially crucial if their back legs are jerking during the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of their sleep cycle, or if you believe the leg kicking might be linked to another medical condition or injury. And remember, while it’s impressive how much we can read into our dogs’ habits and behaviors, some things should be left to the professionals.
Thanks for the blog graphics: Canva.com
Doghint.com is a participant of several affiliate programs. The list includes (but not limited to) the following: VigLink, Refersion, ShareASale, and Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a mean for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. Doghint.com does not intend to provide veterinary advice. All published articles are meant for informational purposes only and not substitute the professional veterinary consultation.