Why Do Dogs Kick Their Back Legs?

Ever found yourself wondering, “Why do dogs kick their back legs?”

You are not alone.

This common canine behavior has intrigued dog owners for years.

In your quest for answers, you’ve come to the right place.

Read on to understand more about your furry friend’s mysterious actions.

Unpacking the Behavior of Dogs Kicking Their Back Legs

Dogs kicking their back legs is an act packed with more meaning than meets the eye.

Our journey into understanding this phenomenon starts with delving into two primary areas: the anatomy of a dog’s kick and the role of their instincts.

The Anatomy Of A Dog’s Kick

“Canine physiology is fascinating,” you think as you observe your pooch suddenly start kicking his back legs in the air.

The science behind this seemingly bizarre display lies in the unique structure of a dog’s leg.

They have a specific neural circuit, often called the ‘scratch reflex,’ that gets activated by specific triggers.

This circuit extends from their back to their spinal cord, which response by producing the characteristic kick.

It’s no wonder.

Then, when you see your dog kicking his back legs, it often follows a good belly rub!

The Role Of Instincts In Kicking Behavior

Dogs are descendants of wild canines.

And while domestication has made them cuddly pets, some of these ancient instincts remain, one of which is kicking.

Imagine the dog world, where scent marks territory and communicates social standing – quite different from our human world, right?

These fascinating elements form the backbone of the behavior we’re exploring.

Different Reasons Why Dogs Kick Their Back Legs

Having understood the basics, let’s delve deeper into the various reasons for your pet’s distinctive leg kicks.

Marking Their Territory

When you notice, “My dog is kicking his back legs,” he might just be leaving his “signature.”

Dogs have scent glands in their paws, and when they kick, they release a unique scent onto the ground.

It’s their own unique way of saying, “I was here.”

Expressing Excitement Or Anticipation

Watch a dog playing fetch, and you might witness an adorable display of vigorous kicking.

It’s like their version of a happy dance, expressing anticipation or joy.

Whether it’s playtime or dinner time, this kick could just mean your dog is thrilled about what’s coming.

Reacting To Itchy Skin Or Allergies

Sometimes, that scratching isn’t just an expression of joy or territorial marking.

It could be your pet’s attempt to alleviate an itch.

Allergies, flea bites, or even dry skin could be causing your dog’s discomfort.

Always pay attention to any excessive or unusual kicking.

Dreaming During Sleep

Ever seen your dog kicking while curled up, deep in sleep?

Believe it or not, they could be dreaming!

Just like humans, dogs have Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, the stage when dreams occur.

So, if your dog’s legs kick or twitch during sleep, they might just be dreaming about chasing that squirrel in the park.

Relieving A Muscle Spasm

Occasionally, kicking can serve as a response to a muscle spasm or cramp.

If you see your dog suddenly start kicking while at rest, it might be trying to soothe a bothersome twitch or cramp.

When Dog Kicking Might Indicate a Health Problem

Sometimes, what seems like a harmless kick can indicate an underlying health issue.

It’s important for dog owners to recognize these signs.

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Similar to Alzheimer’s in humans, Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) can cause unusual repetitive behaviors in dogs, including excessive leg kicking.

A dog with CCD might seem confused or disoriented, and their sleep cycle may be disrupted.

Nerve Damage Or Neuropathy

Neuropathy, or nerve damage, can also cause dogs to kick their legs.

If a nerve is pinched or injured, your dog might kick their leg as a reaction to the pain or discomfort.


In some cases, repetitive or uncontrollable leg movements could be a sign of a seizure disorder.

If your dog’s leg kicks seem uncontrolled, or if they’re accompanied by loss of consciousness or other seizure symptoms, it’s important to seek veterinary care right away.

Arthritis Or Joint Pain

Arthritis or joint pain is a common condition in older dogs, and it could lead to unusual behaviors like kicking.

Your dog may be trying to relieve the discomfort caused by the inflammation in their joints.

Canine-Compulsive Disorder

Canine Compulsive Disorder, similar to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in humans, can lead dogs to engage in repetitive behaviors.

These can include anything from tail-chasing to persistent leg kicking.

Each of these issues highlights the importance of keeping a watchful eye on your dog’s behavior.

Remember, if your pet’s kicking seems excessive or unusual, it’s always best to consult a veterinarian.

Happy pet parenting!

What To Do If Your Dog Keeps Kicking Their Back Legs

While dog owners might enjoy watching their pets’ playful leg kicks, there’s a point when the charm wears thin and concern sets in.

Is your dog kicking his back legs excessively or more than usual?

This is where understanding their behavior and when to seek help becomes crucial.

Observing Your Dog’s Behavior

It’s a bright, sunny day, and your dog is bounding around the yard, kicking up dirt.

The sight might make you chuckle, but there’s a lot to learn from these moments.

Watching your dog and understanding their behavior patterns is the first step toward addressing any issues.

Does the kicking follow a meal or a long walk?

Is it more frequent during certain times of the day?

Is it accompanied by signs of discomfort or distress?

These are some questions to consider as you observe your dog’s behavior.

When To Contact A Veterinarian

However, the line between normal behavior and potential health concerns can sometimes be blurry.

Here’s where the role of a trusted vet comes into play.

Unexplained or sudden changes in behavior, persistent or intense kicking, or kicking accompanied by other symptoms (like whining, limping, or loss of appetite) are all signals that it’s time to call the vet.

Remember, when it comes to your dog’s health, it’s better to err on the side of caution.

Treatment Options

The treatment for your dog’s excessive kicking depends on the underlying cause.

Allergies might require dietary adjustments or medication, while physical therapy or even surgery might be needed for joint or nerve issues.

Cognitive disorders could benefit from environmental adjustments, behavior modification techniques, or medication.

Always discuss the potential treatment options with your vet to make the best decision for your beloved pet.

Preventing Unnecessary Back Leg Kicking In Dogs

Prevention is better than cure, right?

Let’s look at some preventive measures you can take to manage excessive back leg kicking in dogs.

Regular Exercise And Mental Stimulation

Just like you, your dog needs to blow off steam.

Regular exercise and mental stimulation can help manage your dog’s energy levels and reduce unwanted behaviors.

Activities like fetch, walks, or puzzle toys can keep your dog happy and healthy while curbing excessive kicking.

Proper Grooming And Skin Care

Since skin issues can sometimes cause excessive kicking, maintaining a grooming routine is crucial.

Regular baths with dog-friendly shampoos, routine checks for parasites like fleas or ticks, and quick action at the first signs of skin problems can keep those itching kicks at bay.

Routine Veterinary Care And Check-Ups

Lastly, regular vet visits are essential for catching potential issues early.

Your vet can keep track of any changes in your dog’s behavior, perform regular health check-ups, and give advice tailored to your dog’s specific needs.

This way, you can enjoy the sight of your dog gleefully kicking its back legs in the air, knowing that it’s just a sign of its happiness and well-being.

Remember, as dog owners, we are the primary caregivers for our pets.

Before You Go…

Now you know dogs kick their legs back.

If you want to learn more, read the following articles too!

Or watch this video:

Dimitra Kokologianni, DVM
Dimitra holds a Masters’s degree in public health and a Bachelor’s degree in veterinary medicine. She is a versatile professional with over 7 years of experience. Her passion for animal welfare and preventive medicine makes her an excellent resource for our readers.