Why Do Dogs Kick Their Back Legs?

You have to train a dog to think – Donald McCraig

Humans do a lot of strange things that we’ll never understand.

I’ve spent a lot of time watching you, and I can tell you from this beagles point of view, that even though most of the things that you do make no sense, nobody asks you to stop doing them.

But most of the time when I’m happily kicking my back legs, one of my humans will always growl “Charlie, will you please stop doing that?”.


At least, I’m assuming that’s what they’re saying because as I don’t understand much human woofing, I’m forced to guess what they want me to do most of the time.

I wouldn’t mind so much if I was doing it for no reason, but unlike the crazy things that you humans do just because you can, there are a number of reasons why dogs kick our back legs, and I’m going to tell you all about them.

And then maybe the next time I do it, nobody will woof at me and they’ll just leave me alone to kick my back legs in peace until I need, or want to stop doing it.

It’s All Mine

When my human’s woof at me the most about kicking my back legs is right after I’ve taken a poop. As soon as I’ve finished doing my business, and start kicking away, they start woofing.

I think that humans think that dogs are like cats and the reason we start kicking at the ground with our back legs after the event is to try and bury what we’ve just left behind.

That isn’t true, we’re nothing like cats, and the reason we do it has nothing to do with trying to erase and eliminate the evidence.

We, and by we I obviously mean dogs as a whole, have scent glands in our feet, and when we kick at the ground, we’re actually leaving our scent behind and marking our territory. It’s our way of letting other dogs know that we’ve been there and that we, at least in our minds, own that particular piece of land.

It’s an alpha male thing and all to do with our position in the pack, and honestly, at this point in our evolutionary journey, it’s a pre-programmed biological response that we can do nothing about, and can’t really control.

If we could stop it, we would. But even though we can’t do anything about it, at least we do have a reason for doing it.

In My Dreams, I’m Conquering the World

You know how you humans sometimes walk and woof in your sleep? Well, we do something similar, and while we occasionally woof, whimper, growl, and yelp while we’re napping, we can also “walk” in our sleep.

Of course, we don’t actually walk, but our brains think that we are, and that thought manifests itself as movement, which is why our legs sometimes kick and move while we’re sleeping.

A lot of dog scientists and doctors with long lists of qualifications and enough time on their paws to study these things also think that this movement, the kicking of our back legs, while we’re sleeping might have something to do with the REM (rapid eye movement) phase of our dream cycles.

They think that when dogs are young and older, and occasionally during middle age, that our dreams are much more lucid and vivid, which is why we became so much more involved in them, and our legs kick and our muscles twitch in response to what we’re experiencing in our dreams.

And you know what? They’re absolutely right, that’s exactly what’s happening. That’s why we kick our back legs while we’re sleeping.

The Belly Rubbing Leg Kicking Conundrum

This might amuse you humans, but it’s slightly embarrassing for every dog that I know, myself included.

We love having our tummies tickled and our bellies scratched. But sometimes, when humans scratch us, we start kicking our legs, and the faster you scratch the faster we kick. It’s another evolutionary and biological response that’s called the ‘scratch reflex’

Simply put, whenever you start scratching our tummies, a vestigial and ancient part of our brain thinks that it might be a flea or tick or some other such parasite attempting to latch on to, or irritate us.

That part of our brain then kicks into overdrive, takes command of the rational side of our mind that likes to play with balls and follow all of the amazing scents and smells that are out there in the world, and tells our back legs to start scratching in an attempt to get rid of the thing that it thinks is attacking and irritating us.

As I’ve already woofed, it’s incredibly embarrassing and we wish that it didn’t happen as much you do. That’s why, when it does happen, sometimes we look confused and puzzled because we’re not actually aware that we’re doing and if we could stop doing it and just relax and enjoy our belly rub instead of kicking away in a semi-demented frenzy we would.

As much as I love being a beagle, sometimes it can be a little mortifying.

Cause for Concern

Most of the time, if we’re kicking our back legs, it’s entirely due to our pre-programmed biological and evolutionary responses and we’re more than aware that this behavior is amusing and, at times, even funny. But there is a darker side to it that every human needs to be aware of.

Sometimes, when we’re kicking our back legs in our sleep or when we seem to be asleep, it isn’t because we’re locked in a dream cycle and our muscles are responding accordingly, it’s because we might be having a seizure.

Just like humans, we can suffer from epilepsy, and the kicking of our back legs while we’re apparently sleeping, could very well be a petits mall seizure.

If you see it happening, and you can’t easily wake your boy up by gently woofing his name or offering him a biscuit, it could be because he’s having a seizure.

Don’t worry though, have a woof with his doctor, who can check him over and soon identify whether or not he is suffering from epilepsy and can prescribe the right medicine which will help to prevent him from having any more seizures and will enable him to live a long, happy and healthy life with you.

All Kicked Out

So now you know as much about why dogs sometimes randomly, and seemingly out of nowhere, start to kick our back legs as we do.

It’s funny, strange, at times a little frightening, and can be off putting and disconcerting. But it’s part and parcel of who we are and just one of the many quirky reasons why you humans love us as much as you do.