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You know just where that dog sweet spot is that gets your pups leg moving. But what brings on that reflex? Are dogs ticklish? Does it itch? Does this dog scratch reflex indicate that they love it or hate it when you touch their bellies?
Through some investigation, researchers have found a scientific reason why dogs get their kicks from a good ol scratch session.
What Is a Dog Scratch Reflex?
The scratch reflex is an involuntary response that protects dogs from fleas, ticks and other sources of irritation, says Popular Science. A cluster of nerves located under the skin makes up the dog sweet spot. When you scratch your pets tummy and hit this spot, these nerves get activated and send a message to the hind leg, via the spinal cord, to start kicking in an attempt to dislodge the source of irritation.
This doesnt necessarily mean your dog doesnt enjoy the sensation of being scratched in that spot. You can gauge your pups level of enjoyment by paying attention to body language, Animal Planet suggests. Dogs who either dont like it or are tired of the sensation will typically try to move away. Also, a dog that frequently turns over to reveal their belly to you is signaling that they are comfortable with you and likely they are comfortable with the belly scratches you tend to give them at this time.
Are Certain Dogs More Likely to Kick After Pooping or Peeing?
Male or female dogs of all sizes and breeds can engage in ground-scratching. In Bekoff’s observations, about 9% of males and females exhibited this behavior. The free-ranging dogs had a higher rate of ground-scratching behavior when they had conflicts with other dogs that were not part of their pack.
Another research study found that the senior dogs in a shelter were more likely to show ground-scratching behavior compared to adult and juvenile dogs (McGuire, 2016). They were also more likely to do it after defecation. Dogs that showed ground-scratching behavior after defecation also had a least one episode of ground-scratching behavior after urination.
However, ground-scratching does not always occur after every instance of urinating or defecating. Sometimes it can occur after a dog has simply sniffed the ground.
The Real Reason Dogs Kick When You Scratch Them
Our responsibility when adopting a dog is feeding, watering and caring for their basic needs. Our joy when living with a dog is getting to give them all the love they deserve. This means pampering when we can, giving them plenty of caresses and petting them like crazy. Fortunately, for most dogs, this is something they will want almost as much as you do. Sometimes, when in a state of petting induced reverie, we can see our dog moving their back legs involuntarily, as if kicking an imaginary ball or playing air guitar. But, what does this mean? Why do dogs kick their back legs when you scratch them?
AnimalWised helps to explain what this back leg movement might mean. In doing so, we are going to learn a little about the dog scratch reflex. This will not only help us know why dogs kick their back legs when you pet them, but also anything else they might want to communicate. You may also be interested in: