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10 Must Know Reasons Why Your Dog Kicks His Back Legs

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Why does my dog kick his back legs-is it normal for my furry friend to exhibit this behavior? 

Those who have ever watched their dog kick their back legs may be curious about this behavior. Some owners may want to know if it is a sign of an underlying medical condition, while others may simply be curious about a seemingly bizarre behavior. 

Whatever your reason for wanting to know more about why a dog kicks its back legs, you’ve come to the right place! Keep reading to discover the many reasons why a dog may be kicking its back legs. 

First, Watch This Example Of A Dog Kicking His Back Legs!

10 Reasons Why A Dog Kicks Its Back Legs

why is my dog kicking their back legs

There are many different reasons that can explain the unusual behavior of a dog kicking its legs. This behavior is also referred to as “bull kicking” since it is reminiscent of how bulls kick before charging. Read carefully to discover the common reasons dogs kick.  

  • To mark their territory
  • You’ve hit the perfect scratching spot
  • They are scratching
  • Your dog is excited
  • They’re in a deep sleep
  • They’re having muscle spasms
  • They may be stretching
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Degenerative joint disease

To Mark Their Territory

If you have spent a considerable amount of time with a male dog, you may have noticed that he tends to kick both of his back legs after going potty. If you’ve witnessed this behavior, you may be inclined to believe that the dog is showing good manners and cleaning up after itself, but this is not the case. 

Male dogs that kick their back legs after peeing or pooping are actually marking their territories using scent glands. How can this act be used to mark a dog’s territory, you ask? Well, dogs are capable of excreting sweat pheromones from their paws. 

When a dog kicks its back legs, it is dispersing these sweat pheromones into the surrounding air along with the scents of its urine and feces. This effectively establishes a territorial boundary and lets other dogs know the limits of its domain. 

Female dogs are capable of doing the same thing if they desire, but most do not have the urge to do so since they are far less concerned about their territories than male dogs. 

Male dogs are especially likely to participate in scent marking if more than one dog is present in their neighborhood. While this behavior may seem gross, this is how dogs communicate with one another.

You’ve Hit The Perfect Scratching Spot

Have you ever been petting a dog and suddenly they begin to kick one or both of their back legs? If you’ve observed this behavior, then you’ve scratched a dog in a location that they are very excited about

What is interesting about canine bull kicking that is triggered by scratching is that it seems to be an unconscious response to the scratching stimulation-a dog does not actively choose to kick a leg when being scratched in a favorable spot. 

Instead, an involuntary scratch reflex is seemingly activated when someone scratches a dog in a location that they cannot resist. Most dogs seem to display this involuntary scratch reflex. 

There may be several locations around a dog’s body that can trigger this scratch reflex but know that your dog is really enjoying itself if you observe it displaying this behavior. 

They are Scratching

Yes, a dog may kick its back legs as a subconscious reaction to being scratched, but it also may kick its back legs when it has an itch that it’s trying to scratch

Dogs frequently display dramatic, extensive bouts of scratching. This should not come as a surprise to anyone, as dogs and their long, luscious fur coats are the perfect refuge for a host of different pests. 

When an irritating pest gets into the fur of your canine companion, they are likely going to respond by scratching the area in which the pest is located. 

A dog may use its front legs to scratch areas around the face, but using the back legs to scratch an itch is far more common because the back legs are capable of reaching a greater area than the front legs. 

Anyone who has spent time around dogs should easily be able to recognize what scratching looks like. This behavior is always done with a single back leg and concentrated in one area at a time. 

While scratching is seemingly obvious, know that dogs can display some weird scratching positions and behaviors. 

If you are seeking confirmation that your dog is scratching, watch for it to nibble the irritated area following scratching. Moreover, a dog may make grunting noises as it tries to reach an itch that it has. 

Check your dog’s skin if you think it may be scratching because of a pest. Assess whether the skin or red or posses hives and take necessary actions from there.

Your Dog Is Excited

Some dogs choose to demonstrate their excitement by kicking their back legs. This is an uncommon behavior in dogs, but if you’ve ever witnessed it before, you won’t soon forget it.

Have you observed a dog kicking its back legs once you’ve grabbed its leash? How about after you open a bag of treats? If your furry friend kicks its back legs following an action that you know they’re excited about, then this behavior could be a dog’s way of channeling its excitement. 

Not all dogs will kick their back legs when they’re excited, but for those who do, the reason behind why they’re kicking their hind legs should be obvious.

If you suspect that a dog may be kicking their back legs because they’re excited but you aren’t entirely certain, try to observe other behaviors associated with excitement.

Do you notice a wagging tail on your dog? Are they making excited whimpers? Is your canine companion panting with its tongue sticking out? If you observe any of these behaviors in conjunction with bull kicking, you can be confident that a dog is kicking its hind legs because it is excited. 

They’re In A Deep Sleep

If you see a dog’s hind legs move when they’re fast asleep, you may be alarmed at first. Is this an indication that there is something wrong with your dog? 

While it can be surprising to see a dog’s back legs move while it is sleeping, this is perfectly normal behavior. Just as humans twitch and involuntarily move parts of their bodies during deep sleep, so too do dogs. Dogs dream and sleep much like humans do.

Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is responsible for this involuntary hind leg kicking that is sometimes seen in sleeping dogs. Both humans and dogs may experience REM sleep. Rapid eye movement sleep is a state of slumber in which the brain of a creature is just as active as it is when the animal is awake. 

This phenomenon doesn’t last long in dogs, with bouts of REM sleep typically only lasting for a few minutes. REM sleep and—by extension—back leg kicking may last longer if your furry friend has had a long, exhausting day. 

Try to observe other conditions of rapid eye movement sleep such as twitching, deep, fast breathing, and—of course—rapid eye movement. 

They’re Having Muscle Spasms

A dog may exhibit bull-kicking behavior if they experience muscle spasms. The occurrence of muscle spasms is a common reason dogs kick their back legs randomly.

If you’ve ever experienced a muscle spasm, then you know that these muscle contractions can be unexpected and unpleasant. Such occurrences are usually brought on by bouts of dehydration, though they may also follow periods of strenuous activity. 

If you went on a long, exhausting hike with your canine companion or took part in an intense run, then your dog may have muscle contractions by the time you get home. 

A muscle contraction can occur in the back legs, causing a dog to make a kicking motion. 

Muscle cramps are typically harmless, but if an owner notices them, they should ensure that their pooch has access to water, and they should make their furry friend settle down to rest as they allow the contractions to cease. 

Muscle spasms that do not last for long are nothing to worry about. However, a dog that experiences frequent muscle spasms could be cause for concern. 

Frequent muscle spasms could be symptomatic of several underlying health conditions such as a pinched nerve, an injury to a dog’s body, or neurological damage. 

If an owner notices that their furry friend is having an abnormal amount of muscle spasms, they should take their dog in for a checkup with a veterinarian right away. 

They May Be Stretching

Dogs often extend their back legs when they’re trying to get a good stretch. Most people have witnessed this behavior, but did you know that dogs may also kick their back legs when they’re stretching?

It’s true, some dogs that are in search of a satisfying stretch will kick their legs in an effort to achieve the most relief possible

So, how can dog owners differentiate a dog bull kicking to stretch from other reasons that a dog may stretch? Well, you can look for other signs that a dog is stretching to keep you in on the behavior. 

Dogs often stretch after they stand up following an extended bout of lying down. If you notice that your dog immediately starts kicking its back legs after standing up, it is probably stretching. 

You can also watch for some other signs of stretching such as grunting or long, extended legs. 

Stretching is an expected behavior in dogs, and it is no reason for concern. 

Hip Dysplasia

While many of the reasons why a dog may kick their back legs are harmless, some reasons are cause for concern. 

Hip dysplasia is a concerning reason why a dog may kick its back legs. This condition is—unfortunately—fairly common in dogs. Large dogs, in particular, seem to be especially prone to hip dysplasia. 

This condition may occur when a hip joint is worn down to a point where it is rubbing against a dog’s socket. Additionally, hip dysplasia may occur when some sort of growth develops on a dog’s hip bone. 

Hip dysplasia may be caused by a poor diet, a lack of exercise, too much growth, or it may simply be hereditary. 

Whatever the reason for hip dysplasia, know that this condition is painful and debilitating for many dogs. Owners of dogs that may be prone to hip dysplasia should look for the warning signs. 

If you notice that your dog appears to have difficulty walking, have hip dysplasia on your radar. Other signs of hip dysplasia include hind legs that suddenly twitch or kick as a response to pain. 

Therefore, if your dog is seemingly having a difficult time walking and you notice that it tends to suddenly kick its hind legs, hip dysplasia may be to blame. 

Fortunately, hip dysplasia can be treated by owners willing to invest the time and resources to cure this condition. Surgery is one way to correct hip dysplasia. 

Owners that don’t want to pursue this option can instead opt to put their dogs on diets to reduce the stress on their joints. Moreover, dogs suffering from hip dysplasia can be given anti-inflammatory medications and joint fluid modifiers to help ease the pain for their pooches. 

Ultimately, reducing unhealthy weight gain, exercising a dog, and feeding it a balanced diet are great ways to prevent them from developing hip dysplasia.

Degenerative Joint Disease

Though many of the reasons that dogs may kick their hind legs are no reason for concern, the possibility of Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD) does warrant concern

This condition occurs after smooth cartilage in a dog’s joints has been worn down substantially, causing a dog’s joints to become inflamed. 

Canine Degenerative Joint Disease is also known as osteoarthritis. This condition is not considered to be life-threatening, but dogs that develop this disease will struggle to move around. 

As cartilage breaks down in a dog’s joints, Degenerative Joint Disease may cause a dog to randomly bull kick with its hind legs. 

Some of the symptoms of canine DJD include limping, difficulty moving limbs, overly-tired behavior, trouble standing up, and apparent pain when moving. 

Owners will want to prevent the development of canine Degenerative Joint Disease, and the best way to do this would be to give your dog plenty of exercise and ensure that it maintains a healthy weight for its age, breed, and sex. 

There Could Have Some Sort Of Nerve Damage

In the most extreme instances, kicking of the back legs could indicate damage to the nervous system of a dog. Any dog owner would hope that nerve damage is not to blame for their dog’s back leg kicking, but this reason should be on a dog owner’s radar.

The nervous system controls the movements of a dog’s whole body. Any sort of damage to the nervous system could impact a dog’s motor skills and have lasting ramifications on a dog.

If your dog is kicking back legs randomly with no explanation for this occurrence, then damage to the nervous system will need to be considered.

Nerve inflammation could be the reason why a dog’s legs suddenly begin bull kicking with no lead-up to the event.

Nerve damage can take place in a variety of places including a dog’s spinal cord, neck, and brain. If you think that your pooch may be suffering from nerve damage of some sort, take your pet in to see the vet immediately.

How To Differentiate Between Medical and Behavioral Leg Kicking

Now that you’ve read about the many reasons why a dog may kick their back legs, you may be curious to know how you can reliably differentiate between leg kicking caused by a medical condition and leg kicking that is merely behavioral. 

Figuring out how to distinguish between medical and behavioral hind leg kicking can help an owner know if their dog needs treatment from a vet or if it is simply displaying a goofy behavior

Though the outcomes from these two types of back leg kicking can be drastically different, the hind leg kicking appears to look very similar. This means that it can be difficult for owners to discern what is going on with their fur babies. 

Not to worry-with some careful observations, it is very possible to determine the reason for your dog’s hind leg kicking. 

Pet parents attempting to discern why their dogs are kicking their back legs should pay attention to a dog’s mood and other behaviors rather than focusing on its hind leg kicking. 

Try to note if your dog appears to be in any pain. If they do seem to be in pain, then your pooch may be suffering from some sort of medical condition. 

If your dog is not showing any signs of because in pain, consider other factors to ensure that they’re not suffering from a medical condition. Does your dog seem stiff? Does it have trouble moving? 

If your dog is seemingly moving around without issue and does not seem to be in any pain, then it is reasonably safe to assume that your canine companion is not in any pain. 

What Should You Do If You Believe That Your Dog Is Kicking Because Of A Medical Problem?

dog kicking back legs

Owners that are feeling confident that their pooch is kicking its hind legs because of a medical problem may be inclined to panic. However, it’s important to keep a calm head while you consider the next steps to take for your dog. 

The logical step to take after realizing that your dog is probably afflicted with a medical condition would be to take them to the vet. A veterinarian will be able to assess a dog’s condition and let you know what the treatment options may be. 

After discussion with a veterinarian, your dog’s care may be in your hands if the condition isn’t life-threatening. 

Many detrimental health conditions that can cause leg kicking can be mitigated by providing your dog with sufficient exercise, a healthy amount of food, and by feeding them a high-quality diet. 

What Can A Vet Do About A Dog Kicking Their Back Legs?

If you’re considering taking your dog to see a veterinarian, you may first wonder what a vet can do about a dog’s kicking.

Well, this is dependent on how your vet diagnoses the dog kicking that your pooch is doing.

If your pooch is rehabilitating from a physical injury or some sort of stiffness that is causing a dog to randomly kick its back legs, then a vet may advise physical therapy or moderate physical activity for a dog.

Dogs kicking because of a more serious condition such as a spinal cord injury, an injury that causes brain damage, or another condition that could threaten a dog’s life may require surgery to correct kicking back legs.

Dealing with such an injury can be scary from the perspective of a dog owner, but know that your pooch is in good hands. Following surgery, there is a decent chance that your dog will be able to make a full recovery.

Vets may also prescribe certain medications that may mitigate whatever is causing kicking back legs randomly.

How Can I Get A Dog To Stop Kicking Back Legs Habitually?

Owners of certain dogs that are habitual leg kickers may want to know how they can discourage instances in which dogs kick their back legs.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with this behavior, some may find it to be a frustrating habit. So, is there a way to curb a dog’s kicking tendency?

Older dogs may struggle to change their ways if they have been habitual leg kickers for life, but pet parents can try to work with younger dogs that develop tendencies to kick.

While working with a dog to mitigate leg-kicking behavior, remember that it is best to be calm and patient. If a dog does not behave how you expect, offer a firm “no” and allow your body language to convey your feelings instead of yelling at your pooch.

Be consistent in your efforts to train dog kicking behavior out of your pooch and you will likely have success.

Should I Do Anything For A Dog Kicking Its Back Legs?

Now that you’ve read more about why dogs kick their back legs, you might want to know if anything should be done to address the behavior if you own a dog that bull kicks.

Of course, if dogs suffer because of nerve damage or other symptoms of detrimental medical conditions, then some sort of treatment should be sought.

However, for dogs that merely kick for innocent reasons, owners do not need to address the behavior. In fact, you may even find it to be quite entertaining to watch.

If the leg-kicking behavior is not harmful to your dog or anyone else, then there is no need to address the behavior.