We’re hoping you can solve a mystery for us: why does our dog kick her leg when we scratch her back and belly? Is she ticklish? Does she enjoy it?
Curious About Kicking in The Heights
Dear Curious About Kicking,
Anyone who has spent any time around a dog has probably witnessed this bizarre behavior. Picture it: you’re scratching your dog’s back and all of the sudden, one (or sometimes both) of her legs start frantically kicking. So weird, right? This is actually a mystery that I hadn’t ever even considered, so I’m happy that you’ve given me this opportunity to dive deep and find out why dogs do this.
It’s Called the “Scratch Reflex”
As it turns out, dogs have what is called a, “scratch reflex,” which is an involuntary reaction to being petted or scratched in certain areas. According to vets, when you scratch or rub your dog, this sometimes irritates her nervous system and engages this scratch reflex.
There are nerves in your dog’s skin that travel up the spinal cord to the brain and let the brain know that there is an irritant on your dog’s skin. In the wild, this irritant might be more troublesome, like a dangerous insect. This causes the dog’s leg to start kicking to rid itself of the irritant.
Similar To A Knee Jerk Reaction
Vets also use this scratch reflex to determine if a dog has suffered some sort of nerve damage or neurological trauma. Much how your doctor might test your reflexes by tapping your knee and waiting for an involuntary kick, vets can do the same using a dog’s scratch reflex.
Are You Irritating Your Dog?
So, it’s interesting to learn that this response is due to irritation. Most people who are rubbing a dog’s belly wouldn’t consider that irritating–in fact, many dogs love having their bellies rubbed. But, just in case, read your dog’s body language and if your belly or back scratching seems to be causing more grief than pleasure to your dog, honor her nervous system and find another way to show her that you love her!
How You Can Help:
Do you have friends or neighbors who have been dragging their feet about getting their pets spayed or neutered? On Saturday, September 14 at 8 a.m., at Ingrando Park, BARC will be hosting Healthy Pets Healthy Streets! Pet owners who live within the City of Houston limits can come to the event to get a voucher for a FREE SPAY/NEUTER appointment.
BARC has partnered with various organizations such as Friends For Life Animal Rescue and Adoption Organization – Houston, SNAP Houston Spay-Neuter and Animal Wellness Clinic, and Emancipet to provide these vouchers.
Only vouchers will be provided, so DO NOT BRING YOUR ANIMALS WITH YOU on Saturday. For more information on how to obtain a voucher for a free spay or neuter, go to www.friends4life.org.
Do you have a question for Tabby? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Pet of the Week
Meet Blender. If you’re looking to “mix it up” a little in your home, then Blender might be just the guy for you. This 2 year old Lab-mix is darn near perfect! He’s friendly, sweet, cuddly, doesn’t chew, is kennel trained…I mean, we could go on and on! Blender would love a family with kids to play with and a soft bed to snuggle with you on. Doesn’t he sound like a dream? Meet him in person at www.k9angelsrescue.org.