back to top

Why Dogs Kick When You Scratch Their Sweet Spots

It might serve a purpose other than being the cutest.

Posted on

Ever wonder why dogs kick when you scratch them in special spots?

luxmitges / Via

Popular Science offers one answer: It's an involuntary protective response. That also means they might not necessarily like it.

The reflex emerged as a way for pups to help shield them from potentially harmful irritants like bugs, veterinarian Lore Haug told the publication.

Like yanking your hand from a hot surface, the kick can act as a bodyguard that acts before the conscious mind can process what's happening, said Haug.


Parts of your dog's skin, typically the "saddle" region, have neural pathways connected to his spine, according to Animal Planet. When you rub these nooks, your dog involuntarily reacts.

Initiating it is like mimicking an irritant that activates your pet's muscles to kick it away.

sweeneyde / Via

So if a mosquito was hobknobbing around your dog's fur, the tickling would initiate the leg to bat away at the itchy source — except you're providing both the itch and scratch.

Whether or not they like it can easily be discerned: If he's loving the tummy rub, keep going, but if he scoots away, it might not be a nice feeling. Try his chest instead!