Your dog may kick you when you pet them due to medial patella luxation, dog scratch reflex, or muscle spasms. Furthermore, seizures, degenerative joint diseases, and rapid eye movement cycles can cause your dog to kick you.

why do dogs kick
Playing dog – image by Brixiv from Pexels

More often than not, it is a normal phenomenon with dogs when their stomach is scratched. Other times, it indicates an underlying medical condition or your pet simply marking its territory.

There is no denying that most pets enjoy it when you scratch their stomach. When dogs kick their legs back when you pet them, you have likely hit their sweet spot. This reaction is involuntary and is referred to as the dog scratch reflex.

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What Could Cause My Dog To Kick Me When I Pet Him?

Dog Scratch Reflex When I Pet

As earlier stated, this is an involuntary response from your pet to the action of you petting and rubbing its stomach. The scratch reflex is triggered when you scratch or tease certain dog tummy areas, colloquially known as sweet spots.

Your pup’s sweet spot is a collection of nerves beneath the skin. These neurons are stimulated when you scratch your pet’s tummy and contact this region, and they send a message to the hind leg.

When your pup turns around to show you its stomach, it means it is enjoying it. At the same time, it does not imply that every dog enjoys this sensation. Dogs who do not want it tend to move away from you when you continue to scratch their tummy.

Muscle Spasm When I Pet

When your dog starts to kick uncontrollably, it is likely caused by muscle spasms, which can occur due to various factors. Overexertion, for one, might cause them if your dog is excessively active.

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Dehydration or electrolyte imbalance are also causes of muscle spasms in your dog. If your dog doesn’t drink enough water or is in sweltering weather, this could be the case. Muscle spasms can also be caused by nerve injury, inflammation, or arthritis.

It is caused by disruptions in muscle contractions. You can see the muscle spasms in your dog as they manifest as tremors or twitching in a specific area of your pet’s body, and your pet will be sensitive to touch.

Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Cycles

While your dog sleeps, a lot happens in its body. During sleep, your pet goes into the REM stage of sleep, and this is the stage where your dog falls into a deep sleep and dreams. This is where your dog begins to twitch and kick.

Leg jerks and muscle spasms can occur during REM sleep in some dogs with particularly active REM cycles, and these only happen while your dog is asleep. However, they are more common in younger and older dogs.

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Degenerative Joint Disease

This occurs when the smooth cartilage that protects and covers the ends of bones in moveable joints wears away. This causes the dog to be in agony because the bones will rub against each other directly. Inflammation and other arthritis symptoms will also be present.

This condition will worsen with time. It is more prevalent in dogs with congenital joint abnormalities or those who have previously sustained an injury to their joint.

The symptoms vary based on your dog’s age, the degree of the condition, and which joint is affected.


Seizures in dogs can cause them to twitch and kick you uncontrollably. It can be due to brain tumours, trauma, liver diseases, kidney failure, or other infections. Seizures are sometimes hereditary, which means your pet is likely to experience seizures if its parent had it.

At the same time, seizures can happen in your pet’s sleep, and you may not recognize it as it can look similar to muscle spasms or twitching during your pup’s REM sleep.

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Medial Patella Luxation

It is a common cause of orthopaedic lameness in dogs, more prevalent in smaller dogs. In some circumstances, the dog’s rear knees will be impacted on both sides, whereas in others, just one knee will be afflicted.

This condition occurs when the kneecap of your pet moves in and out of its place. It is often caused by a knee injury or by dogs with shallow femoral grooves. Affected dogs will frequently skip or hold up their limbs for a few steps, shaking or extending the leg.

What To Do If My Dog Kicks Me When I Pet Him?

why do dogs kick
Beagle dog playing with its owner – image by Bluebird from pexels

You have no reason to do anything unless your dog kicks in due to a medical condition. If your dog has a scratch reflex, you could stop rubbing its sweet spot, which will prevent any other kick from your dog.

However, if it is a result of overexertion or muscle spasms, you must try to give your pet proper rest before and after exercise. This is especially if it has been inactive for a while. Additionally, make sure that your dog is well hydrated always.

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Suppose your pup has a more serious underlying condition. In that case, the safest option will be to seek professional help from your veterinary doctor to diagnose the cause and ascertain the best course of treatment and care for your dog.


You must continue to reward your dog with belly rubs if they appreciate it. There is no need to deny your pet’s attention or yourself the pleasure of witnessing your pet’s delight in a belly scratch.

The interaction is beneficial to both you and your best friend, as it will build a bond between you. It will also increase the level of trust between you and your pup.

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