Dogs can have strange ways of expressing themselves. The behavior may seem weird, but it may be considered perfectly normal in the canine world. There could also be health issues causing your dog to behave differently.
One such behavior we will explore today is random kicking off the back legs.
Most dogs commonly show such behavior when they take care of their business outside. For example, some dogs may kick back their legs a few times, while others may get aggressive and dig up grass and mud with their kicking.
The behavior could also be because of other reasons as excitement, social dominance, and health concerns.
The article will attempt to answer the question – why does my dog kick his back legs randomly? We will also explore if the behavior is unusual and what you can do best in such situations.
Why Does My Dog Kick His Back Legs Randomly?
Some reasons are harmless. They are instinctual behaviors the dogs have picked up from their ancestors. But medical reasons require a vet consultation.
Let us look at each reason in detail.
1. Territory Marking Behavior
Humans use language to communicate, and canines use their scent. A dog’s sweat glands are located in its paws. The sweat from these glands contains pheromones. This chemical excrement is how dogs identify one another.
If the dog kicks its back legs after peeing and pooping, it is trying to spread its scent. The scent of their urine and poop can last longer.
It is the dog’s way of communicating with other canines. It is letting the other dogs know they are in its territory.
For domesticated canines, you are most likely to see the behavior in and around the house or apartment. For example, the dog may kick its legs aggressively in the backyard or right in front of the house.
According to AKC, dogs’ marking their territory is their way of saying, ‘this is mine.’ It is harmless behavior, as long as your dog is safe and not kicking up chunks of grass and dirt.
If the dog gets aggressive with the behavior, then it would be best to contact the vet.
2. Social Dominance
This reason is an extension of dogs marking their territory. The dog would especially behave in the presence of animals it does not know.
Let us take an example. Canines may feel vulnerable when they get into a pooping position. This, again, is an intuitive feeling. Wild dogs would have to protect and fend for themselves even when pooping.
In such situations, the dog may feel threatened by the presence of another animal in the area. Territory marking can tell other dogs to stay away.
Kicking the back legs can be seen as aggressive, something that a pack leader would do. So, the whole display can be used as an intimidation tactic by asking other animals not to bother it.
Researchers have observed that other animals often avoid dogs that kick their back legs. The animal is avoided during and even after the act. So, it can be a good way of establishing dominance and also a form of protection.
3. Visual Marking
The dog can leave slashes when it kicks its back legs. These slashes act as visual markers in the canine world. The slashes will be more prominent on dirt surfaces than on concrete.
They can serve multiple purposes. For example, the slashes on the ground tell a story. It is the dog saying, ‘I was here.’ And other animals should not trespass in its area. In the olden days, such marking would have been used to protect a dog’s food stash or puppies.
It can also visually mark an area if the dog wants to return to the exact location. For example, now it may hide its favorite toys that it does not want to share and mark the area with slashes.
Kicking the back legs can be seen as a sign of excitement. Some people may jump up and down or clap their hands when excited.
With canine language, kicking legs could be the dog’s communication; it is happy and exciting.
For example, the dog can be excited to see you after a long day. It may run up to you, bounce around, kick back its legs, or wag its tail.
Or the dog can show such behavior when you are about to do an activity it enjoys. This could be going for a walk, swimming, or playing the game of fetch it thoroughly enjoys.
5. Muscle Spasms
Muscle spasms can happen suddenly and affect any part of the body. It is the back legs, though, that are the most affected.
There can be several causes for involuntary muscle twitching. For example, the dog could be actively dreaming when its back legs twitch. Or the behavior could have been triggered due to external stimulators like thundering or fireworks.
There could also be serious health issues causing the symptom. For example, the dog could be over-exerted or have slipped discs, injuries, infections, or muscle damage. Seizures can be another cause that can lead to uncontrollable muscle spasms.
In these cases, muscle spasms can be one of the many symptoms of the health issue. You may also notice other signs like abnormal gait, lameness, and hesitancy to take stairs or run.
You need to consult the vet to identify the cause and proper treatment. These symptoms should not be disregarded as your dog’s condition worsens.
6. Joint Issues
Dogs can experience a range of joint issues. The dog may develop joint conditions due to developmental problems, wear and tear, injury or aging. The dog may try to relieve pain and discomfort by kicking its legs.
A dog’s movable joints, at its endpoints, are covered with cartilage that does not have any nerves. So the dog does not feel any pain when the joints move.
But as the cartilage disappears, the bones which do not have nerves start rubbing against each other. This can be painful for the pet.
The cartilage can disappear due to conditions like arthritis or hip dysplasia.
Depending on the degree of pain and degeneration, the dog may show other signs like:
- Muscle stiffness
- Reduced muscle size
- Increased sleeping
- Loss of appetite
Please get in touch with the vet for an appropriate treatment plan. The vet may suggest surgery. Degenerative conditions, though, do not have cures.
Instead, the vet may prescribe medications and supplements and recommend therapies and lifestyle changes to let the pet enjoy a decent quality of life.
Also Read: Why Do Dogs Sleep Between Your Legs?
7. Nerve Damage
This serious health issue can cause the dog to kick its legs randomly. With nerve damage, the brain may not communicate effectively with different body parts.
So, if the dog has leg nerve damage, it may involuntarily kick like a bull because of miscommunication. Such dogs can display other symptoms, like:
- Muscle weakness
- Licking the affected area
- Muscle wasting
- Pain vocalization
- Change in mood and behavior
The dog can damage its nerves because of spinal issues like tumors or injury. Neurodegenerative disorders can be another cause. Accidents wherein the dog hurts its legs due to extreme weight or pressure can lead to nerve damage.
The vet may prescribe medications to ease the pain and aid healing. In addition, the vet may recommend therapies to speed up the recuperation period.
Is Randomly Kicking Back Legs a Problem?
It would help if you considered the context of the behavior to understand whether it is a problem.
For example, suppose the dog kicks its back legs when it is excited to be around you or engaging in an activity it enjoys. In that case, there is nothing to be worried about.
If the behavior is a part of its territory marking or scent spreading trait, it should still be ok. This is normal behavior that can be seen in most dogs. If you feel the dog is getting aggressive and may hurt its paws or legs, seek help from a vet.
Kicking back legs can become a problem if other symptoms accompany it. For example, discuss it with the vet symptoms like difficulty walking, changes in gait, food consumption, and activities.
What Should I Do When My Dog Starts Kicking His Back Legs?
As mentioned above, kicking back legs is not a problem because of excitement, territory marking, or establishing social dominance. As the behavior is harmless, you can ignore it. There is no need to resort to any curbing or training practices.
If you are concerned, a consultation session with the vet can ease your concerns and put your mind to rest.
If you notice other symptoms, it is best to contact the vet. You will be asked when you saw the signs, frequency, diet, or routine changes and the pet’s medical history.
The vet can perform a physical examination and take x-rays, blood, and urine tests to confirm the condition.
In case of health issues, the vet may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication, pain relievers, muscle relaxants, and nutritional supplements to help manage the condition. Surgery may be an option depending on the canine’s condition.
Thus, it would help if you reached out to the vet soon.
Why does my dog kick his back legs randomly? You may look at this as random, but the behavior is typical among canines.
The dogs may try to spread their scent and communicate with other dogs. They say, ‘I was here,’ or ‘this is mine.’ It can establish territory or social dominance. Such reasons are harmless.
Medical issues could also trigger kicking off back legs in dogs. For example, arthritis, hip dysplasia, spinal cord tumors, seizures, infections, and injuries can cause the behavior.
Don’t hesitate to contact the vet if you notice additional symptoms like limping, increased sleeping, low tolerance to physical activities, or weight gain.
Elena Gherman is a highly skilled and knowledgeable animal care expert. At the start of her career, she gained practical expertise with multiple animals. In addition to that, she works as a DVM veterinary editor for Joy Pet Products, which focuses on offering reliable information on pet health and wellbeing. She meticulously reviews each piece of writing before it is published to make sure pet owners get the most precise and updated information possible.