Here’s Why Dogs Kick When You Scratch Their Belly

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Whenever you locate that sweet spot on your pooch’s belly, your pup just can’t help themselves.  Each time you start rubbing their belly, they kick their legs and look so excited – but why?

First of all, we have to disappoint you.  This reaction is not a sign of happiness.  In fact, the scratch reflex is an involuntary response that exists to keep your dog safe.  Basically, it is a means of self-protection for Fido, according to Animal Planet.

‘’Dogs shake or kick their legs when you scratch them because of something known as the scratch reflex. It’s a completely involuntary reaction, which explains why your dog may look as puzzled as you do when it starts to happen. When you scratch or tickle your dog’s belly, it irritates him, much the same way that the wind or a bug might. It activates nerves under his skin that are connected to his spinal cord and relays a message to his leg muscles to kick in an attempt to get rid of the irritant. Of course, you’re the one both providing the “itch” and “scratching” it, so it’s a completely pointless act.’’

In addition, veterinarians use the sweet spots to locate nerve damage or neurological problems in dogs – this is similar to the human knee-jerk test.

Dr. Lore Haug, a veterinarian and animal behavior expert for Texas Veterinary Behavior Services explained to Popular Science what your pooch feels when you scratch their tummy.

“Let’s say you touch a hot stove, and before your brain recognizes it’s painful, the spinal cord recognizes the pain, and you involuntarily jerk your hand back. If you had to wait until your conscious brain recognized something was in danger, your delay in reaction time could cause an injury or even death in some cases.”

Well, at least now we know.

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