Here’s Why Your Dog’s Leg Twitches When You Scratch Their Belly
Most dogs really love belly rubs. Most owners know this and enjoy the calming activity as well. If your pooch is one of those cuddly types, you already know that every dog has a so-called ‘sweet spot’ that makes them to kick their leg when you scratch it. This adorable reaction usually happens when you hit that spot, also known as the saddle region: the dog’s belly, sides and even some parts of their back. Though the location of the spot differs from pup to pup, they all have one; some dogs even have several spots that make their leg twitch like crazy.
Undeniably cute, this behavior has also been puzzling dog owners for quite some time now. Why do dogs kick their leg when you scratch their belly?
As it happens, dogs exhibit this peculiar behavior for the same reason humans move their leg when the doctor taps below our knee with a hammer to examine our reflexes. So, pups kick because of something known as the ‘scratch reflex,’ which is a completely involuntary reaction. Basically, dogs have no control over it and that’s why they often seem equally confused as humans when they start kicking their leg during a belly rub.
So, we hate to break it to you, but your dog is actually quite irritated when you scratch their belly and perceives this action in the exact same way they would be annoyed if a bug attacked them. The touch activates nerves under their skin that are connected with the spinal cord, relaying a message to their leg to move in order to remove the thing that’s irritating them. This means that owners are both itching and scratching them, which explains why dogs are so confused by the act.
Therefore, if you want to stop annoying your beloved dog, you might want to try to scratch another part of their body (or even belly) that doesn’t cause such a reaction. The good news is that your dog is one healthy pup, seeing as vets use this sweet spot to check out their neurological system – if they kick, their nerves are fine.