You come home from a long day of work and who is standing right by the door? It’s your dog itching for a belly rub or a scratch behind the ears. You oblige, and once you hit a sweet spot, they start kicking a leg – but why does this happen?
According to Colorado-based canine expert Marc Bekoff, D.V.M., dogs kicking their legs while being scratched is an involuntary reflex of self-preservation, The Huffington Post reported. At times, the sensation of scratching or tickling might be reminiscent of your dog itching from being infested with fleas or other dangerous parasites. As such, the kicking is a built-in reflex to remove the insects from their skin.
The movement is akin to when you burn your hand on an iron and immediately – and involuntarily – yank it away from the hot surface. That entire sequence involves your brain recognizing the pain, sending signals to your spinal cord and your nervous system responding by forcing you to pull back from the iron.
Veterinarians might use a dog itching reflex to diagnose potential neurological problems in pooches. This is similar to when your doctor taps your knee with a rubber mallet to measure reflexes.
What’s the best spot to scratch your dog?
According to Shiba Shake, most canines enjoy a healthy scratch on the top of their heads. The ideal spot is around the ears, which can cause your pooch to twitch and kick his or her leg. Some dogs might also enjoy petting on their muzzles or between their eyes, but you should always approach each pooch differently, especially if they’re not your own.
VetStreet also recommended giving canines some good scratching on their chests, shoulders and the base of their necks. These spots can be hard for them to reach on their own and you could be seriously soothing some dog itching. In addition, dogs have specific spots where they love to be petted, such as the base of their tails or the area of their necks where the collars sit. A long day of leather or chain rubbing on their skin can get irritating, so take off their collars once they’re inside for the night and massage their necks.
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