Has your dog ever curled up next to you, snuggly and close, and it melted your heart? And then your pup extended their legs and nearly shoved you off the bed or couch?
I can always tell when a dog is about to give me a kick. I used to wonder why, and sometimes, I used to take it personally.
It turns out that dogs have several reasons for this behavior, none of which have anything to do with them disliking my presence or yours.
If you’ve ever asked why your dog does this, I hope this list helps you understand your dog’s behavior a little better and, hopefully, make it less frustrating next time your dog starts kicking.
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Are you petting or scratching your dog during the kicking behavior? Many dogs kick one or more legs while being scratched or rubbed in specific places.
Like people, when dogs feel a tickle, they try to scratch it. If your dog’s legs twitch while you’re scratching or petting them, that’s probably the cause. If they scratch excessively, they may have dermatitis.
Sometimes if a dog kicks while lying down, the behavior is as simple as the pooch being playful. However, if your dog is awake and keeps pushing you with its feet, it’s playtime. Your pup probably wants your attention.
If your dog frantically kicks after lying next to you, your pet might be excited about something. It could be a sign that your dog needs to go outside, needs food or water, or is just happy to be there.
No matter how long I’ve had dogs, I still marvel when they behave like pack animals living in the wild. A dog that scratches the ground before lying down or kicks dirt with the back legs displays ancient behaviors from long before dogs were pets.
Sometimes when a dog lies down close to someone, it feels the need to “mark its territory” by kicking and stretching to fill more space. Scratching also scent marks you and whatever the dog kicks. This behavior is normal and nothing that should worry you.
Feeling Insecure or Threatened
Sometimes when dogs feel threatened, they try to assert their dominance by kicking their back legs. It’s unlikely that your dog curled up next to you and kicked you because of this.
In a situation with unfamiliar people, loud noises, or anything potentially upsetting, this might cause kicking. In this case, it’s behavior about dominance and aggression as self-protection.
Sometimes dogs don’t have control over kicking while lying down. Muscle spasms can occur for several reasons. If the dog overworked its muscles that day, it could be muscle cramps and spasms.
Overtiredness, dehydration, imbalances, and arthritis can cause involuntary muscle spasms in dogs. If you suspect any of these could be the case, you should check with your vet.
If you’ve seen your dog dig the floor, a blanket, or its bed before lying down, you’ve witnessed digging behavior. Your pet’s attempt to make its sleeping spot as comfortable as possible could translate to making anything nearby comfy, too.
When a dog kicks because they’re trying to get their spot the way they want, it’s instinct rather than an attempt to kick you personally.
A dog sleeping on its side will often kick during sleep, whether in dreams or reflexively. Dogs have muscle movements sometimes while sleeping the same way people do.
One of my favorite things to do is watch Max dreaming about chasing things. Watching a dog’s nose twitch and legs kick during a dream is adorable.
Some dreams are unpleasant, and dogs can whine and growl while running in those. You don’t need to wake your dog from a nightmare, but you can. However, be careful because a sudden startle could cause your dog to snap without thinking.
If your dog is cold while asleep, the muscles can spasm from the colder temperatures and cause kicking. Small and toy breeds are less tolerant of the cold than larger breeds. You can put a blanket on your dog or turn up the room temperature to see if that helps.
If your dog’s asleep and stretching its legs to kick and push you, it might be an attempt to get away from your body heat and cool down. This behavior is automatic and involuntary, so give your dog a little room, and the kicking will probably stop.
The least pleasant option in this list of reasons a dog kicks when lying down is the possibility of minor seizures. Don’t assume this is what’s happening if other reasons make sense, but if the kicking behavior is constant, watch for other signs.
Symptoms of seizures include involuntary twitching, stiffness, passing out, falling, drooling, and inability to focus.
The chances are that if your dog suffered from seizures, you’d know it. The ones that can appear to be dream twitching or kicking are petit mal seizures, small ones that aren’t as serious as grand mal seizures.
If you think your dog is having a seizure, wait with the dog until it passes to be sure they can’t bump into anything and get hurt. Then call the vet for an evaluation.
Petit mal seizures in dogs don’t usually require treatment unless they become frequent and grow in severity.
Summary: Why Does My Dog Kick Me When Lying Down?
If your dog displays kicking behavior and you’re uncertain of the cause, you can always call your vet and discuss it. Most reasons for kicking are minor and harmless, though.
If your dog kicking back legs while lying down awake – or in bed with you – this is normal! There are so many easily explainable reasons that your dog kicks. Kicking back legs or front legs is considered normal sleeping habits for healthy dogs. There is no malice in their action.
Dogs respond to calm bedtime routines the same way people do, so try to create a peaceful environment when it’s time to lie down to prevent sleep-kicking in your dog.
If they want to curl up next to you and give you a playful shove, though, there’s not much you can do about it except enjoy the attention.