When a dog kicks their back legs while barking, this is also known as the “happy dance.” Dogs typically do this when they are excited and trying to initiate play. Some dogs will also do this when they know they’re about to get a delicious treat.
Dogs are an endless source of entertainment for humans. They are wonderful companions, but sometimes have behaviors that make us humans scratch our heads and wonder what is going on inside their doggy brain.
One thing you may have noticed is that your dog is kicking back their legs while they are barking.
This puzzling behavior can be amusing to watch, but chances are, you are wondering why exactly your dog is doing that.
The Happy Dance
When excited dogs kick their back legs while barking, some owners affectionately refer to this behavior as their dog’s happy dance. It almost seems like your dog is smiling when performing their little happy dance!
If this behavior is coupled with a bow and a wagging tail, the dog is probably trying to initiate play.
If you see your dog kicking back their legs and barking when they are about to get a treat, have dinner, or are excited about something, they’re just performing the happy dance.
What If My Dog Doesn’t Seem Excited While Doing This?
The happy dance isn’t the only reason dogs kick their back legs while barking.
While there are no definitive answers to why dogs do some of the things they do, there are explanations as to why dogs kick their legs, as well as why dogs bark.
Based on these reasons, you may be able to determine why you see your dog kicking back their legs while they are barking.
Other Reasons Dogs Kick Their Back Legs
It’s All About The Scent
Most often, dogs are seen kicking back their legs after they eliminate. Contrary to popular belief, your dog is not doing this to cover up what they have done.
Sense of smell is important to dogs. Their sense of smell is significantly stronger than humans. Dogs have about 300 million scent receptors in their nose, while humans only have about 6 million.
Dogs rely on their sense of smell for many tasks, like finding food or being aware of the presence of other dogs or animals.
Dogs also use their sense of smell to get to know other dogs. In fact, dogs have scent memory, which means it helps them remember dogs they have met before.
They also use their sense of smell to determine who lives in their neighborhood, especially after moving to a new place.
Hey, I’m Here!
Dogs have scent glands in their feet. These glands secrete your dog’s scent, so when they are kicking their legs back, they leave plenty of their scent behind on the area where they just eliminated.
This is another way your dog is marking their territory or letting another animal know they have been there.
This dates back to their wild days, when dogs needed to mark their territory daily. The scent from the glands on their feet remains on the ground longer than the scent from their feces or urine.
Dogs did this to let other dogs know where they had been. The behavior has not been erased as dogs have become domesticated.
No matter where you live, your dog is trying to let other dogs or animals know they have been there. When another dog comes along to that spot, they will smell that your dog has been there, and either choose a new location or just hold on to that knowledge.
Dominance Vs. Submission
Your dog is kicking their back legs after they eliminate either out of dominance or submission.
If you know your dog is more on the dominant side, they may be leaving extra scent behind to warn other dogs not to invade their territory.
If your dog is on the submissive side, they may be trying to alert other dogs they were. This will help them avoid trouble.
X Marks the Spot
This kicking back of the legs to leave their scent also functions like a breadcrumb trail for your dog.
If your dog has a favorite spot where they typically like to go to eliminate, and you see them giving the ground a thorough sniff before they get to business, they are finding their spot!
The kicking back motion of their legs left their scent behind so that your dog could remember where they like to go.
If you notice your dog engaging in this behavior as they get older, it may strike you as odd that they have picked it up out of nowhere.
It could mean that your dog is feeling pressured or forced to mark their territory. If you just moved to a new place or there has been a significant change in your dog’s life, this could explain why you are seeing them kick back their legs after eliminating when they rarely do that.
Can Kicking Back Legs be a Sign of Aggression?
Dogs kicking back their legs after elimination could be a sign of dominance to let other dogs know to stay away from their spot.
However, this does not mean the behavior is a sign of aggression. While this body language may remind you of a bull that is about to charge, it is not typical of dogs that are about to attack.
Signs of Aggression
You know your dog best and can read their body language. If you see them kicking back their legs coupled with other aggressive behaviors like lunging, having a tall stiff body, a vertical tail and ears, direct eye contact, bared teeth, or growling–you could interpret this as a sign of aggression.
You are the expert on how your dog behaves. Use their body language to make an educated interpretation about why they are kicking back their legs at a particular time.
Other Reasons for Barking
Dogs bark for many reasons. Dogs can bark as a warning that something does not feel right to them, like hearing a strange noise in the middle of the night.
They can bark out of anxiety if they are alone, or to demand attention or food from their owner.
Dogs will bark when they want to play or are excited, or they can bark in a way that is conversing with other dogs. They may be saying hello to the one who just barked down the street!
Sometimes dogs will even bark just to hear the sound of their own voice.
Take note of the situation when you see your dog kicking back their legs and barking. They may do it as an additional way of expressing what they are feeling.
Is This Behavior Bad?
This behavior is harmless unless you know that your dog is doing it aggressively. The most harm this behavior can do is destroy your lawn, especially if your dog has a powerful kick.
If your dog constantly kicks back their legs after they eliminate, and your lawn is looking patchy, there are things you can do to minimize the behavior for the sake of your lawn.
To get your dog to stop kicking back their legs after they eliminate, distract them before they can do it. Take your dog to their designated potty spot and wait for them to go.
When they are finished, immediately catch their attention with a highly desired treat or toy and praise them for going potty.
Continue this process every time you take your dog out; distract them immediately before they are able to kick back their legs.
Eventually, your dog will learn that potty=immediate treat and seek your attention rather than kick their legs.
Alternatively, you can avoid having your dog go potty on a spot that is easily destroyed. If you know they are prone to tearing up your lawn with the kicking of their back legs, try to have them go to the bathroom as much as possible while out on a walk.
Ultimately, unless this behavior becomes destructive, it is best to let your dog do it, as it’s what comes naturally to them.
it’s not always possible to explain why dogs do what they do. There is a lot of information about certain dog behaviors and what they mean, but sometimes their behavior is unexplainable.
Taken separately, kicking their back legs and barking each mean different things. When your dog is doing both things together, take note of the situation and make your best interpretation of why they are doing it.
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Bryan Harkins is an avid dog lover and the proud owner of dogdorable.com, a website dedicated to all things canine. With years of experience working with dogs, Bryan is passionate about providing valuable information, tips, and resources to help pet owners provide the best possible care for their furry companions.