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Why Do Dogs Kick Their Back Legs When Walking?

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Dogs have a fascinating array of behaviors, and one that often catches our attention is when they kick their back legs while walking. It’s a peculiar sight, and you may have wondered why dogs do this. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the reasons behind this behavior, delve into the science behind it, and provide insights into the evolutionary significance of this seemingly quirky habit.

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Understanding the Behavior

When dogs kick their back legs while walking, it’s actually a natural and instinctual behavior. It is believed to be a form of communication and territorial marking among dogs. By scratching the ground with their hind legs, dogs are not only leaving visible marks but also releasing pheromones from the glands on their paws. These pheromones act as a scent marker, conveying important information to other dogs who come across the area.

The Significance of Scent Marking

Dogs have an extraordinary sense of smell, with scent perception that is 25 to 60 times sharper than that of humans. They possess between 125 million to 300 million scent glands, which allow them to detect and interpret various scents in their environment. By kicking their back legs and spreading pheromones, dogs are effectively marking their territory and communicating with other canines.

Territorial Marking

Territory marking is a fundamental behavior for dogs. It serves as a way for them to establish boundaries and assert their presence in a particular area. When a dog kicks its back legs and releases pheromones, it signals to other dogs that the territory has been claimed. This behavior is more commonly observed in male dogs, especially those who hold a dominant position within their social group.

Social Display and Communication

In addition to territorial marking, dogs may also engage in back leg kicking as a form of social display and communication. This behavior is often observed during encounters with unfamiliar dogs. By leaving visible marks and spreading their scent, dogs can convey important information about their presence, intentions, and social status to other dogs in the vicinity.

Evolutionary Significance

The behavior of kicking back legs while walking can be traced back to the early ancestors of domesticated dogs. In the wild, where dogs had to defend their food and protect themselves from predators, this behavior played a crucial role. By marking their territory and leaving scent cues, dogs could ward off potential threats and establish dominance within their social group.

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Encouraging the Behavior

Since back leg kicking is a natural and instinctual behavior for dogs, it is generally not recommended to discourage or change it. However, there are a few considerations to keep in mind. If your dog seems anxious or hurried while kicking its back legs, it may be a sign of discomfort or pain. In such cases, it is advisable to consult with a veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical issues.

Maintaining a Healthy Routine

While allowing your dog to engage in back leg kicking behavior, it is important to maintain a healthy routine. Regular exercise, mental stimulation, and a balanced diet are key factors in ensuring your dog’s overall well-being. By providing these essential elements, you can enhance your dog’s physical and mental health, which in turn can positively impact their behavior.

Alternative Strategies

If your dog’s back leg kicking behavior becomes excessive or disruptive, it may be beneficial to seek guidance from a professional dog trainer. They can provide alternative strategies to redirect your dog’s energy and focus during walks. Additionally, providing your dog with designated areas for play and exploration, such as a dog park, can help satisfy their natural instincts without causing damage to your yard or surroundings.


The behavior of dogs kicking their back legs while walking is a fascinating and natural behavior. By scratching the ground and releasing pheromones, dogs are engaging in territorial marking and communication with other dogs. Understanding and accepting this behavior as a normal part of a dog’s routine is essential for maintaining a healthy and harmonious relationship with your canine companion.

Remember to embrace your dog’s instincts and provide them with the necessary care and enrichment they need to thrive. By respecting their natural behaviors, you can create a loving and supportive environment that allows your dog to express themselves fully.

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