Why does my dog kick me when lying down?

Do you have a dog that is never happier than when they are right by your side or inches away from your feet from morning till night?

I do.

And although it is very touching because it shows how much she loves me, it can wear a little thin if she follows me absolutely everywhere.

And part of this “shadow” like behaviour is when my dog lies down next to me and kicks me?

But why does she do that?

It is quite a common dog behaviour and so in this article I thought that I would dig a little and find out exactly where this kicking behaviour comes from.

Why do dogs kick their back legs whilst they are asleep?

One of my two Golden Retrievers has a very active dream life.

And it tends to be most noticeable when she is very tired after a pretty long or energetic walk.

By active I mean that there is a lot of movement in her body whilst she is lying down.

And a large part of this is a kicking action from her back legs. 

In the video of Sylvie asleep, which you can see on the right, the back legs are kicking from the get go.

And they would normally be kicking me (as I’m next to her on the sofa) but I needed to move away from her a bit in order to get a clearer view for the video!

What is also noticeable is that her dreams don’t only cause her to move her back legs- her front legs are also twitching as are her eyes, eyebrows and ears.

And sometimes we are treated to the sound of a blood curdling howl from Sylvie, which can really freak you out if you are caught unawares.

And is so strange, because when she is awake, she is such a quiet dog!

I will explain a little bit more about why dogs move like this when they are asleep, later. 

But, now I want to talk about other reasons that my dog kicks me when she is lying down.

And maybe some of these might happen to you. 

Why do dogs kick their back legs when they are awake?

I can think of at least four more ways that Sylvie kicks me with her back legs.

And whilst she is still lying down in these examples, she is wide awake

[1] Part of a possession marking behaviour of me

Earlier I mentioned how Sylvie liked to follow me everywhere.

And the first example of her kicking me is when she comes and lies next to me when I am sitting in the living room in the evening.

She comes and lies at my feet and swivels onto her back and stretches out her back legs.

I tend to see this behaviour far more if we have friends or family around.

With different people in the house she is more eager to claim me as her own…

[2] Scratching her back 

At other times Sylvie kicks out at me as she is lying on her back but this, I think, is to help her scratch her back.

This normally happens when there is no one around.

Sylvie swivels onto her back, kicks out against my legs and then wriggles herself against the rug in order to have a good scratch!

[3] Attention seeking

Now, this is a bit of a strange one because my lovely dog spends so much of her day trying to get my attention!

But I want to zoom in on one particular behaviour in particular.

Sylvie goes through phases of playing short games of fetch with a ball at home.

And she has been known to kick or nudge me with her back leg to prompt me to throw the ball for her “once more”. 

[4] Expression of excitement

Sylvie also rolls over onto her back and kicks me just before we are heading out on a walk.

When I am sitting down in a chair and putting my shoes or boots on she will rush up to me and barrel roll onto her back and kick out at me in her excitement to go out on a walk.

The silly thing about this display of excitement is she kicks my hand away and I often have to start doing up my laces all over again!

[5] Being submissive/ anxious

Another context that I have seen Sylvie kick out with her back legs is when she is being submissive with me.

Particularly if I’m about to do something which she doesn’t like.

An example of this could be ear cleaning.

Sylvie hates having her ears cleaned but they need to be done because, as a dog who loves swimming, sometimes her ears need to be cleaned.

This cleaning is done by my wife normally.

All the equipment is kept in a cupboard and as soon as Sylvie sees my wife going to the cupboard, she heads in the opposite direction.

When my wife catches up with her, Sylvie will flip onto her back and either stick a back paw in the air (to show submissiveness) or kick against my wife’s legs to try and make getting to her ears as hard as possible! 

[6] Scratching their paws on the floor to mark territory

My last example of a situation in which Sylvie kicks out with her back legs is when we are out and about on a walk.

This normally happens when we are at the local park and we are sitting down somewhere.

Sylvie is normally lying down close by (of course!) and she will roll and kick out with her back legs in an effort to mark the territory where we are sitting.

The pads on a dog’s foot contain a scent which they use to mark their territory.

This is part of the reason why dogs go round in circles before they lie down and also why they scratch at the ground with their paws after defecating.

This action looks far more natural when dogs use their front paws but Sylvie uses both sets.

The action of kicking her back legs is a strange and exaggerated movement as she kicks her paws into the ground. 

Having spent most of this article focusing specifically on why dogs (or more specifically my dog!) kicks me when she is lying down, I want to think a little broader now and briefly discuss the many different positions that dogs can lie in. 

What are common lying positions of dogs?

Sylvie, the star of today’s show, tends to kick me when she is lying in two positions- when she is lying on her side or when she is lying on her back with her belly up.

But although I have discussed all the different things that a dog kicking might communicate, the position of their body can also tell us a lot. 

This website has identified ten different sleep positions that dogs can lie in.

Each of the positions tells us something about the dog and how they are feeling.

Of which side sleeping and belly up sleeping are just two. 

Both side and belly up positions tend to be adopted by dogs who feel very comfortable and relaxed.

And this is no surprise as far as Sylvie is concerned because all of the examples that I gave you (with the exception of just one) were of Sylvie at home. 

Sylvie spends a lot of her sleeping time in a “donut” shape- which is when a dog curls themselves up, making them as small as possible. 

And this position is meant to signal that a dog is quite anxious and highly strung.

It is adopted by many dogs when they are getting used to a new environment.

I don’t think that this applies to Sylvie but I do wonder if it comes from her love of sleeping in impossibly small places.

Such as on top of a foot stool or on a small wicker chair.

Both of which are great locations when you are a six month puppy but not when you are a five year, sixty pound dog!

My favourite position that I have seen any dog lie in has a few names. Some people call it the Superman position, other people call it the Frog position.

And it is when a dog lies with her front legs stretched out (in front of them) and her back legs stretched out behind them.

Now, Sylvie doesn’t adopt this position.

But my step daughter’s French Bulldog does and it is a sight to behold. 

It always looks to me as if he has completely given up and cannot (or will not move another inch?

Why does my dog kick me when lying down? 

There are a whole variety of reasons why a dog might kick when they are lying down.

In this article I have discussed seven possible reasons why one of my dogs kicks out or kicks me.

I don’t think that anything can match a dog who is kicking her back legs whilst dreaming for cuteness.

But for me with Sylvie, my favourite kick that she gives me is when she is gently prodding me with her back foot to remind me that there is a ball close by that she wants to play with!