Do Dogs Have Ticklish Spots?

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If you've ever scratched your pup in a particularly sensitive spot and he reacts by kicking his legs or making some laughter-like sounds, you may have found his sensitive "tickle" spot. If we define "tickling" to be a tingling sensation on the skin (which is something that results in a reflexive kick of the feet), then yes, most dogs definitely have ticklish spots. The kicking which results from rubbing their tickle spot is a knee-jerk kind of reaction in our canine companions, but most dogs don't seem to mind it at all.

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Kicking and Scratching

On most dogs, the most sensitive spot to tickling is their "saddle" region, which is made up of their belly, back and their flanks, near the tops of their back legs, according to Animal Planet. When you gently scratch at or stroke these sensitive spots, you may induce a reflex reaction from your pooch, in which he kicks out one or more of his legs in attempt to scratch at the area himself. This is because you are inducing an itch-like sensation on the skin by stroking it with your fingers, similar to that produced by a flea or other irritant. Your pup tries to scratch at the area as a way to remove the irritant.


Why So Ticklish?

The reason that a pup appears to kick at the area you are tickling is due to a neurological reaction that is stimulated by your touch. This is an involuntary response and not a conscious one on his part, which is why he may appear surprised when this happens. In fact, vets use this involuntary response to check for neurological problems and even nerve damage. If Fido responds as he should when scratched in his tickle spot, this means that he may be just fine, but if he doesn't, it could indicate a health issue. The scratch reflex can be stimulated by your vet using small electrical pulses to simulate tickling.


Overly Sensitive Skin

While a slight tickle response is normal for your pooch when you rub his tummy, back or flanks, if he suddenly develops this reaction on other parts of his body, it could mean that he has a skin rash or other type of irritation. Sometimes fleas can cause dermatitis and sensitivity in the area around the base of your pooch's tail, leading to a tickle response when you scratch at the skin in this spot, according to the Dogster website. In this case, you may want to visit your vet to see what you can do to relieve Fido's overly sensitive skin and get rid of any fleas on his coat.


Does Fido Like Tickling?

Most pups appear to like it when you tickle them and some even appear to give a sort of pooch "smile" during the process. Although tickling makes the skin a bit itchy, you're also scratching at the skin at the same time, so it's typically pretty pleasant for Fido. Keep your touch gentle and watch your pup's body language for any signs of distress. If your pooch appears upset when he's tickled, snapping at you or trying to run away, you might want to avoid doing this because it's causing him anxiety. Get him to enjoy your touch by petting him for short periods of time and rewarding him with a treat for calm behavior.


By Susan Paretts


Animal Planet: Why Do Dogs Shake Their Legs?
Dogster: Do Pets Have Tickle Spots?
The Journal of Physiology: Observations on the Scratch-Reflex in the Spinal Dog

About the Author
Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, crafts, television, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared in "The Southern California Anthology" and on Epinions. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.