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Canine Behavior/Scratch Reflex specifics


Baby & Mishka
Baby & Mishka  
I got a dog off of FB and she is fantastic.  Baby is 8-9 yrs old, black English Lab, very overweight.  My question is why almost every place you scratch or brush her it causes the scratch reflex.  Does this indicate anything about her physically such as nerve damage, if the reflex has to do with nerves and the signals they send when that "ticklish spot" is touched? Her whole body is ticklish or is she actually itchy all over? Or could it be shes super sensitive to touch?  She does seem to scratch herself more in general than my other Lab.  Trying to distinguish between sensitive and itchy.  Thank you in advance.

Thank you for your question and for the pic of your pups.

I need to start by saying I am neither a veterinarian nor a veterinary neurologist. I have no formal medical training of any kind. I encourage you to speak with your regular vet and have them assess Baby for allergies or other skin conditions that can cause excessive itching. It's important that we don't dismiss unusual behavior on the assumption that it's behavioral. If there's a medical component, we definitely want to treat that. And treating a medical condition (if there is one) could eliminate the unusual behavior issue.

So, the first order of business is a complete veterinary exam to assess Baby's health.

Now, I can share that from my understanding, stimulating a nerve can cause a reflexive action (hammer to our knee and our leg kicks out). For dogs, there are a few areas usually on the chest or belly that typically will cause the scratch reflex. But many dogs have different locations that will also cause that response. It's possible that she is hypersensitive to touch and that is her response. But I would definitely want to rule out allergies or other skin conditions before settling on that. And hypersensitivity may also be indicative of other health conditions, so definitely want to have it investigated.

If it is just the scratch reflex, then that goes to your other question "is she ticklish". I think stimulating the nerve is likely irritating. Is it ticklish or painful or just plain irritating? I don't know if anyone really knows the answer to that. And it may be different for different dogs, or even the same dog at different body locations or under different circumstances.

I'm sorry I can't be of more direct help in solving this puzzle. But until we have a medical report, we don't really know what we're looking at.

I wish you and Baby and Mishka the best.

Worcest, MA Behavior Specialist
Masters candidate - Animals and Public Policy (Animal Behavior)

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Jody Epstein, MS, CPDT-KA


IF YOU BELIEVE YOUR DOG IS ILL OR INJURED, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR LOCAL VETERINARIAN IMMEDIATELY. THIS IS NOT THE FORUM TO ADDRESS URGENT MEDICAL ISSUES. I AM NOT A LICENSED VET AND HAVE NO DIAGNOSTIC SKILLS. ***I have been answering questions on All Experts for over 8 years now. I enjoy being able to offer assistance in this forum. I do need to be clear, though. If you’re looking for free advice about a specific behavior question, you MUST submit your question to me via All Experts. If you bypass All Experts and write to me directly through my website, I will ask you to submit via All Experts. On the flip side, if you’re local to Los Angeles and you wish to speak to me privately about an in person consultation, please go through my website. I appreciate your assistance in keeping my volunteer work on the volunteer site.*** I can answer questions about the following canine behavior issues: obedience, timid/fearful & fear-based aggression, nuisance behaviors, families that are expanding with either new human or new animal members and many other issues. If you have potty training questions please first read my trio of blogs at If you still have questions after reading the blogs you can post your specific questions here. PLEASE be as specific as possible when asking a question. Give me a detailed example of the situation - dog's behavior, body language, circumstances surrounding the issue, what the consequences are (another dog's response, your response), etc. I can only provide insight if I can get a picture of the whole scenario. If I ask for further details, please provide them. In person I would normally observe for at least 90 minutes to assess the situation and the dynamics before offering tools and suggestions to modify it. In writing it is ever so much more difficult. Thank you for your participation in the process.


I have been a professional obedience trainer for 9 years, and specializing in behavior modification for 8 years. I have owned dogs my entire life. I own my own dog training and behavior modification business called Nutz About Mutz.

I am a Certified Profession Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA), #2133301 ; I am a member in good standing with the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), #77763 ; I am an AKC certified Canine Good Citizen evaluator (CGC), #71253

Publications ; ; Multiple articles in the local pet magazine Pet Press (found across Southern California)

I have a masters degree (MS) in Animals and Public Policy, with a minor in Animal Behavior, from Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. I also have 3 years of graduate education in Animal Behavior and Learning from UM-Missoula and UL-Lafayette. I continue to educate myself to canine-specific behavior through extensive reading, online interactive workshops, vidoes and attending canine behavior conferences, workshops and seminars. Beginning in March, 2017, I will be the Behavior & Training Manager at Second Chance Center for Animals in Flagstaff, AZ.

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