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"I'm getting five hundred phone calls a day asking what the hell is going on, that our police force is brutalizing women and misplacing children. Christ, all this picture needs now is for someone to kick a puppy for the cameras."
—Mayor Cryer, Changeling
A character performs an act so casually cruel or evil that you know that they are scum, incompatible with the moral rules of the series that they're in. This is a signal to the audience that it's okay to dislike the character. In short, dog-kicking is a sure sign that the writers want the audience to be wary of this character, even if he is nominally one of the good guys.
What separates this trope from other evil or cruel acts is that not only is the act bad, it's also pointless as far as the plot goes. It is the fact that it had no other point than to be evil, that puts them on the bad side of the Rule of Empathy.
Dog-kickings can be verbal as well, when a line of dialogue is used to shock the audience with its sheer repugnance. If it's uttered in the presence of the hero in an action series, he'll echo the audience's thoughts and tell the villain "You're Insane!"
This trope isn't about literal dog-kicking. It's any act or statement that shows the character's meanness or out-and-out evil, such as a boss demanding an employee come to work during Christmas when the employee's kid is in the hospital, or stealing from a blind beggar's coin dish, or a vicious No-Holds-Barred Beatdown on the hero or one of his True Companions or Protectorate. A Politically-Incorrect Villain can kick the dog by showing gratuitous racism, sexism, homophobia, etc... or some combination of such non-PC traits.
If an animal is used, however, a dog is usually the pet of choice, partly out of connotations of blind loyalty, partly from tradition. Arguably, however, substituting a cat can be even more shocking. After all, even bad guys like cats. So, the argument goes, if someone goes out of his way to harm one, they must really be a bastard.
This trope is common in horror-based Monster of the Week shows, often to set up the Asshole Victim for the Karmic Twist Ending. Anthologies are especially prone to this, as they have to set up their villains really quickly, since they only have one episode to tell their story. This can be played up by having the very same kick of cruelty be the cause of their downfall. At the very least, it is designed to let you know who is going to lose at the end. The opposite of Karma Houdini.
One possible origin of the trope name comes from Westerns, where three bandits would ride into the town, one would shoot the Sheriff, one would shoot the Deputy, and one, just to prove he was also a bad guy, would Kick the Dog.
If what is supposed to be a character's Kick the Dog moment is excessively horrible, cruel, or otherwise despicable enough to make an audience lose all sympathy for him, then he's crossed the Moral Event Horizon, rather than kicking the dog if he's not on the other side of it already. If the Dog in question is someone the character cares about and discovers Being Evil Sucks, then they've Kicked The Wrong Dog and might be in time to avoid a Face Heel Turn. If the dog belonged to a minion, expect it to help cause a Mook Face Turn because Even Mooks Have Loved Ones. On occasions, if karma works in the dog's favor, he'll manage to get a last laugh. On even rarer occasions, after being pushed around too many times, the dog may decide to plan against the Big Bad for his own ambitions, because Being Tortured Makes You Evil. When the dog-kicking is done in a way that (usually inadvertently) increases sympathy for the villain, it becomes Straw Man Has a Point.
A more benign, and more comedic, form of this shows the immorality of the villain by having them cheat at Solitaire.
Compare with Can't Get Away with Nuthin', And Your Little Dog, Too, Kick Them While They Are Down, The Dog Bites Back, Threw My Bike on the Roof, I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure. See "If You're So Evil Eat This Kitten" for when bad guys do a Kick the Dog test to make sure undercover heroes are really evil.
Not to be confused with Shoot the Dog. (That's what you do when Old Yeller gets rabies.)
- Obviously, PSAs against abandoning or abusing pets are going to invoke this. One example involves an owner throwing a ball into the forest, and then driving off while the dog is looking for the ball.
- The Axis Powers Hetalia All He Ever Wanted has Prussia, Hungary and several others punting puppies with ridiculous ease to show off how Darker and Edgier it is compared top the original source.
- In the Modern Warfare Fanfic The Adventures of Captain Soap, the evil General Shephhard kills a family while he and Soap are fighting each other in the Burger King. The reason? We don't know. The official explanation is "because he's evil".
- In Naruto Veangance Revelaitons, Taliana twice kills large crowds of people with lightning for no specific reason.
- In the Kingdom Hearts the Short And Honest Version (found in the fanfic recs/ page) Clayton from Deep Jungle mentions "punting a few puppies off a cliff".
- In Ace Combat: The Equestrian War, Black Star, a soldier of the Griffin Kingdom, was ordered to kill Firefly's parents, as they were suspected for trying to stage a mutiny against the kingdom. When he learns that the accusations were false, he just shrugs it off in the young pegasus' face.
- In Nobody Dies, Claire Makinami calls Mari, her own daughter who was already going through identity/morality issues due to the fact that the second Ramiel fight has made her half-angel, a monster to her face.
- In this Katawa Shoujo fic, Lilly's father makes fun of Hanako's scars. This is even worse than it sounds; in the game, it is revealed that Hanako's parents died in the fire that gave her the scars, and her mother sacrificed herself protecting her, and she was bullied for her appearances. His doing so in spite of being forewarned by Akira causes Hanako to have a breakdown.
- In the Voltron: Legendary Defender fic Across the Multiverse, Shiro's canon husband Curtis watches Shiro and Keith kiss at their wedding and stomps off, obviously heartbroken that the person he loved didn't love him back. What do the oh so sensitive and heroic Paladins do? Mock his misery, including a shot at how none of them ever even remembered his name.
- You can tell that someone inthe Chalet School series is a true dogkicker when they do something to hurt Joey's Morality Pet, the Robin. For example, Betty Wynne-Davies takes a snarky comment from Fiona McDonald very badly in The Highland Twins at the Chalet School and resolves to get back at her by selling the school out to the Nazis. As the twins are living with Joey at the time, and the Robin is Joey's ward, anything that hurts the McDonald sisters will hurt her and Daisy Venables too. Betty knows this, but doesn't care.
- Neil Young lets you know just how evil the FBI agents are in Greendale. When they break into the Greens' home looking for "evidence" after Sun's arrest, Sun's kitten scratches one of the men, who promptly shoots it dead and leaves it at the foot of Sun's bed.
- The would-be-governor villain of the season from this Mark Trail storyline decided to cement his evilness by kicking the proverbial pet deer.
- Little Orphan Annie: While it wasn't the first sign that she was no good, the fact that Trixie Tinkle kicked Sandy established that she didn't actually like Annie.
- A very common Heel tactic is to draw heat by either ambushing the Face during a match, during interviews or non-wrestling ringside appearances when the Face often has his or her guard down. Chris Jericho, Randy Orton and a couple others have made a career out of doing this tactic.
- Triple H from WWE Monday Night Raw joked about this trope saying, "I'm gonna beat Batista like a bag of puppies."
- Authority figures in Professional Wrestling often Kick the Dog by placing commentators, referees, valets, and other non-wrestlers into wrestling matches with particularly brutal heels (villains), who then proceed to demolish the hapless non-wrestler with glee. This is a sort of double-dog-kick, as it serves as a kick-the-dog moment for both the authority figure and the wrestler who does his dirty work.
- An example of a wrestler bullying a commentator was used to kick off The Undertaker's Face Heel Turn in late 2001, when The Undertaker forced Jim Ross to join Vince McMahon's Kiss My Ass club. Also, when the WWF was desperate for Stone Cold Steve Austin to be considered a heel and not be cheered after Wrestlemania X-Seven, he crossed the Moral Event Horizon by beating up J.R. Basically, if you need your wrestler to be a hated heel, have him beat up the guy with Ball's Palsy who's the most kick-ass commentator in the business.
- Ross has also been involved in matches against Triple H, including a no-holds barred match on WWE Raw where then-blatant heel commentator Jerry "the King" Lawler was so disgusted by Triple H's brutality (he had a bloodied Ross pinned several times, only he pulled him up repeatedly to continue punishing him) that it began a slow Heel Face Turn in his commentary style. (Batista, with whom Triple H was feuding, eventually ran in for the save, knocking out Triple H and draping an unconscious Ross over top.)
- During his Iraqi-sympathizer heel run in 1991, Sgt. Slaugther once kicked and beat a ring paramedic with his swagger stick after Slaughter had already pummeled his hapless opponent (a jobber) so badly he "required medical attention," helping to push Slaughter as a Monster Heel.
- More literal, when Chris Jericho needed to make a Face Heel Turn before his WrestleMania match against HHH, he was given the responsibility of watching over HHH's dog. His negligence of the dog led to its Off Camera Death.
- A Real Life example for Jericho: after years of being denied a push in WCW, a gift from his girlfriend (action figure set of him and Kayfabe rival Dean Malenko) showed up on his receipt as Hulk Hogan and Sting, meaning that Hogan and Sting got all the residuals from selling Jericho and Malenko toys.
- Another method for this involves a tag team or stable splitting with one member pulling a Face Heel Turn and absolutely brutalizing his partner for whatever petty reason the new villain has been stewing over. Examples include Edge and Christian, Shawn Michaels and Marty Jenetty, the Hardys (at least twice), Jericho and the WWE team during Survivor Series 2001, Rey Mysterio, Jr. / Eddie Guerrero (again, at least twice), Rey Mysterio, Jr. / Chavo Guerrero, Rey Mysterio, Jr. / Spike Dudley...
- Randy Orton from 2006 onwards. Talk about a Generation Xerox...and he takes it one step further by having a punt as his other Finishing Move.
- Matt Hardy turned on his brother Jeff by knocking him in the head and costing him his first-ever WWE Championship against their mortal enemy, Edge. Jeff refused to fight him. Matt verbally assaulted and berated Jeff for two weeks and beat up a mutual friend mercilessly. Jeff refused to fight him. Matt called Jeff out and backhanded him to the ground. Jeff refused to fight him. Matt cost Jeff a chance to be in the Money In The Bank Ladder Match at Wrestlemania 25. Jeff STILL refused to fight him. Then Matt came out, carrying the burnt collar of Jeff's dead dog, and admitted he was the one who had killed Jeff's dog (and burnt his house and tried to kill him several times, but it was mostly about the dog here). At this point, Jeff finally snaps and proceeds to open the proverbial can of whoopass.
- John Laurinaitis big time on the 12/05/2011 episode of Raw by forcing a Sadistic Choice on John Cena, forcing him to choose between getting a WWE Title Shot for himself or giving his close friend Zack Ryder a chance to get a shot at the US Championship he's been hunting for a long time. When Cena chooses to give Ryder his shot, Laurinaitis puts the already tired Ryder against Mark Henry in a No-Disqualification Match, making it clear he had no intention to give Ryder a fair chance and intended to screw Cena.
- Laurinaitis is getting good at these. On the 4/6/2012 episode of Friday Night Smackdown, after winning control over both Raw and Smackdown, he offered Teddy Long a job after Teddy told him to drop dead. Not so bad, right? The dog-kicking came when he said that if he didn't accept the job, he'd cut off the college fund Teddy's grandchildren were getting. (The condition was that the college fund was controlled by the Smackdown general manager, which Laurinaitis now was.) And to add insult to injury Laurinaitis made Teddy say that he (Laurinaitis) was better than him.
- There have been a few examples of women wrestlers being forced to take on male wrestlers in singles matches, usually as punishment for a minor offense and/or for the male wrestler's sadistic pleasure. One of the most famous examples of the former was when WWE Diva Maria bumped into Eric Bischoff and spilled coffee over his jacket; Bischoff immediately demanded that Maria wrestler sadistic madman Umaga, and if she refused she would be fired. Maria (predictably) was beaten to a pulp ... until John Cena ran into the ring and knocked Umaga out of the ring just before he was able to finish her off.
- During her occassional face runs, Stephanie McMahon has had to wrestle Brock Lesnar and her father, Vince McMahon, the storyline always being that she was to assert her independence, and the heels (Lesnar and McMahon) accepting ... and creating match-types (usually, no holds barred) to hurt Stephanie as much as possible.
- The Divas of Doom Beth Phoenix and Natalya really enjoy hurting the Face divas especially The Woobie AJ, Kelly Kelly and Eve Torres.
- To be more specific, Beth normally will announce "it's cry time" and lock said Diva in a painful looking submission hold while Natalya holds the microphone up to her face so the crowd can hear her scream.
- Ted DiBiase offers $500 to a small boy to dribble a basketball 15 times, then kicks it out from under him at the 14th bounce.
- This scene in the continuing examples in Bliss Stage:
- Surprisingly rare in Warhammer 40000. Kick the Dog barely begins to describe the treatment of choice for civilians, cute fluffy critters, and even entire planets in this supremely fucked-up universe. Even Moral Event Horizon barely begins to cover it.
- In Magic: The Gathering's Weatherlight saga, Greven il-Vec threw Vhati il-Dal overboard. The set's designers admitted that they created Vhati just so Greven could kill him and show how evil he was.
- The example for Mind Control in Hero System 5th edition is a hypnotist ordering a Flying Brick to kick a puppy. Fortunately, it doesn't work.
Mighty Man then uses his Phase to dispose of two of Hypnos’s henchmen who are bent on causing the puppy harm.
- Stephen Sondheim's Assassins: Sarah Jane Moore shoots her dog for barking, then stuffs the dead dog in her purse -- but it's played for laughs. As far as marking her as a credible threat goes, Sarah Jane's real Kick the Dog moment is when she turns her gun on her infant son, because he wanted an ice-cream. Thankfully, she doesn't pull the trigger.
- Shakespeare's character Iago in Othello, encouraging the evil deeds of his henchman Roderigo: "...drown cats and blind puppies..."
- The Piraka in Bionicle would occasionally kill animals for fun. Chiara, supposedly one of the good guys, had a scene where she casually killed a lizard with her electricity powers just to make a point. Because of this trope, many fans assumed it was foreshadowing a darker side to her personality, but Word of God states that this is not the case.
- Appears on Homestar Runner, in Teen Girl Squad Issue 11. So-and-So is getting chewed out by her obnoxious manager at Shirt Folding Store when the manager is suddenly punched out by an astronaut ("MEET A FIST!"). The explanation for this behavior?
Astronaut: *ckhk* She killed my dog.
- Also referenced in the Strong Bad Email rated, where Strong Bad claims that some of his favorite movies have been banned in Transylvania, "where you're required by law to eat puppies for breakfast."
- Strong Bad is also known to kick The Cheat, even though he's not really a bad guy.
- In another Strong Bad Email, for kids, on his kids' show, Strong Bad invites children to play "Where's The Cheat?" with him:
Strong Bad: All right, dumb children. Find The Cheat!
- Richard kicks a dog, literally.
- Flint, Big Bad of Bunny Kill 4, does this big time when he kills Ruby, Snowball's potential love interest. Oddly enough, this makes him the only Big Bad of the series to do something truly villainous onscreen.
- As of Bunny Kill 5, Smoke has joined the dog-kicking party. He has Snowball's friend Dust injected with Psycho Serum, turning him Brainwashed and Crazy and ultimately leading to Snowball's death. For added dick points, he also betrays his partner Professor Sludge, the designer of the serum, leaving him to become Dust's first victim. The second half also has him throwing his own mooks into Dust's way to save his own hide. Not that it helps him in the end.
- In the animation Ninjai the bad guy attacks the hero's little bird friend for no reason at all. The bird gets his own back later.
- The Saga of Tuck's Principal Nickerson has no qualms about assigning detention to students who skip class to commit suicide. Just so you know how badly he deserves the Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
- Survival of the Fittest
- Cody Jenson: Raped Madeline Shiohara and bit out her neck. How did he feel? He didn't.
- Danya: Establishing Character Moment in the first version was when he was briefing the v1 students with a very... smug tone. Then towards the end mentioned he hated punks, and ordered his minions to kill a student for wearing his hat sideways.
- Jeremy Franco kicking Kimberly Nguyen in her bullet wound for refusing to give him her fedora, then taking it anyway.
- In the video The Unspeakable Deeds of Bill 42, it's not enough for the character representing the bill to fine people for meeting to air their grievances. He has to up the evil quotient by deliberately knocking over a woman's crutches.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh the Abridged Series, Bakura mentions that he once killed a puppy. "And it was very cute."
- The Ascended Meme NEDM (Not Even Doom Music) came from a literal example of this. Except, replace "kick" with "burn," and "dog" with "cat." Anonymous was not pleased.
- Awkward has a fight between Lester and Alex culminate in Alex telling Lester to give up on his relationship with Steph because "everybody knows you're just going to mess it up like last time". Lester doesn't take it well. Later we find out that Ernie dumped Karen, calling her "worthless".
- Discussed by Tanna and Elon in this strip of Ears for Elves, though no literal puppy-kicking happens.