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[[quoteright:250:[[ComicBook/GIJoeDevilsDue http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/cobra-commander-kicks-a-puppy.jpg]]]]
[[caption-width-right:250:Would-be [[TakeOverTheWorld Dictator]]. Murderer. Kidnapper. Terrorist. [[ArsonMurderAndJaywalking Puppy punter]].]]

->''"In the old days villains had moustaches and [[TropeNamers kicked the dog]]. Audiences are smarter today. They don't want their villain to be thrown at them with green limelight on his face. They want an ordinary human being with failings."''
-->-- '''Creator/AlfredHitchcock'''

When a character does something evil for no apparent gain, because the author wants to demonstrate that he's not a nice guy and shift audience sympathy away from him.

Why this trope works could be expressed in the words of William Cowper: “I would not enter on my list of friends (though graced with polished manners and fine sense, yet wanting sensibility) the man who needlessly sets foot upon a worm.” In other words, a cruel act, no matter how trivial, establishes someone as a cruel person. Conversely, the creator may show a character [[PetTheDog being kind for no apparent gain]], to demonstrate that the character is a nice person and someone the audience is meant to cheer for. Both devices are used to help the audience become emotionally invested in the story.

What separates this trope from a character's other evil or cruel acts is that this bit of evil is gratuitous. It doesn't get the character anything or even advance the plot. The sole reason for this [[NarrativeBeats story beat]] existing is to place one or more characters squarely on the wrong side of the RuleOfEmpathy.

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 "YoureInsane"

Needless to say, this trope can be enacted without harming any dogs. Any act or statement that shows the character's [[{{Jerkass}} meanness]] or outright evil will do, such as a boss demanding an employee come in to work during Christmas when the employee's kid is [[LittlestCancerPatient in the hospital]], or a passer-by stealing from a blind beggar's coin dish, or TheDragon inflicting a vicious NoHoldsBarredBeatdown on the hero or one of his TrueCompanions or {{Protectorate}}. A PoliticallyIncorrectVillain can kick the dog by showing gratuitous racism, sexism, homophobia, or some combination of such non-PC traits. If the event happened off screen in the past, just have Bob [[ReminiscingAboutYourVictims fondly recall the incident]] and make it clear that he has no remorse whatsoever. Bingo, mission accomplished.

If the evil act ''is'' directed [[BadPeopleAbuseAnimals toward an animal]], however, a dog is usually the victim of choice, partly out of connotations of blind loyalty, partly from tradition. Arguably, however, substituting a cat can be even ''more'' shocking. After all, [[RightHandCat even bad guys like cats]]. So, the argument goes, if Bob goes out of his way to harm one, he must ''really'' be a bastard.

This trope is common in horror-based MonsterOfTheWeek shows, often to set up the AssholeVictim for the KarmicTwistEnding. 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 [[LaserGuidedKarma 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 KarmaHoudini.

In cartoons, [[AssholeVictim someone who does this]] can be [[KarmicProtection legally]] [[ThisMeansWar harassed]] by WesternAnimation/BugsBunny, Daffy Duck, or [[WesternAnimation/{{Animaniacs}} the Warner Brothers and their sister Dot]]. The ScrewySquirrel, however, won't wait that long.

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 MoralEventHorizon, if he's not on the other side of it already. If the Dog in question is someone the character cares about and discovers BeingEvilSucks, then they've [[KickTheMoralityPet Kicked the Morality Pet]] and ''might'' be in time to avoid a FaceHeelTurn. If the dog belonged to a minion, expect it to help cause a MookFaceTurn because EvenMooksHaveLovedOnes. On occasions, if karma works in the dog's favor, [[TheDogBitesBack he'll manage to get a last laugh]]. On even rarer occasions, after being pushed around too many times, the dog may decide to [[TheStarscream plan against the Big Bad for his own ambitions]], because BeingTorturedMakesYouEvil. When the dog-kicking is done in a way that (usually inadvertently) increases sympathy for the villain, it becomes StrawmanHasAPoint. If the character ''appears'' to be likable or sympathetic when introduced and the dog-kicking proves that he is actually evil, that is BaitTheDog. If the villain shoots for this trope but fails to actually do anything seriously evil, it's PokeThePoodle.

Of course, the crux of this trope isn't just the cruel act; it's also about the innocence of the victim, ie they have done nothing to warrant their abuse. If the target is an AssholeVictim instead, the cruel act can become a sympathetic one for the villan/anti-hero instead. If going after the [[AcceptableTargets Acceptable Target]] is a coincidence, it becomes KickTheSonOfABitch; if the victim was [[EvenEvilHasStandards specifically targeted]] for their assholery, it becomes PayEvilUntoEvil.

Kicking the Dog is also done for no practical reason apart from the meta-reason of demonstrating the dark side of the kicker. If the perpetrator does it because they care about their victim and want to help them somehow, they're being CruelToBeKind; if their actions have a broader purpose à la [[IDidWhatIHadToDo doing what had to be done]], they're trying to ShootTheDog ([[MercyKill that's what you do when Old Yeller has rabies, after all]]).

This trope is often used to counter or prevent a character from being seen by the audience as a DesignatedVillain or StrawmanHasAPoint. These tropes tend to occur when poor writing or characterization causes a character to become more [[UnintentionallySympathetic sympathetic to the viewers than intended.]] Since the writers can't just give these villains their just desserts if the audience likes them too much or [[RootingFortheEmpire prefers to take their side on an issue]], an effective Kick the Dog moment can make them lose their sympathy and make them punishable again. This can [[TropesAreTools backfire though.]]

A sign that EvilIsPetty. Compare with CantGetAwayWithNuthin, AndYourLittleDogToo, KickThemWhileTheyAreDown, TheDogBitesBack, ThrewMyBikeOnTheRoof, IWillPunishYourFriendForYourFailure. See "IfYoureSoEvilEatThisKitten" for when bad guys do a Kick The Dog test to make sure undercover heroes are really evil.

Contrast PetTheDog (proving you're good) and AdoptTheDog (going from [[CharacterAlignment Neutral to Good]]).

For bad people who ''literally'' kick dogs, see BadPeopleAbuseAnimals.

!!Examples Subpages:

* KickTheDog/AnimeAndManga
* KickTheDog/ComicBooks
* KickTheDog/FanWorks
* [[KickTheDog/AnimatedFilms Films — Animation]]
* [[KickTheDog/LiveActionFilms Films — Live-Action]]
* KickTheDog/{{Literature}}
* KickTheDog/LiveActionTV
* KickTheDog/ProWrestling
* KickTheDog/VideoGames
* KickTheDog/WebComics
* KickTheDog/WebOriginal
** KickTheDog/AskThatGuyWithTheGlasses
* KickTheDog/WesternAnimation



* Obviously, [=PSAs=] against abandoning or abusing pets are going to invoke this. [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVrkDGQGKFA One example]] involves an owner throwing a ball into the forest, and then [[spoiler:driving off while the dog is looking for the ball]].
** This nasty little stunt is PlayedForLaughs in the WesternAnimation/LooneyTunes ''Often An Orphan'' (1949).
* Done in [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MduR-MzfzdI this]] commercial. [[KickTheSonOfABitch The dog did deserve it though.]]
* The [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LM-s5C0dnZs North American commercial]] for ''[[VideoGame/FireEmblemElibe Fire Emblem: Blazing Sword]]'' has the leader of a group of warriors poison one of his own men, just to drive the point home that no one should be trusted.

[[folder:Comic Strips]]
* The would-be-governor villain of the season from [[http://joshreads.com/?p=8363 this]] ''ComiStrip/MarkTrail'' storyline decides to cement his evilness by kicking the proverbial pet deer.
* ''ComicStrip/LittleOrphanAnnie'': While it wasn't the first sign that she was no good, the fact that [[spoiler:Trixie Tinkle]] kicked Annie's dog Sandy established that she didn't actually like Annie.
* ''ComicStrip/{{Garfield}}'' occasionally kicks Odie. And by "occasionally" we mean [[CatsAreMean "constantly"]].

* Music/NeilYoung 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.
* Music/{{Devo}} has a song called "Jimmy" which depicts the titular character as a corrupt CEO and domestic abuser (who is responsible for, among other things, a literal Kick the Dog). His ultimate fate is ending up in a wheelchair which, according to the song, was an instance of "justice strikes every once in a while."

[[folder:Print Media]]
* The famous ''Franchise/NationalLampoon'' cover with the headline "If You Don't Buy This Magazine, We'll Kill This Dog" and a photo of a dog with a gun held to its head. There's a reason that cover was chosen as the page image for AndYourLittleDogToo.

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* ''TabletopGame/{{Space 1889}}'' has an almost literal example in Canal Priest of Mars. That also doubles as EstablishingCharacterMoment “She is accompanied by a maid and by three poodles housed in the kennels. Her character may be indicated by the fact that she won’t visit the dogs once during the voyage.” The trip in question is expected to take ten weeks.
* This scene in the continuing examples in ''TableTopGame/BlissStage'':
-->'''[[JerkAss Keenan]] [[HandsomeLech Caine]]:''' Man, [[{{Moe}} Sara]] is getting all girly and clingy and shit...lousy lay, too.\\
'''Josh Preston:''' [[MurderTheHypotenuse Fuck. That. Noise.]]
* It happens all the time ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer 40000}}''. KickTheDog barely ''begins'' to describe the treatment of choice for civilians, cute fluffy critters, and ''planets'' in this [[CrapsackWorld supremely fucked-up universe]]. Even MoralEventHorizon barely begins to cover it. Meta-example: every time a faction is viewed more sympathetically by the fans, the writers have a nasty trick of making said faction do this. [[SpaceElves Eldar]] looking too much like a WoobieSpecies? Make them destroy an entire world and kill millions to save a handful of their own kind, and ''do not'' gloss over this. [[TheGreys Tau]] looking too much like the [[ALighterShadeOfGrey good guys]] of the setting? Make them brutal fascists and hint at hidden sterilization of non-Tau, brainwashing and genocide. [[TheEmpire Imperium]] looking too much like a LawfulGood empire? Play up their [[KnightTemplar religious dogma]], [[AbsoluteXenophobe virulent xenophobia]] and/or [[WeHaveReserves lack of respect for the lives of innocent people]] to remind the players that HumansAreTheRealMonsters. [[OurOrcsAreDifferent Orks]] looking too much like a comic relief ([[BloodyHilarious for a given value of]] "[[GallowsHumor comic]]") faction? Show them gleefully slaughtering unarmed [[MenAreTheExpendableGender women]] and children to remind you that they're violent, amoral monsters. ''Warhammer 40000'' is EvilVersusEvil, and the creators want to keep it that way.
* The example for MindControl in ''TableTopGame/HeroSystem'' 5th edition is a hypnotist ordering a FlyingBrick 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.
* The goblins of the TableTopGame/{{Pathfinder}} [=RPG=] often come off as insanely clownish, what with their singing and antics and pyromania. Some players might forget that they're hateful and sadistic as well, until they demonstrate their absolute glee in killing horses and domestic dogs, which goblins consider to be mortal enemies.
** In the gamemaster's guide, a section on determining the game's tone suggests taking care with potentially sensitive topics like sexual slavery, drug pushing, or violence against children and animals - some players might find their inclusion in a game to be tasteless, but they can be used to make a villain truly worthy of a righteous beatdown. The illustration on the page is a goblin standing triumphantly over the bloody body of a small dog.

* In ''Theatre/{{Assassins}}'', Sarah Jane Moore shoots her dog for barking, then stuffs the dead dog in her purse -- but it's PlayedForLaughs. As far as marking her as a credible threat goes, Sarah Jane's real KickTheDog moment is when she turns her gun on ''her infant son'', because he wanted an ice-cream. Thankfully, she doesn't pull the trigger.
* Again in ''Theatre/{{MacBeth}}'': one of the witches [[RippedFromTheHeadlines has a ship tempest-tossed "sennights nine times nine"]] simply because the captain's wife told her to fuck off.
* In ''Theatre/DreamGirl'', Clark is in the middle of torturing a cat when Georgina shoots him in her revenge fantasy DreamSequence.
* In ''Theatre/MarginForError'', Sophie accuses the Consul of having poisoned her pet parrot, Winston Churchill, for annoying him.
* Creator/{{Team Starkid}} examples:
** In ''Theatre/AVeryPotterSequel'', Umbridge is telling Harry that [[spoiler: Sirius]] is going to be sentenced to the Dementor's Kiss, which kills the victim in Starkid's interpretation. She then happily says "and maybe he can say hi to your parents!"
** Lucius doesn't even have to be present to do this. In a letter to his father, Draco says that Lucius can feel free to write back at any time, even though he hasn't written a single letter all year.
** Lucius also takes the drawing Draco made (that includes a picture of him in the background proudly saying "That's my son!") and crumples it up, before throwing it in Draco's face.
** In {{Threatre/Me And My Dick}}, instead of comforting Joey after his failed proposal, Joey's Heart calls him fat and ugly.
** {{Theatre/Twisted}}: Ja'far's pregnant wife is taken away from him by the Sultan. Before he can do anything to get her back, she dies. Ja'far is also hated by everybody in the kingdom and everything that goes wrong is promptly blamed on him.
* In ''Theatre/TwiceCharmed'', Anastasia and Drizella torment Cinderella as Franco prepares to shrink her.
* In ''{{Theatre/Urinetown}}'' Mister Cladwell's second VillainSong, ''Don't Be the Bunny'' is about this, with a healthy dose of RefugeInAudacity.

* The Piraka in ''Toys/{{Bionicle}}'' would occasionally kill animals [[ForTheEvulz 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 [[PsychoElectro a darker side to her personality]], but WordOfGod states that this is not the case.

[[folder:Web Animation]]
* ''WebAnimation/HomestarRunner'':
** Appears in ''WebAnimation/TeenGirlSquad'' 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.\\
'''So-and-So:''' Um... 'kay.
** Also referenced in the Strong Bad Email [[http://www.homestarrunner.com/sbemail193.html 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, [[http://www.homestarrunner.com/sbemail110.html 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!\\
''[the Cheat peeks out from behind a box]''\\
'''Kids:''' ''[half-coherent]'' He's over there. Right there.\\
'''Strong Bad:''' Um, no, he's behind the box. No, he's not even ''behind'' the box, he's ''barely obscured'' by the box. ''(getting upset)'' Look, The Cheat is behind the freakin' ''BOX''! ''(screaming)'' HE'S BEHIND THE BOX!! I'LL KILL YA!! I'LL KILL ALL YOUR DOGS!!!
* [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcbazH6aE2g Richard kicks a dog]].
* ''WebAnimation/{{Bunnykill}}'':
** Flint, BigBad of ''Bunnykill 4'', does this big time when he [[spoiler:kills Ruby, Snowball's potential love interest.]] Oddly enough, this makes him the only BigBad of the series to do something truly villainous onscreen.
** As of ''Bunnykill 5'', Smoke has joined the dog-kicking party. He [[spoiler:has Snowball's friend Dust injected with PsychoSerum, turning him BrainwashedAndCrazy and ultimately leading to Snowball's death]]. For added dick points, he also [[spoiler:betrays his partner Professor Sludge, the designer of the serum, leaving him to become Dust's first victim]]. The second half also has him [[spoiler:throwing his own mooks into Dust's way to save his own hide. Not that it helps him in the end]].
* In ''WebAnimation/IfTheEmperorHadATextToSpeechDevice'', the Emperor says that snatching Angron from his last stand and leaving him to watch his men die hopelessly was absolutely hilarious. Worth noting is that this is what made Angron - already a ball of UnstoppableRage - go off the deep end.
* In the animation ''[[http://www.ninjai.com/ Ninjai]]'' the bad guy attacks the hero's little bird friend for no reason at all. The bird gets his own back later.
* ''WebAnimation/{{RWBY}}'': If she thinks she can get away with it, Cinder Fall won't hesitate to twist the knife a little more. In Volume 5 "The More The Merrier", Jaune and Cinder get into a fight. When Jaune ''barely grazes'' Cinder's face, Cinder undergoes a near VillainousBreakdown at some random (in her eyes) kid getting a lucky hit and, to mock his DeclarationOfProtection, retaliates by lobbing a spear through Weiss, who had been beaten by Vernal to the point of total aura depletion and was clearly helpless. Weiss looks down at the spear jutting out of her body, gasping in pain and fear in a twisted repeat of how Pyrrha died, before she collapses and Jaune rushes to her. [[spoiler:Thanks to Jaune's Semblance, she gets better.]]