Humans love to pet their dogs. It's our way of showing affection, love, companionship, and emotion towards our four-legged friends. But most don't know that there's a right way and a wrong way to learn how to pet a dog.
That's right, our doggies have their own thoughts, feelings, and emotions too, and they don't always like being petted the way you might think they do. Each dog is different, and each dog has its favorite way of being pet!
In this article, we list some insights for the best way to pet a dog, where to pet dogs, and why it's important to learn how to pet a dog the way they like it.
How to pet a dog: Why do we pet dogs?
Petting seems like the most normal action in the world when you see a dog. It's what we, as humans, are taught to do from a young age. Likewise, dogs are also brought up from a young age to expect their human owners to pet them.
But have you ever wondered, do dogs like being pet? And why, exactly, do we pet them in the first place?
Petting is the act of scratching, rubbing, or patting your dog. As humans, we enjoy rubbing dogs' ears or backs, and we pet our dogs because we think they enjoy it; but we also do it to demonstrate our own emotions and love for our pets.
Our fur friends can't communicate and tell us the best place to pet a dog, but we can tell if they are enjoying it. There are many reasons why your buddy enjoys dog petting, and they are reason enough to learn the best petting techniques.
So, why do dogs like to be pet? Here are a few of their favorite reasons:
- Just like humans, dogs are sensual creatures. They simply love the feel of being stroked!
- Stroking is comforting, and it lowers anxiety and directly causes stress levels to drop in your pet dogs.
- Petting builds trust between owners and the dog, building a relationship that supersedes the need for other communication.
- Dogs feel a sense of belonging if they are stroked by their owner or the rest of their family.
Where do dogs like to be pet?
Clearly, petting a dog is a good thing for the dog and the owner. But humans need to remember that dogs aren't people, and they can react in different ways to different petting techniques and petting spots.
Each pet has its own dog sweet spot and learning where to scratch a dog takes some patience on the owner's part. There are, however, a few sweet spots almost every pet dog is most likely going to love.
Here are the best spots to pet a dog:
- On top of the head: dogs love a good pat on the head, and this often shows that your dog has done something good!
- An old fashioned belly rub: (most) dogs love a good belly rub, but only tickle their tummy if they've rolled over onto their back and are inviting you to do so.
- Under the chin: a good old chin scratch is beloved by many dogs. The longer, the better!
- Chest and shoulders: the traditional place to give your dog a good pet or even a massage.
These are the best places to scratch a dog, but remember that each dog has its unique likes and dislikes. However, there are several places you should always try to avoid, especially if you don't know the dog well.
Always avoid touching a dog's tail and their lower back unless you absolutely have to (if you're checking for an injury, for instance). Avoid the mouth and the face, and avoid the paws and legs, too.
Puppies are a little different from fully grown dogs, and they'll often let you get away with more. Some of the best places to pet puppies actually include their paws and their mouth, which can help build trust as they grow older. Properly petting puppies always involves gentleness on the part of the owner, and as they get older, you'll need to be aware that areas become more sensitive or off bounds.
How to pet a dog: tips and techniques
As we mentioned, not all dogs react positively to petting. This is especially true if they don't know you or don't trust you. Some dogs are super friendly, and petting a dog on the head right away might be welcomed by them, but other dogs might feel threatened in the same situation.
Building trust is key, and this can be done through a variety of simple techniques.
Understand body language
Understanding your dog's body language is key to building trust and being welcomed to the petting. Some dogs are easy to read, but for others, the signs can be more subtle. In either case, you're looking for positive affirmation!
Dogs that wag their tails, jump up at you, or start brushing up or leaning against you are being friendly. This body language welcomes you in to start petting a dog, but don't assume that it's okay to jump in and start belly rubbing. Watch the dog's body language closely as you begin to pet.
If the dog starts displaying negative body language, such as yawning or trying to move away, then stop immediately. Likewise, if the dog begins to bare its teeth, whine, or look away from you, it's best not to start petting.
Get down to the dog's level
To build trust, you need to begin by getting down to the dog's level. This is really important if you meet a dog in the park. Lowering yourself to your knees or squatting down slowly gives the dog the impression that you are friendly, and they are more likely to welcome you.
Conversely, standing over the dog (especially a stranger) gives the impression that you're trying to be domineering. Any dog will not welcome this!
Approach new dogs from the side
Dogs also don't like being approached head-on, with lots of eye contact. This is very stress-inducing for a dog that doesn't know or trust you yet.
If the dog is a stranger, approach from the side and gently stroke them from an angle. Don't make sudden or sharp movements, but be methodical. Give the dog a chance to look you over, and see that you aren't trying to pose a threat to them.
Looking a dog dead in the eyes is seen as a dominant tactic, so try to keep eye contact as brief as possible. Stare for too long, and a dog becomes uncomfortable and is very likely to run away from you.
Let your dog cuddle up with you
Dogs want to be part of the family, and once that trust is there, they'll often want to cuddle up for more extended periods. Don't push your dog away, but embrace them. Make things easier by investing in a bed ramp for dogs to help your pet snuggle up while you're sleeping or watching television.
Dogs love the comfort (so do owners), but you can also use this as an opportunity to massage your dog and to find their favorite petting spots. At the same time, you can use the petting as an excuse to check for any unusual lumps, bumps, or injuries that your dog could be hiding!
How to pet a dog: be gentle!
Finally, remember the importance of being gentle when you're learning how to pet a dog. Particularly if they don't know you too well, they are just a puppy or have previously had bad experiences with humans. Building trust can take time, but it's well worth it to know that you're petting your dog correctly, rather than causing any unnecessary stress.
Why not bookmark our guide to petting a dog, so you can give your pet the affection they deserve?