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It seems like a dog's head and a person's hand were meant to go together. But, why do dogs like to be petted so much, and what are the best places to pet a dog? To answer these questions, it's important to understand the signs dogs give before, during, and after petting. Get ready — we’re about to explore the science behind dog petting.
Prepping to Be Petted
Have you ever heard the saying, "Let sleeping dogs lie?" Although all dogs like a good hand massage, they should be the ones to initiate the petting. Whether they're a new puppy, your long-time fur friend or a dog you've never met before, you should always look for the mutual agreement that the dog wants you to pet them. If a dog wants to be petted, they will sniff you, and then their ears, tail and other parts of their body will become relaxed. Watch for loose shoulders, a soft gaze and an open mouth. When they start to wiggle a little bit or nuzzle up against you, that's your sign that they're ready for a good round of petting.
You should first pet the dog on the chest, shoulder or base of the neck rather than moving your hand over the top of their head. Make the initial petting slow and a little bit like a light massage. Avoid the base of the tail, under the chin and the back of the neck. Definitely don't grab at the dog's face or pet their ears roughly, since most dogs do not like that type of petting. Once you get to know a dog well, you can try to pet other areas and see what they like. When you're done petting, be sure to use a consistent response like "all done" so that your dog doesn't keep jumping up or try to nuzzle into you and knock you over for more pets.
How Will I Know If He Really Loves Me?
Do dogs like to be petted all the time once they know you? Well, for the most part, dogs do like to use petting as a way to bond with their owner. And according to Blue Cross, this is beneficial for the owner too, as petting dogs has been shown to reduce anxiety and support relaxation. However, petting should be done in a way that pleases your dog and helps them feel calm, loved and safe. It's important to make time to pet your dog every day and allow others to pet them in a way they like.
When you get a new puppy, it is important to get to know them and what they like before you take them to socialise with other dogs and people. This will allow you to recommend the best way for people to approach and pet your dog to reduce their anxiety of strangers. Keep in mind that some dogs make connections with certain people more than others, and although your puppy might like being petted on the belly at home with you, they may not like that when they’re out and about with strangers.
Finding "The Spot"
Have you ever petted a dog and noticed their leg moving rapidly? According to Popular Science, this is actually an involuntary movement called the scratch reflex, designed to protect your dog from parasites and other potential irritants. Although it can seem funny to see your dog kicking their leg, pet parents should be aware that dogs might find this irritating. Some people think rubbing this spot on a dog's belly is what they want, but in most cases, dogs would prefer to lie next to you and get petted on the chest instead. Very similar to arm or leg spasms in humans, a massage should evoke relaxation and not involuntary, rapid movements.
So, the next time you see a dog, remember to let them initiate the contact, start by petting the chest and shoulder areas, and let them take the lead on how much and how often they want to be petted.
Chrissie Klinger is a pet parent that enjoys sharing her home with her furkids, two of her own children and her husband. Chrissie enjoys spending time with all her family members when she is not teaching, writing or blogging. She strives to write articles that help pet owners live a more active and meaningful life with their pets.