Everyone knows how to pet their dog, right? Well apparently that’s not always the case. But, I hear you say, isn’t it just a case of stroking my dog or patting his head? Well, actually, no it isn’t. Let’s dig a little deeper into this.
There is little doubt that most dogs enjoy having your attention which is often combined with human touch. For that small percentage of dogs that don’t enjoy human interaction, this is likely a result of poor (or non- existent) socialization at the critical development stages of being a puppy. It may also be that the dog is sick or physically suffering and, as such, wants to avoid being touched.
So back to the dogs that enjoy your attention. It’s not the well-intentioned act of touching or petting your dog that is the issue, more where you are touching or petting on the dog’s body. Firstly, there are areas of the dog’s body that are more sensitive to the touch than others: paws, tail, ears and mouth for example. You may find that some dogs are just not comfortable being touched in those areas. Once again it is the awareness and interpretation of their body language which will indicate whether they are enjoying being touched in those sensitive areas or not.
The action of touching/ stroking your dog’s head, that a lot of people do, is generally not comfortable to dogs. For whatever reason, society seems to have the mindset that stroking a dog’s head is “the thing to do”: WRONG! Far more comfortable, and for some dogs less aggressive, is to stroke their chest. The analogy I make is if someone came up to another person they knew and decided to gently rub the top of their arm in greeting and then started to gently rub their head/hair: which would be more comfortable for the average human being? I would hazard a guess that the vast majority would choose the former, the arm rubbing. In fact, if one adult started rubbing another adult’s head/hair, even if they knew each other really well, it would seem odd, if not bizarre. So it is with dogs. The reason this happens so often is that people are not picking up on the fact that the dog, by having its head rubbed, is tolerating the action, rather than enjoying it! In fact, you will often find dogs trying to subtlety move their head away to stop the rubbing.
Even though a more sensitive area of the body, dogs will often thoroughly enjoy a gentle rub behind the ears.
Finally, generally with a dog you know or one with a gentle disposition, what can be better than a good belly rub. You can see the dog in seventh heaven when, without a care in the world, your dog lies on its back and you take the time to apply a gentle rub to the belly and chest. Bliss!
All dogs have unique personalities so please invest some time to get to know your dog’s likes and dislikes. By taking time to observe your dog and read his or her body language, you will learn where to pet your dog and which areas are a no-no.
Don’t forget to always check with the owner of a dog before petting it.