Dog Science Series: Why Do Dogs Like to be Pet?

5 min read
Dog Science Series: Why Do Dogs Like to be Pet? - Animals Matter, Inc.

One of the things that most dog owners love is petting their dogs. Seeing the way their butt begins to wiggle, the tail starts wagging so hard it's like a weapon of mass destruction, and getting extra cuddles as a reward, works to make us feel relaxed. In fact, there's a good reason for this, which we'll discuss.

Most Dogs Love Getting Pet

Pups may seem like these hyperactive bundles of energy, which would doubtless power the earth if we could learn to harness it, but they are just as prone to anxiety, stress, and depression as we are. It may seem odd, but petting them can act as a soothing agent which helps calm them down.

Others suspect that dogs prefer being petted because it's a way to bond with us. It's also believed that dogs think they're being rewarded for being a good boy or girl. Not that there was ever a doubt.

Still, others believe that it's a form of socializing. Primates groom each other in the wild, and so do dogs. While we can't participate in the same way they do, such as licking or sniffing, we can still meet what a dog's needs by giving them a good scratch every once in a while. Or a lot. Whichever they prefer.

According to the National Canine Association of America, it's important to learn how your pooch likes to be petted. Some enjoy gentle strokes, while others like the more firm pets, which loosen all those annoying strands of fur as they begin shedding.

With that being said, there are some dogs who may not enjoy a good scratch behind the ears. This could be due to past trauma, which you know nothing about. It may also be because they don't trust the person or family member who is trying to snuggle with them. Some dog breeds, such as Afghan Hounds, Chow Chows, and Scottish Terriers, are less likely to enjoy cuddles than a breed like Golden Retrievers. They also may not enjoy physical contact, and that's perfectly OK.

Signs that a dog may not be into pets include, but aren't limited to:

  • The tail doesn't wag
  • The dog is avoiding eye contact
  • Their fur is raised up, especially around the tail
  • The ears are pulled back
  • The tail is between the legs

If you notice these signs, it's best to let the dog find a location they feel safe, such as their favorite dog bed, and let them de-stress on their own. Even though you're a self-certified dog lover, your pup may need a well-deserved break.

Humans Like Petting Dogs Almost As Much As They Love Getting Pet

Dog petting comes with lots of benefits for dog owners, and the science backs it up. When you snuggle with your pup, it releases a drug in both of you known as Oxytocin. But how exactly does that work, and what is it?

According to MSO, "Oxytocin, the "love hormone," is released when an owner and his or her dog interact with one another through stimulation from a gentle touch. In addition to its social-bonding qualities, oxytocin is also closely associated with anti-stress properties, such as decreased blood pressure and lower levels of the stress hormone—cortisol."

Because of this, many friendly dogs are now used in many areas like clinics and schools as a type of therapy. In stressful situations, petting your four-legged best friend could be exactly what the doctor didn't order. And it's less expensive, as well as coming with fewer side effects.

What you will experience in most cases is a lowered heart rate, lowered blood pressure, and a happier disposition to name a few things. Many dogs can even sense when you're feeling sad and will approach you for cuddles just to make sure that you're OK.

The Pet Spruce pointed out a study performed at Duke which showed that dogs and their lucky owners can also get a heavy load of oxytocin when they look deeply into each other's eyes. So, even just some quality time without physical contact can do a dog a lot of good.

Where Should I Avoid Petting a Dog?

Even the most friendly of pooches have their limits. For example, don't touch a dog's face. They may tolerate it, but that's about it.

Most dogs also don't like you messing with their tail. If you've ever watched a dog's body language when a toddler is snatching at their tail and giggling like this is the funniest thing ever, you'll probably see lots of signals the dog is sending out that this is not OK.

Healthcare for Pets reports that some signs to look out for that your dog has had enough include:

  • Walking away
  • Cowering
  • Recoil
  • Avoidance

It's best to respect the boundaries your dog is laying out. This will help them continue to be happy and will build trust between you and your pup.


Where do dogs like to be pet the most?

This really is a personal matter for each dog. Some pups may enjoy scratches behind the ears, while others detest them. This may have to do with how well they know you, or they may have some health problems going on that you aren't aware of yet.

It's best to pay attention to the dog. If they're shoving their head into your chest, this is probably a good sign that they enjoy pets on the head. Sidling up to you may mean they want their sides scratched. And everyone knows what it means if they roll over.

Why do some dogs like to be pet so much?

Like us, dogs face mental health problems. Just as we enjoy a good long hug from someone we trust, a pooch will enjoy a snuggle with humans they adore. That's why they're man's best friend, after all.

What’s the difference between petting a dog and petting a cat?

For people, not much for cats and dogs, there is a lot of difference. Most dogs adore belly rubs. It may not be as great as getting their favorite treat or going on another epic ride in the car, but it's close.

Cats, on the other hand, are not fond of belly rubs. They may tolerate it, but that's more because you're their person, and less about the fact that they're into it. Just watch your cat's body language. If your cat's tale begins to lash, this is a sure sign that you're about to reap their displeasure. Being petted on the top of their head or back is more of a cat's speed.

If you're looking for accessories that are made of high quality materials which your pup will love, contact us for more information.

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