Why Do Dogs Like to be Petted? (Scientific Data)

dog hair

Do you ever wonder why your pooch always loves it when you pet them? Or when you scratch their belly and their legs start to go wild?

They might look a bit weird but admit it; you love it when you see them get wild with joy.

Why do dogs like to be petted? Dogs enjoy being petted as humans enjoy affection and attention. When you pet a dog passionately, the dog feels good because they’re pack animals — and touch is an inherent method they use to keep tabs of their pack. Petting a dog sends a signal that you’re touching base and love him. Research shows that when you pet your dog consistently, he will spend more time with you and follow you around.

According to a research by Lynette Hart, an Associate Professor from the University of California, Davis, “dogs are exceptional human companions. And they get a lot of attention from owners, who have spent a ton of time actively walking their dog, giving them special treats, grooming them — than did cat owners.”

What are the effects of petting yourdog?

Physical contact between a human and a dog can have therapeutic benefits not just for you but for your dog as well.

For humans, petting a dog can trigger the release of the love hormone Oxytocin. 

For dogs, petting soothes a mildly upset or anxious canine. If the dog is overly stressed it may have little impact but dogs gain the most benefit by being caressed, just make sure you touch them on the right places!

Dogs prefer to be petted rather than using words of praise, although you can still pet them while telling them phrases like “Good Boy!”, but your dog would still respond more to touch.

A study was actually conducted between dogs and humans in which they observed that dogs interacted more with the people who petted them while they showed no interest in the people who just stood and showered them with words of praise.

Brian Hare, of Duke University also proved that when dogs and their owners stare into each other’s eyes, both of them experienced an increase in Oxytocin levels, a massive one.

The dog, both male and female experienced 130% increase in Oxytocin levels while in humans, both male and female as well experienced 300% increase in their Oxytocin levels.

So why do Dogs really like to be petted?

petting a Labrador dog

Dogs and humans share anunusually strong bond, since dogs have lived alongside humans for thousands ofyears we have managed to develop a unique type of communication over time.

Although scientists don’treally have a precise and accurate study regarding the matter, we are only leftwith theories. Some of the reasons why dogs may like petting are:

  • Itdoesn’t just provide therapeutic benefits, it also provides health benefits.  Studies show that petting dogs can decreasethe levels of stress, anxiety and depression, it can also lower blood pressureand reduce heart rate in both species.
  • Dogsmay see petting as a Reward; touch is a useful way of telling dogsthat they did a good job, it can also help maintain pleasant manner, such ascalm greetings when guests arrive.
  • Physicalcontact may serve as an emotional thermometer.Research show that humans can often determine the emotions of others throughtouch, perhaps dogs can do the same. Let’s face it touching dogs really feelsgood, plus dogs are happier when they are being touched.

Do’s and Don’ts in petting Dogs

Each dog is unique, regardless of how much your dog loves it when you pet him, it is important to make sure that you pet him correctly if you want to build a good foundation with your dog or with any other dogs.

Dogs do not interpret things the same way humans do, so here are some important do’s and don’ts of Dog-Friendly Petting:

1). Dogs should take the lead

 Start slowly; the dog will give signals when it wants to be petted, never touch a dog that does not want to be petted.

Extend a loose fist with your palm facing down and hold it a few inches below the dog’s face, once he starts sniffing or licking (which is better) your hand and wagging his tail, you can begin to pet him gently.

2). Avoid hanging over the dog

This action is often seen as a threat by dogs, and they tend to get intimidated.

Since dog’s have different personalities, some dogs could either go into a shell, make an aggressive move or run away from you. With these kinds of dogs, kneeling or sitting may be best to gain their trust.

Once it gives you a signal that it wants to be touched start by petting them under their chin or on the side of their face rather than going straight to the top of their heads.

Once the dog shows appreciation, you can start petting him on their chest, sides and shoulders.

3). Identify the dog’s needs

The most common bodylanguage is a dog’s ears and tail.If thedog’s ears and tail is up and starts wagging, may be accompanied by excitedbarking or exposed tongue, he is in a playful mood, this is the best indicationto pet the dog and play with them.

 If the dog’s ears are up and the tail is downand relaxed they are more likely to be approachable,keep in mind that you should always be cautious especially if the dog ismeeting you for the first time.

Ifthe dog’s ears are forward (may twitch at times) and its tail is horizontal, he isalert and paying attention while he is assessing the situation if there is anythreat. Wait until the dog feels relaxed before starting to pet them.

Ifthe dog’s ears are forward (may be spread to form a wide v shape) and its tail is raised as well as the furaround it, he is dominantly aggressive, this type of body language mightcause the dog to act aggressively if he is challenged.

Ifthe dog’s ears are pulled back and its tail is down or tucked between his backlegs,he is either stressed or afraid, these signals may indicate that a dog isfeeling threatened. In this type of situation it’s best to try and calm the dogfirst before initiating contact.

Where to Pet a Dog?

petting a dog

Different dogs willappreciate being petted in different areas, but here are common places whereyou can trigger that tail wagging and smile from your dog.

These areas include:

1). The Chest

Specifically the area between the front legs is a great spot to pet your dog while he is sitting or lying down, it is best to reach this area through the side instead of from its head.

You can wrap your arm around his body and scratch the chest region, since this type of petting requires a bit of intimacy and is close to your dog’s delicate vitals, it is best reserved for dogs you’ve already developed a trusting relationship.

2). The Hips and Butt Area

This may be the place dogs love being petted the most; this area is what makes their legs shake wildly. Be sure to pay attention to the tail base, many dogs are fond of petting in that area.

3). The Ears

One thing that can make a dog trust you is by rubbing the ears, particularly where most of the cartilage is. Massage the area gently, then slowly include the jaw and neck area, this works wonders when you want your dog to feel relaxed.

4). The Belly

If a dog trusts you and is completely comfortable with you, he’ll often walk towards you and expose his belly.

Take advantage of this action from your dog, start by petting the area or gently scratching on the belly. This can also activate the leg shaking behavior, so try to find the right spot.

5). Under the Chin

Use caution when petting the underside of an unfamiliar dog’s chin. Most dogs enjoy this location.

Once the dog is relaxed you can work your way from the chin down toward the neck area.

Remember to be gentle in this area,this is one of the sensitive locations where a dog can be touched.

6). The Shoulder and Back

Most dogs like being petted, scratched or patted around the shoulders or back.

Although this isn’t a recommended place to pet unfamiliar dogs, but your own pet may enjoy it very much.

Final thoughts

With that being said always remember to wait for your dog to initiate contact and always be cautious especially with dogs you are meeting for the very first time.

It’s important to gain a foundation trust first before giving random pats to dogs.

Whatare you waiting for? Start petting your fur babies right away for a great doseof dog loving!

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