Why Do Dogs Like To Be Petted? (Hint: It’s Not the Reason You’re Thinking…)

No matter whether you’re curled up on the couch or greeting your dog at the door…

…Dog owners know how much their dogs love to be petted.

But have you ever wondered why?

And how should you pet your dog so they’ll enjoy it the most?

Well… In this guide, you’ll find answers to all your petting-related questions.

Let’s begin.

Why Do Dogs Like To Be Petted?

First: Dogs like to be petted because it initiates a social bond between you.

The act of petting is relaxing for both of you.

Not only does it feel good… but it reduces heart rate and makes your dog feel safe, too.

In fact, security is a key reason behind why petting pleases your dog.

And petting is also a better form of communication with your dog than vocal praise.

Remember: Dogs don’t always pick up on what you’re trying to say to them… but physical contact lets them know they’re loved!

How Do Dogs Like To Be Petted?

How a dog likes to be petted depends on the dog’s preferences.

The most important factor is that the dog is familiar with you, and vice versa.

Some dogs crave attention from just about anyone who will give it to them… but others are much warier.

In such cases, petting can actually be stressful to the dog, so make sure to ask permission from the owner and read the dog’s body language first.

How to approach a dog for petting

  • Approach the dog with a loose hand and wait for the dog to signal approval.
  • Look for a relaxed state, sniffing, and tail wagging.
  • Begin with gentle strokes.
  • Each dog will prefer different things… but think of the petting like a massage.
  • Nothing too rough at first… and slowly build up pressure if the dog seems to like that.
  • Start with the safe zones, such as the chest, back, or neck.
  • Petting is an intuitive process… and the dog’s body language reveals whether or not they’re comfortable.

Most important factor: Each dog has its own preferences… so there’s no single way they like to be petted. But the dog should be comfortable… so always look for a relaxed state.

Where Do Dogs Like To Be Petted the Most?

Again, each dog is different… but the most popular spots for dogs to be petted are under the chin, front chest, back and hips, ears, and belly.

Many times the dog will indicate where they want to be petted… by nuzzling your hand into that spot or moving so you hit their favorite spot! (See how helpful your dog is?)

Some areas are more sensitive and some dogs aren’t open to having strangers touch them there, so be aware that some areas require a personal connection with the dog first.

For example: The area under the chin isn’t a great place to pet a dog you’ve just met… but the lower back is a safer zone.

After all, most dogs love a good back scratch.

It helps loosen up tight muscles… and it’s a spot where most dogs can’t reach themselves. It’s generally a safe spot to pet even with dogs that you’re just getting to know.

Petting the ears is also a great way to build a stronger connection with a dog because of the eye contact involved. Eye contact releases oxytocin in both the human and dog brain so it’s a great way to strengthen a bond.

Plus, dogs love having the tips of the ears, and the surrounding area gently massaged.

Some dogs will openly lie down and roll onto their backs to get you to pet their belly.

The belly is a great place to pet when the dog is lying down. Remember: The belly requires some trust, so be aware that not all dogs like that. (When your dog lets you, it’s a real privilege.)

Why Does My Dog Want To Be Petted Constantly?

Sometimes a dog will develop this type of behavior, such as nuzzling under your hand to get pets, because it feels good.

But it’s also a form of attention-seeking.

However, this isn’t always the best behavior to encourage as it allows the dog to be in control of the pets. Rather than the act of petting being a form of praise, the dog is deciding when they deserve their pets.

Although it can seem cute first… it can become an annoying habit if your dog is constantly asking for attention in this way.

It’s advisable to stop petting during these times in order to eliminate the unwanted behavior.

Do Dogs Like To Be Petted While They Sleep?

This is again a matter of preference.

Some dogs are okay with it, and many will actually fall asleep while you’re petting them because they’re so relaxed and comfortable.

But other dogs don’t like to be bothered in their sleep… and will actually feel startled if you touch them out of nowhere.

So, the best way to approach this is with caution.

Get to know the dog and see how they react.

Rule of thumb: Leave the dog alone if they’re sleeping peacefully. However, it’s okay to keep petting them if you were already petting them while they feel asleep.

Do Dogs Like To Be Petted or Scratched?

Dogs like to be both petted and scratched.

Of course, preference differs from dog to dog, but you can also pay attention to the dog’s behavior, the area you are petting or scratching, and the dog’s coat type.

There are some places on the body where the dog can’t reach, like the back or hips. These areas can also be really itchy sometimes. In this case, dogs love to be scratched there.

On the other hand, if your dog has a really thin coat or is prone to skin conditions, it’s best to be gentle on the skin and pet them instead of scratching.

Ultimately, the best approach is to try both petting and scratching to see how your dog responds.

How Do Dogs Feel When You Pet Them?

Dogs feel safe, loved, and relaxed when you pet them.

Petting is a form of bonding and reassurance.

The attention lets the dog know they’re loved and cared for.

Since we can’t actively communicate with our pets, physical touch is important.

Just like a baby likes to be held, most dogs enjoy having physical contact with their owners.

In addition, petting is beneficial to both the dog and owner as it reduces heart rate and blood pressure.

Why Don’t All Dogs Like To Be Touched?

There are certain cases when petting or touching a dog can actually cause more harm than good.

Dogs who don’t like to be touched are those that could’ve been abused or neglected in the past.

They can associate touch with a memory like being hit or kicked.

Negative associations can be worked through and changed, but this requires time and patience in order to respect the dog’s boundaries.

On the other hand, some dogs simply don’t like being touched.

Again, this is a matter of preference and doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the dog. Some dogs are naturally more independent and show affection in different ways.

What If My Dog Doesn’t Want To Be Petted?

If a dog doesn’t want to be petted, the only thing you can do is respect that.

Forcing a dog to cuddle or be petted can be overbearing to a dog who doesn’t want to be touched and could lead to stress.

The dog could also end up acting out or avoiding you altogether.

As mentioned earlier, if a dog has an aversion to touch because of a history of abuse this can be changed over time by showing the dog you can be trusted.

If your dog doesn’t like physical touch, show your affection through activities such as long walks or games of fetch.

The dog might still want to be around you, but rather than being a couch potato, prefers to lie on the ground at a small distance.

Each dog’s love language is different, and it’s important to respect what the dog needs.