Why Do Dogs Like to Be Petted? Understanding the Joy For Us and Them

Not only do dogs like to be petted, but it is beneficial to you as well. When you pet your dog, the sensation triggers the release of the hormone oxytocin for both of you.

Oxytocin is involved in making you feel love and want to bond. It can even lower your heart rate and blood pressure. People and dogs share a strong bond; in fact, scientists have found that by gazing into each other’s eyes, dogs and humans release more oxytocin.

While it is clear that dogs and humans share a mutually beneficial bond, scientists haven’t yet answered the question, “Why do dogs like to be petted?” However, it is clear that they enjoy it. There are many different theories out there. Take a look at the following.

Reasons Dog Love to Be Pet

Dogs enjoy the comfort and love that petting and stroking bring to them, and we as humans enjoy that bonding with our pups as well. Lets look into the reasons why do dogs like to be petted.

Petting Feels Good

The most apparent reason why dogs like to be petted is that it feels good. When your dog comes over and rubs its head against your hand, you instinctively pet the dog. The reason is that it is a mutual show of affection. Touch is a way of bonding, and when you pet your dog, you are showing your dog that you care.

If you have ever rubbed a dog’s belly or sides, you can see how much it enjoys it. When you stop, it will nudge you or get closer to you in hopes that you will continue. As long as you are gentle and kind, petting feels good, and dogs like it.

Touch Is a Way to Show Affection

Both people and dogs show affection through touch. It’s one of those unspoken forms of communication that works with dogs and people. Both species are social, and both enjoy the closeness to those they love. In other words, it means the same thing to both.

When your dog comes over and lies next to you, it wants that closeness. He might put his head on your lap and look up at you. Dogs give a lot of love, but they like to receive it too.

That is one of the reasons why they like to be petted. When you pet your dog, it feels closer to you, and it thrives on this affection.

It’s Sensory

When people interact with each other, they can communicate verbally. They learn from childhood to understand how behavior and communication work.

However, when you have no words for communication, the senses kick in. They are a part of how people and other animals interpret the world around them.

Dogs are more dependent on sensory interactions because they can’t use words. When you pet your dog, it serves as a way for the dog to determine how you are feeling.

Dogs are perceptive, and they know what you feel by using their senses. Touch is an essential sense because your dog can feel whether you are relaxed, energetic, angry, sad, and more.

It Has Health Benefits

Dogs are very intuitive. They know when they are not feeling well, and they know when people need help. Dogs may enjoy being petted because instinctively, they feel warm and fuzzy.

They may have instincts that tell them that your petting them has benefits for you as well.

Many dogs are trained to help people who are not well. This behavior is a similar thing. When you pet your dog, it can lower your blood pressure and make you feel calm. Your dog may be doing its part to help you stay healthy.

It Allows Dogs to Feel Secure

Dogs are pack animals, and they can be compassionate. They like to know that everything is okay. One way that they check in is by making sure that your bond is still strong.

When you pet your dog, you are letting it know that you are in it together. They feel safe and secure, and they know that they are a part of the “pack” or family.

Dogs are sensitive, and they need to feel included as much as people do. When you interact with and pet your dog, you are letting it know that you are in this life together. Your dog will feel safe and secure in your home.

How to Properly Pet Any Dog

Petting isn’t always as simple as it should be. Sometimes people reach out to pet a dog, and the dog growls. You need to know basic petting etiquette so that your dog or any dog gets the most out of your show of affection.

Children also need to learn how to interact with a strange dog so that everyone stays safe.

Let Your Dog Initiate the Petting

First of all, you should never pet a dog until the dog shows that it wants to be petted. It is never a good idea to walk up to a sleeping dog and just start stroking.

If you go into someone’s house and the dog is lying down, you can squat down next to the dog. You can turn your body slightly away from the dog so that it doesn’t feel threatened by you.

Remember that dogs are the product of their experiences and interactions, and you may not know what those are.

Wait for the dog to invite you to pet it. Dogs use body language to show how they are feeling. If the dog has its ears slightly held to the side and starts sniffing you, let it finish before you make your move. This is the way that dogs figure out who you are, and they will decide if you are okay.

Dogs that want to be petted will lean towards you. They will let you know by rubbing against you or licking you.

If you wait for strange dogs to make the first move, you will know that it is safe to pet the dog. Let the dog show you that it is okay. You should never force a dog to interact as you don’t know what the dog has been through.

Best Part of the Dog to Pet

photo credit: Buzzfeed

If you are sitting on the couch watching a movie and your dog is snuggled next to you, you can rub and scratch the dog just about anywhere. This kind of gentle interaction is reassuring, and most dogs love it.

If you have just brought a new dog home or you are watching someone else’s dog, you should let it make the first move.

Once you know that it is okay to pet the dog, start by stroking the chest, the shoulders, or the base of its neck. These are safe spots, and most dogs are okay with it. You shouldn’t reach over the dog’s head; it is better to approach from the side so that the dog doesn’t feel threatened.

Many dogs have “sweet spots” where they love to be petted. For some it is the base of the tail, and for others it might be under the chin. A lot of dogs don’t like to be petted on the head; if you do pet a dog there, be very gentle and stroke its fur rather than petting.

Rather than making a slapping motion to pet a dog, you should give it a gentle massage or scratch. You should try to move your hand in the same direction as the dog’s fur. This can feel good and be very therapeutic for both you and the dog.

How to Use Petting as a Reward

Because dogs like to be petted so much, it can be a valid reward during training. Dogs do want to hear words of praise, and they love treats. One study shows that dogs prefer petting over verbal praise. They may be more responsive to it.

If your dog is a digger or has a habit of jumping up on you, calmly ask it to sit and then pet the dog as a reward. When dogs come to realize that good behavior earns the reward of a nice belly rub, they learn quickly.

Focus on petting your dog when it is doing what you want it to do in the house and refrain from petting it when it is jumping up on people or furniture or barking for no reason.

In other words, never pet your dog when it is disobedient. If your dog fails to come when you call it, you shouldn’t reward it when you catch it.

Reserve petting for bonding time and reward time after the dog does what you have asked it to do.

When you train your dog, it learns associations. If coming when it is called gains your favor, the dog will come. If going potty outside brings rewards, the dog will go potty outside.

Dogs want everyone to be happy, and they will learn quickly as long as you communicate in ways they can understand. Dogs understand petting, so it works as a reward.

Final Words

Hopefully, you can now answer the question, “Why do dogs like to be petted?” Dogs are pack animals, and they are very social. When you pet your dog, you are bonding and showing affection. Petting feels good, and dogs love to feel close to their family members.

Resources:
  1. http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/how-to-pet-a-dog
  2. http://blog.smartanimaltraining.com/2014/09/08/5-loving-ways-to-pet-a-dog/

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