Why and how to pet your dog?

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Petting your dog is an enjoyable activity, even relaxing. We have the feeling of having fun and especially to please our dog. But is this still the case?

Do you know why you are petting your dog? Are you sure you are doing it correctly? Are you sure it really makes your pet happy?

Let’s see together why the petting can sometimes be unpleasant for your dog , when is the opportune moment to pet it and especially how to pet it to be sure that it is a pleasant moment .

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Petting your dog is not always good

We all want to please our dogs and our first instinct will be to pet it. But be aware that, just like us, there are dogs that are absolutely not touchable.

In addition, petting a dog who does not feel like it or who interprets it as a bad message can cause the dog to show signs of aggression .

Many incidents involving children are also caused by poor contact between the dog and the child. We often blame it on the bad temper of the dog and it often ends in euthanasia … While a good reading of the signals your dog show and respect for rules of life at home could in many cases be enough to solve the problem.

In addition, petting your dog without being sure to please him is sometimes sending contradictory messages. For example, if you think you are rewarding your dog for a good deed by petting him but he absolutely does not consider it to be a reward, he will not repeat the behavior that you think you have reinforced.

A silly example : a dog that you systematically pet for coming back to you when you asked him to do so might not come back with the same enthusiasm the next time around, simply because he won’t want to. to be pet.

Instead, prefer a reward that will make him really happy: a game session, a treat, a verbal reward, etc. It’s up to you to observe and know your dog to identify what will really make him happy.

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Then be aware that for some dogs, simple contact with humans will be difficult. This is of course the case with dogs having been beaten by humans and therefore having lost all confidence in them. It is important to know the dog’s life, his experience and his past, to have the most suitable attitude possible.

Knowing and observing your dog is the key to knowing what will make him happy or not!

Last point, the fact of petting a dog doesn’t always mean pleasure, as we have seen, but be aware that the way of petting can also play on the pleasant side or not . Indeed, the simple fact of petting a dog on the head can cause the latter to be in a situation of discomfort.

Dogs have a natural apprehension when they feel or see a hand pass over their head. They see this as too intrusive and brutal approach and making contact.

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How to pet your dog?

The first thing to do before petting a dog is to ask it. So of course, if it’s your dog, you know him and you know he loves petting, it’s different. But if you have any doubts, your best bet is to ask the dog and contact him respectfully.

To make contact with respect is therefore to ask the dog by extending you hand towards him, palm open, at the level of its nose. If he comes up and feels your hand without showing any avoidance signals, then you can pet him without a problem.

Another point, so that the petting is well experienced for the dog, it is recommended to pet it under the neck, at the level of the throat, or then on the side: never on the head directly.

Here are some signals that you should know, which reflect discomfort :

  • Repeated truffle licking
  • Yawning
  • Head diverted
  • Recoil
  • Growl
  • “Smile” (the dog lifts its lips to show its teeth)

If you observe these signals but continue to pet the dog, he may start to behave aggressively.

We are lucky to have in front of us an animal that communicates a lot! He does not speak, of course, but he can make us understand his discomfort through his body language, and if we do not know how to read and decipher his messages, the dog will then move on to the next stage (aggression) to get out as quickly as possible of an uncomfortable situation for him.

In summary, to pet a dog:

  • We ask for permission
  • We pet it on the side or under the neck
  • We learn to observe avoidance signals
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When to pet your dog

First of all, you should pet your dog only when you are sure that he will appreciate this contact, as we have seen so far.

Then, we can pet our dog when he has adopted a behavior that we want him to repeat. Here again, it will be necessary to be certain that the pet is experienced by the dog as a reward and therefore a motivation to repeat the behavior rewarded and validated.

Clearly, we pet our dog to congratulate him or simply say hello, but only if we are sure that this will be experienced positively by the animal.

When should you never pet a dog?

Finally, it seems interesting to me to list some situations in which it will be not the moment to pet your dog.

These are situations in which many owners pet their dog and yet it is absolutely not doing them a favor and can even lead to many behavioral problems afterwards:

  • When he is in his basket

Indeed, the basket is the dog’s refuge area, where he knows he can be quiet. So, if you want to make contact with your dog and he is in his basket, prefer to call him rather than “disturb” him in his space and enter his bubble in a too intrusive way.

This is one of the rules for living at home, especially if you have children.

  • When the dog is anxious / stressed

As we have seen, petting can be a form of reward. So, if you pet a dog when he is afraid, for example (thinking of reassuring him) , you are ultimately only validating his behavior and his attitude and this will legitimize his emotion.

  • When he eats

Would you like to be disturbed when you eat? I do not think so. Many owners “annoy” their dog when he eats quite simply to prevent possible aggressive behavior at the time of the bowl.


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But that will only trigger possible aggression as it will equate your presence with something unpleasant. Leave your dog alone when he eats, respect this moment which is so precious to him.

  • When he jumps

Even if it is to say hello and even if you are very happy to see your dog, never pet him when he jumps on you as this will only validate the jumping behavior. Maybe right now you don’t mind, but I imagine when you leave for work, dressed in white and your dog is wet, then the jump will be much less welcome.

Final words and important recommendations

Loving and educating your dog is very important but painful at the same time…If you hired a trainer to train your dog in person, you could expect to pay up to $350 per hour… that’s a lot.

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