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Do Dogs Like Being Stroked

Written by Jay
BsC (Hons) Animal Behaviour & Welfare graduate with a passion for advocating for misunderstood animals.
Published on
Monday 5 September 2022
Last updated on
Tuesday 9 May 2023
Do Dogs Like Being Stroked
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As a pet parent, you know that your dog enjoys being stroked in certain spots. Depending on your pup’s preferences, these spots might be behind the ears, at the base of the tail, or on the chest. But why do dogs like being stroked? And what’s the science behind the less preferable spots?

When asking, “do dogs like to be petted“, it’s important to consider the current research on the topic. If your dog enjoys their cuddle session with you, their brain releases a hormone called oxytocin. This is also known as the “love” hormone. When stressed, your dog’s brain releases cortisol, the stress hormone. To find out more about the art of dog petting, read on with us today!

Do Dogs Like Being Stroked?

Your pooch is a social creature. They want to bond with their human companions, and, for many dogs, petting is a highly desirable form of affection. It makes their interactions with you pleasant and supports their mental health. Research suggests that a dog’s brain releases oxytocin, the “love” hormone when they receive petting and attention from their human companions. Many dogs appreciate petting as a reward for desirable behavior, too.

Several studies have touched upon this subject, and many findings are supportive. For example, a pilot study found that petting your dog before a short separation can keep it calm while you’re away. Another study found that when dogs were pet gently, their oxytocin levels increased. In contrast, their cortisol (stress hormone) levels increased when given “activating” touch, which includes scratching and rubbing – this is likely because activating touch is more commonly used in play rather than in calm interactions, and the expectation of play was triggered.

Do Dogs Like Being Stroked On The Chest?

Your dog benefits the most when you touch them where they feel comfortable. For example, most dogs prefer long, gentle strokes along the chest and shoulder. A study suggests that petting the chest may decrease a dog’s heart rate, suggesting that it is more calming to the dog. So, when petting your dog, do so gently on the chest. Avoid petting over or across them. Stop after a few seconds and observe your dog – do they ask for more affection? If so, it’s good to continue.

Do Dogs Like Being Stroked Above The Tail?

If your dog has similar preferences to most others, they probably enjoy a good butt rub. The reason for this is that it’s a very difficult spot for your dog to reach themselves. And, like the ears, this spot is packed with nerve endings. A good scratch in this spot will stimulate your dog’s brain to release oxytocin, so it feels good and satisfies that “itch.” But, with itching in mind, this spot is also a popular place for fleas to hide. If your dog frequently asks for this spot to be scratched, check them for parasites.

Do Dogs Like Being Stroked On The Belly?

Not all dogs enjoy belly rubs. Some will become uncomfortable when touched on the belly, and understandably so. This is a highly vulnerable spot for dogs; some would rather protect it from contact. However, many dogs live for belly rubs. Not only is the underbelly difficult for your dog to scratch by themselves, but it’s also sensitive and feels good when scratched. Either way, allow your pooch to decide on whether to accept belly rubs or not.

Do Dogs Like Being Stroked On The Head?

While it may come as a surprise for some pet parents, dogs do not naturally enjoy being pet on the top of their heads. We as pet parents appear to be inclined to want to pat our dogs on their heads – whether it comes from stroking their child’s hair, or whether it’s because it’s the closest part of your dog for you to reach, it’s clear that there’s something at play. However, your dog may not enjoy it the same way that a human would. Dogs inherently dislike it when something reaches down from above towards them. Your dog may become “head shy” and duck away from touch if you invade their space in this way. If you intend to pet your dog’s head, do so slowly and gently, and don’t approach from high above.

Do Dogs Like Being Stroked When Asleep?

While many dogs fall asleep while being stroked, you mustn’t touch them when they are in a deep sleep. Your dog should be the one to initiate interaction with you. If you repeatedly touch your dog during their sleep, they may become anxious, uncomfortable, and retreat when they need to rest to avoid being woken. Some dogs become defensive, snappy, and reclusive if repeatedly disturbed. Always respect your dog’s space.

Do Dogs Like Being Stroked Behind The Ears?

Your dog’s ears are full of nerve endings. When you rub these nerve endings, they send signals to the dog’s brain that relax them and prompt the release of endorphins, the feel-good hormone. By rubbing behind your dog’s ears or massaging their ears in general, you help them to relax. However, be aware that ear infections and foreign bodies in the ear can make petting in this area uncomfortable for your pooch. If your dog pulls away, snaps, growls, or appears uncomfortable, cease contact immediately and be sure to monitor them for signs of ill health.

How To Find The Right “Spot”

Your furry friend is unique, and each dog has their favorite spot to be stroked. You mustn’t overstep their boundaries when finding your dog’s favorite spot. You must allow your pup to initiate contact with you rather than forcing them to interact with you. Allow your dog to come to you first, extend your hand, and allow them to sniff it. If they continue to move closer to you, offer a short and sweet petting session. Stop after a few seconds and watch your dog’s reaction:

  • do they move away from you?
  • do they ask for more attention?

You can figure out their favorite petting spots by monitoring how your dog responds.

Some common favorite petting spots include the chest, the shoulder, and the lower back near the base of the tail. Rubbing the ears or behind the ears is also another popular spot, as massaging here stimulates the release of feel-good hormones for your pooch. Try these spots and see how your dog responds.

Dogs typically like to be stroked on the chest, behind the ears, at the base of the tail, and on the belly. However, every dog is different. Be sure to find what works for your furry friend and always allow them to initiate interactions with you.

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