Why Do Dogs Like to be Petted?

Why Do Dogs Like to be Petted?

Author WDF Staff


Dogs are social animals, but there is one thing you should keep in mind - You should never approach a strange dog and start petting it without the owner’s approval. However, we all have at least one friend (or you) that loves coming up to strange dogs and petting them. The good news is that most dogs enjoy it. But why do dogs like to be petted? Is it something that’s in their DNA, or is it something they learned? Here is what you should know about this topic.

Do dogs like to be petted?

If you ask any dog owner, the answer will be - YES. However, that is something we expect dog owners to say. There were many studies done on this subject, and there is actually scientific evidence that proves dogs love to be petted. Their blood pressure and heart rate drop, and they feel calmer and safer. Here are the three main reasons dogs love to be petted;

Emotional bond

Dogs, like humans, love having a relationship and having someone they care about. Humans and dogs worked and lived alongside each other since domestication, so it is entirely expected they love our company and affection. Petting your dog will effectively strengthen your bond with them. Dogs love being on the receiving end of that relationship.

Security and reassurance

When you pet your dog, they get an intense feeling of security and reassurance. By engaging in gentle physical contact, you tell your dog you love them and care for them. Unfortunately, they cannot understand words and can’t talk to us. Still, they use different ways to communicate with us, and that is mostly achieved with body language. Even in the wild, wolves and wild canids communicate through touching, leaning, and licking each other. This type of behavior strengthens their relationships and confirms the pack order. It isn’t surprising dogs love to be petted.

boy petting a dog


Another reason dogs love to be petted is - attention. If you are distracted and your dog needs a bit of your attention and affection, they will come to you for some pats on the head. Like humans, dogs sometimes need a lot of attention, and you can clearly notice that behavior by ignoring your dog. They will most likely exhibit some sort of attention-seeking behavior. You are your dog’s whole world. You are their food and care provider, so they need to remain close to you and get your attention, which is entirely normal.

Scientific evidence dogs like to be petted

Like we mentioned earlier, many scientific studies aimed to prove the benefits of human-canine affection and petting. However, most of them were aimed at proving the benefits humans get. Luckily, they studied the effects on dogs, and here is what benefits dogs get from petting;

  • Lower heart rate
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Rise in oxytocin
  • Release of endorphins
  • Strengthening the bond between owner and dog

These are the benefits that could be scientifically proven. Still, there are other benefits dog behaviorists and vets believe dogs receive.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: Not all dogs like or should be petted. If a dog shows signs they are not comfortable with being petted, you should not force them or engage with them. It is best to leave them alone.

Where to safely pet a dog?

There are some areas dogs like to be stroked and petted, and some they might consider off-limits. If you love approaching dogs on the street or in the park, you should know what these places are and how to safely engage with a dog.  Safe places to pet a dog are;

  • Shoulders
  • Base of the neck
  • Base of the chest

When you pet a dog, make sure it is always in the direction of their fur.

Places where you should not pet the dog are the top of the head, face, legs, paws, and their rear. Never hover over the dog and hesitate. Dogs can see that as challenging and become defensive or scared. Most dogs will love being petted, and with the right approach, you can easily enjoy the benefits petting a dog can provide.

World Dog Finder team

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