Dogs are very affectionate and social animals, from the excitement they show when you arrive home, to their little tail wag as they follow you around the house. You can show them, love, by petting, scratching, kissing, and cuddling them. In contrast, a dog shows love by nuzzling, licking, rubbing against you, and also by staring at you. Receiving affection improves your dog’s mental health and well-being, so be sure to give them the attention they deserve! But why do dogs like being petted? For the same reasons, humans enjoy hugs! Contact with other beings is essential for our happiness, mood, and building relationships, and dogs are no different. While you can buy them all the best treats in the world or the best toys, the best way to show you love them is by petting them.
It is important to read a dog’s body language before petting them, as sometimes they might not be in the mood. Allow them to initiate it, they will do this by seeking out attention by pushing their body against you and relaxing their ears and tails. It is also important to never approach a dog who you are not familiar with to rub, as this dog does not know you and may not react the way you hope.
Why Do Dogs Like To Be Petted?
Research shows that when a dog is shown affection, its hypothalamus (the area of the brain that produces hormones) releases oxytocin, more commonly known as “the love hormone.” Oxytocin helps your dogs bond and build relationships with their owner and low levels of oxytocin in your dog can lead to depression and tiredness.
Another health benefit of petting your dog is it lowers their blood pressure. As little as 15 minutes of cuddling your pet can lower their blood pressure by up to 10%. High blood pressure in dogs can be very dangerous as it can lead to damage to their eyes, kidneys, heart, and brain. If your dog is suffering from high blood pressure, I am not recommending you use affection as their treatment, however, it is a good preventative. Always consult your vet if your dog has any health issues.
Serotonin is another hormone that is produced when you show some love to your dog. It is released from their intestine and plays a vital role in mood, sleeping patterns, digestion, bone health, and reducing stress levels. All these factors are a recipe for a happy pooch! Too much serotonin can present some issues such as diarrhea, confusion, and restlessness, and too low levels can cause anxiety, depression, sleeping problems, and loss of appetite.
Dogs cannot verbally communicate with us, instead, they communicate through body language, such as licking, eye contact, wagging their tail, ear language, and head tilts. They also use vocalization such as barking, whimpering, and growling. Dogs may view petting as a way for humans to express their love, say hello, and praise them. Petting also helps an owner bond with their pet, and build trust.
It is important to know which scenarios to pet your dog and when not to. It is seen as approval and a reward to your pet, so if they ever behave badly, save the cuddles for later! You don’t want to confuse your dog, they are very clever creatures and learn quickly.
Simply, It Feels Good
Petting is very pleasurable and relaxing for your dog, especially if you know the spots they love!
Which Spots On Your Dog To Pet
You will notice certain areas on your dog’s body that make their leg shake uncontrollably, or the tail will violently wag! But there are also spots that may make him/her unhappy, nervous, or uncomfortable. It is useful to know these spots and the science behind them.
Before petting a dog, especially a stray dog, it is important to introduce yourself slowly so that they get a sense of trust and calmness. Slowly crouch down and reach out one hand, if he/she extends their head and nuzzles your hand, this is a good sign. Do not have direct eye contact as they may see this as a threat. Relax your body and talk with a gentle voice. But where do you go from here?
Dogs enjoy chest rubs, you will notice that they get so relaxed they start to fall asleep! They love chest rubs simply because it’s attention from their owner and a sign of love. Gently rubbing their shoulders and chin will also relax your dog and make them feel at ease.
Some dogs do not like being petted directly on their head, but certain spots are pleasurable for them, such as the bridge of their nose and behind their ears. Take care when rubbing their ear, as they can be quite sensitive so be gentle. If your dog is ever uncomfortable or in pain they might yelp, and it is important to immediately stop if they do this.
It is very difficult for dogs to reach their heads with their paws, so a head massage now and then is very much appreciated by them!
Every dog loves their belly being scratched! Belly rubs are as relaxing for a dog as a back massage is to humans. When a dog exposes their stomach, it may feel vulnerable but this is also a sign that they feel safe around you. Serotonin will be released into their body, reducing cortisol levels (cortisol is responsible for stress) and helping them relax.
Another reason belly rubs are so popular with your furry friend is that the hair follicles and nerve endings on a dog’s stomach are extremely sensitive. This is why your dog’s leg may begin to shake uncontrollably. This is an involuntary movement, similar to a knee jerk response in humans.
You may notice if you scold your dog or raise your voice at them for misbehaving, their automatic response is to roll over and expose their belly. This is an act of submission, to show their owner that they mean no trouble. Some dogs may even do this because they know they will look adorable in this position and their owner will be calm!
Lower Back, Near the Tail
Dogs love this spot! You will notice they push their body up against you and do their little butt wiggle as you scratch them at the base of their tail. This spot is often very difficult for them to reach, so it’s the equivalent of when you have a scratch on your back you just can reach! However, as your dog ages, be aware when giving butt scratches as some dogs may begin not to like it due to skin conditions or arthritis.
Spots You Should Not Pet
Yes, believe it or not, some areas on your dog’s body will agitate them if you touch them. These spots include their muzzle, legs, paws, and tails. These areas make your dog feel vulnerable and uncomfortable, and it is best to avoid these spots to build a healthy and trusting relationship with him/her.
The Benefit To Humans Of Petting A Dog
Petting your best friend should be an enjoyable experience for all involved. But did you know that there are scientifically proven health benefits of petting a dog?
Lowers Stress Levels
Support animals exist for a reason, and that is because they help people reduce anxiety and relax in certain environments. This is because petting your furry friend and having them in your company releases serotonin. It is very common for veterans to have a service dog to help with their PTSD.
Lowers Blood Pressure
Similar to when you pet your dog their blood pressure decreases, yours does this same. As well as this, your heart rate and your breathing slow down, which results in a more relaxed feeling.
To conclude, petting your dog is as beneficial for them as it is to you. So scratch, rub, tickle, and pet all day long! Dogs are described as a ‘man’s best friend’ for a reason, and that is due to their unconditional love and loyalty, so be sure to thank them by giving them a belly rub!
Thank you for reading, be sure to share with a friend!
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