Dogs are famously social animals who enjoy human company and affection just as much as we enjoy being around them. Some breeds, in fact, need a ton of extra affection and constantly need their human owners to be around. Your dog may often present themselves for petting or some light stroking behind the ears, on the back, or on the belly.
They express their contentment by leaning on to you, wagging their tails happily, closing their eyes, and gasping softly out of joy. At times, they may even attempt to reposition them so that you are scratching them right where they want, like on their chest or right on top of the tail.
Stroking is a great way of bonding with your four-legged best friend and reinforcing behavioral patterns that are desirable through some loving and positive reinforcement. This could help keep them calm and composed or even make them fall asleep. Stroking or petting your dog is also a great way to check for bugs and ticks, snags in the fur, or any other physical concerns that you may have missed out on.
While all dogs absolutely love being petted or stroked, it is also important to keep a track of your pet’s reaction to the stroking and the specific areas where they want to be stroked or petted the most.
What are the reasons behind this behavior?
Dogs enjoy love and attention just as much as we human beings do. They conform more to physical expressions of love for the obvious lack of communication skills. But there are a whole bunch of biological reasons why dogs enjoy being petted or stroked so much.
- Dogs are pack animals and as such, they depend on physical touches as a communicative method to keep a tab on their track. When we stroke our dogs, it reassures them that you are constantly with them. It functions as touching base with your dog once in a while to let them know that you are there. Reports have shown that dogs stay for much longer with owners who pet them than those who praise them.
- Primates are known to groom one another as a part of their social behavior. By stroking or petting them, we are engaged in a similar communicative pattern with them and expressing affection via physical touch.
- Petting and stroking include a ton of health benefits for dogs just as they do for human beings. These include lowered blood pressure, a reduced heart rate, triggered release of endorphins or the happy hormones, and a marked rise in oxytocin, also known as the bonding hormone.
- Overall, a dog mainly likes to be stroked and petted to maintain their sense of security and companionship with their human owners.
The Dos And Don’ts Of Petting A Dog
No matter how close your bond with your dog is, it is important to remember to pet your dog the right way. Dogs do not interpret actions and signs like human beings do. That is why it is imperative to know the best ways to show your love and appreciation for your furry best friend.
- Ask first. It is never a good idea to approach a stranger dog head-on and start to cuddle them. This may invite unwarranted accidents as it stresses the dog out and makes them defensive.
Always ask for the dog owner’s explicit permission before petting a dog from the side first and never right from the front. In case you already know the dog or its owner from before, you can cut short through the meet and greet process but remember never to startle a dog or make them feel threatened.
2. Start slow. You can initially extend a loose fist that looks like a paw instead of trying to grab them right away. Hold your hand’s palm down and hold it a few inches away from the dog’s face. Once the dog starts sniffing your hands and wagging his tail, you may proceed to pet or stroke them gently.
3. Don’t touch the face. Most dogs like being stroked under the chin or behind their ears. Getting petted on the head can be intimidating and stressful for the dog. Once the dog shows signs of acceptance, like easier posture or tail wagging, you may proceed to stroke or cuddle him on his chest, sides, rear haunches, or shoulder.
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What we take away from this is that your dog loves being stroked or petted because it expresses your love for them and helps them maintain their security. It is a primal form of bonding and tells your dog that you are his and his only.
However, it is important to stroke your dog in the right manner and right places. You don’t want to encourage needy behavior or over-stimulate them. A healthy balance of stroking and petting and verbal positive reinforcement is the key to maintaining a loving and happy relationship with your pet dog.
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