Dogs love being pet as much as we love petting them. And while it may seem like they enjoy being touched because they just do, there is a science behind why dogs love being pet. It is well known that petting your dog has its benefits. It can help lower stress levels and blood pressure in humans, which are both good things. It also strengthens the bond between you and your dog.

However, how exactly does petting your dog impact these things? Does it have anything to do with their general happiness when you pet them? Let’s take a look at the science behind why dogs love being pet and what it does for them.

Photo by Alison Pang / Unsplash

What Is Dog Petting?

Petting is when you touch or stroke your dog. It can be used to show affection or to calm your pup down. Although it’s not something that all dogs enjoy, it can be a great way to build a stronger relationship with your pup and help your dog release pent-up emotions.

If your pup is content and comfortable, petting can also be used to soothe and relax him. Petting can be done with your hands, but it can also be done with your feet, a brush, a soft-bristled brush, or a cloth. Certain breeds like Goldendoodles, Labradoodles, and Poodles can be petted with your feet and may even enjoy it. When you pet your dog, you’re showing him that you’re there to support and care for him. In return, your pup will feel loved and less stressed.

Why Do Dogs Like Being Pet?

There are several theories as to why dogs love being pet. The first is that dogs have a natural instinct to scratch, bite, and chew. When you pet them, you are giving them an outlet for these instincts, helping them to feel calmer and more relaxed.

Another theory is that dogs enjoy being pet because it mimics the touch of their mother while they were puppies. When they were young, their mother licked and groomed them. This was her way of showing them love and reassurance. So, when you pet your dog, they associate that act with being loved and cared for.

Research has shown that your dog's brain releases Oxytocin when they are being petted or given attention from humans. Interestingly, oxytocin gets released in the human brain too while petting a dog.

While there are clearly science-backed reasons dogs like to be petted, it's not all science. Simply put, the main reason dogs like being petted may just be that it feels good, especially when it comes from someone they love. Your dog's body language says it all. If they like to be pet or like the spot you are petting them, you'll know it.

The Benefits of Petting a Dog

There are many benefits to dog petting. For example, it can help promote better health. Petting can also help strengthen your relationship with your dog, which is something that can be very beneficial. For example, it can help reduce stress and anxiety among dogs. Petting can also help you understand your dog better.

When you understand your dog even better, you can learn how to better interact with him. Petting can also benefit your relationship with others. For example, if you’re living with other people, petting can be a great way to strengthen your relationships. It can be a great way to show new people in your life that you care for your dog.

Petting your dog is more than just a way to show affection. It has many benefits for both you and your dog. Let’s take a look at a few of these.

  • It helps lower your dog’s stress and blood pressure levels. When you pet your dog, it releases oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine in both you and them. These chemicals are known for reducing stress and anxiety.
  • Petting your dog can help improve your bond with one another. The more you pet your dog, the more they will trust you. This can also be true for other members of your family who may also be petting your dog.
  • Petting your dog can also help strengthen the bond between your dog and their vet. Getting your dog used to being pet by the vet while they are young can make visits less stressful and more productive.

Why Some Dogs Don't Like to Be Pet

Petting generally feels good, but not all dogs enjoy it. Some dogs prefer to interact with humans differently or just aren't cuddly. Dogs may be reactive toward people or feel stressed when humans touch them. Sometimes dogs just aren't in the mood to be petted.

Dogs have many different ways to bond with their pet parent, so don't take it personally if your dog doesn't like to be a pet. There are several signs that indicate your dog doesn't like to be pet or doesn't like to be petted in a certain way:

  • leaning away from you
  • tail tucking
  • ears pinned
  • yawning or lip licking
  • growling or snapping
  • shaking and trembling
  • rapid breathing
  • flinching

If your dog shows this body language, it's an indication you should back off. If it's an ongoing problem, it might be time to contact your vet or a dog trainer to figure out the problem.

A Guide To Dog Petting: Dos and Don'ts

Dog petting is a wonderful way to show your pup love and appreciation. But, it's important to know the dos and don'ts of petting a dog to keep both you and your dog safe and happy. With the right knowledge, you can make sure your dog is getting the most out of your petting sessions. Let's look at what you should know before you pet a dog.

The Best Places To Pet A Dog

The best places to start petting your dog are on the chest and on the back. These are areas where your pup has a high concentration of scent glands. They also tend to get a lot of hair, so they’re not as easily cleanable. Avoid petting your dog’s head and face until he is more accustomed to being petted.

When you pet your dog on the chest, you’re stimulating the thymus gland. This is the gland that produces the hormone responsible for all of the immune system's activities. When you pet your dog on the back, you’re stimulating the adrenal glands. These are the glands that produce the hormones responsible for stress. When you pet your dog on the back, you’re telling him that everything is okay and he’s not under any pressure.

Girl petting a dog

Do dogs like being pet on top of their head?

While many dogs like being pet on the head, many dogs don't want you touching their head at all. Dogs feel vulnerable when being pet in that spot. If they don't trust you, they may not want you to touch their head. There are other parts of a dog's body, like their chest, back, and shoulders that are much safer to pet - especially if you are petting a dog that doesn't know you.

Tips On How To Pet A Dog Safely

When you’re petting your dog, make sure that your motions are slow and consistent. Avoid making quick, jerky motions as these can be stressful for your dog. Try to stay consistent with the type of petting you use on your dog. If you use light petting, don’t suddenly switch to rough petting. This could be stressful for your dog and cause him to become anxious.

If you don’t know what type of petting your dog prefers, try a few different types of petting. Pay attention to your dog’s body language to see what he enjoys the most. If you’re using your hand to pet your dog, make sure that your hand is dry and clean. If you’re using a cloth or a brush to pet your dog, make sure that it is clean. You should also make sure that your hands or the brush aren’t too hot if you’re petting your dog with your hands.

Grooming and Petting

Grooming your dog can be a great way to bond with your pup. It can also help improve your dog’s health by removing loose hair and shedding fur. If you’re grooming your dog, make sure that you’re using the correct brushing technique and using appropriate tools to groom your dog.

Grooming your dog can be a great way to bond with your pup. It can also help improve your dog’s health by removing loose hair and shedding fur. If you’re grooming your dog, make sure that you’re using the correct brushing technique and using appropriate tools to groom your dog.

When Not To Pet Your Dog

There are certain situations in which you shouldn't pet your dog. These include:

  • When your dog is eating - Some dogs resource guard their food and can become aggressive if they are touched while eating.
  • When your dog is in a crate - This is your dog's place to get relaxed. Petting a dog who is relaxed in their bed or crate can make them nervous and anxious.
  • When your dog is sleeping - Never disturb a dog while they are sleeping as they can wake up scared and confused. This mental state can lead to snapping or biting, even in the calmest of canines. If you need to wake your dog for any reason, do it verbally by calling their name and getting their attention, don't just move in to touch them.
Good boy


Most dogs like being petted, but not all. Being petted or scratched by their owner is a bonding experience for most dogs and helps them relax. Science shows that dogs and owners benefit from physical touch like petting or stroking. Make sure to read your dog's cues about when and how they like you to pet them. Many dogs like being pet in a certain spot over others.

For more helpful articles about pet-parenting tips, check out the Off Leash blog at

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