You take your hand and give your dog a loving pat on the head or scratches under the chin. When you think about it, though, isn’t this kind of strange? After all, we don’t walk up to other humans and rub their bellies or stroke their shoulders whenever we see them. However, we don’t ever stop to ask, “Why do dogs like to be pet? Do they even like humans petting them?”
Fortunately, dogs don’t seem to mind being pet. That being said, you could learn a lot from exploring the human-canine relationship.
Human and Dog Communication
For as long as humans have been around, so too have domesticated dogs. In fact, research has found that dogs and humans have lived alongside one another for tens of thousands of years, though the exact date when this relationship began is unknown. During this time, it’s no wonder that humans and dogs have formed unique ways to communicate. Think of it as the weird gestures and sounds you make around people you’re truly comfortable with.
An example of this is dogs and humans looking one another in the eye for communication. Chimpanzees and wolves would never think to do this, but for whatever reason, dogs understand that eye contact is essential when speaking to a human.
Human and Dog Chemistry
However, the bond between human and dog doesn’t rely on eye contact, barks, and tail wagging alone. There is also petting.
By looking at dogs and cats, humans have learned that petting can stimulate a connection via the release of oxytocin, the bonding hormone. Oxytocin is also responsible for mother-baby connections and is the main reason people desire one another.
Eye contact with your beloved pooch alone can cause their oxytocin levels to raise 130%. For humans, their oxytocin skyrockets up to 300%. That’s incredible. And it’s from a mere look at your dog. No wonder we tend to see them as our babies.
¿Por qué a los perros les gusta ser mascotas?
There are many benefits to petting a dog—for them and for their humans. Because dogs and humans have a special bond, it makes sense that they derive the same joy from being touched as humans do.
However, this is all up to speculation. Research hasn’t delved too deeply into the matter at hand to truly have an answer for the question why do dogs like to be petted?
Here are some possibilities:
- Getting pet feels good. Who doesn’t love a massage? A pleasant touch is always nice and feels great. Dogs and humans are the same in that regard.
- Physical contact helps dogs understand your emotions. Dogs are excellent at understanding human emotion. It’s hypothesized that dogs have the same emotional thermometer as people do, meaning we can sense how others feel with touch.
- Petting is a glue that binds us together. Remember that mother-baby bond? Grooming behaviors and touch help form communities and relationships.
- There are health benefits. Similar to petting a cat, petting a dog lowers your heart rate, blood pressure, and releases feel good hormones for you both!
- Dogs and humans are social animals. Touch also helps both humans and dogs check in with members of their social circle.
What Do Dogs Feel When You Pet Them?
Did you know that dogs prefer to be petted by their humans instead of verbally praised? It’s not always about the touch itself, but more what it means. Dogs seek out connection, and they will gravitate towards people who give them that connection over those who don’t.
Your dog most likely equates the feeling of being petted to a massage or the loving nuzzle of their mother or friend. Furthermore, they get a rush of warmth and happiness from the positive reinforcement.
This is why coupling “good boy!” with a loving pet will improve your dog’s behaviors much more than a verbal affirmation.
Does Your Dog Really Want To Be Petted?
Yes, your dog wants to be petted, but you have to pet them the right way for them to get all the benefits. Don’t just lunge at a dog and assume they’re going to be okay with it. While most dogs are acclimated to being rubbed all over, they have their favorite places to be pet. The upper chest, hips, under the chin, and ears are the best places to pet a dog. That said, you should always gain their trust first.
Go On, Pet That Dog
Why do dogs like to be pet? Because it’s a bonding experience and shows them that you do indeed love them. Touch is powerful, and it’s one of the reasons dogs have developed such a unique relationship with people. So the next time your furry friend comes over looking for pets, give them all the scratches they deserve.