Friday, April 2, 2010

Do dogs enjoy the pat on the head?

People often pat the top of their dog's head because it is an easy place for them to reach. Your dog may be used to you doing it but watch his body language.  Does he really enjoy it? 

When we touch a dog's head we can cover the dogs eyes or ears which they use to be aware and control his surroundings. We can touch the sensitive hairs on their muzzle which can be very distracting and sometimes disorienting to a dog. This can make make the dog very nervous, especially if the dog is a naturally nervous dog already. Depending on the force you are using, it can shake their head and blur their vision.

There are dogs that don't mind this if they are comfortable with the person doing it, but there are dogs, such as the typical shelter dog that just doesn't like it.  They may have been abused or have had a bad experience that you just aren't aware of.  Therefore, if you do not know a dog very well, it's best not to touch his face.  The safest is to touch a dog on his chest or back to not bother him. Leaning over a dog to touch him is not appropriate either because it might make the dog think you want to attack him. When a dog is not sure about a human's intentions he usually moves his head away from the person's hands.

If it's not your dog, a good rule of thumb is to "ask first".  Just because you are used to being around friendly dogs, doesn't mean that all dogs are friendly to you.  That doesn't mean they are not friendly dogs; they just don't know you.  It is always proper to ask to pet someones dog before doing so.  Let their dog smell you and get to know your scent before you approach them.


  1. 2 of my dogs hate being patted on the head, they close their eyes and put their ears back and sometimes duck down, but if you pat the side of them or gently rub between the eyes they love it. But my Bichon begs to be petted and patted on the head.

  2. Thanks for the post Julia. Just like we are all different, so are our dogs. Some of us like our feet rubbed, some don't :) It's good that you are so observant of their likes and dislikes. Very cool!

  3. Great blog. Ever since my dog was a puppy, he ducks when anybody pet his head, even me. He kind of tolerates it, but it's obvious that he doesn't like it so I always ask people to pet his chest instead, which he loves.

  4. Thanks Lisa. We all need to treat our dogs as individuals. Good for you for recognizing his needs.

  5. My dog can't stand it, if anyone tries to pat her on the head, she'll back away and maybe even leave the room. A stroke of her belly does her fine :)

  6. i have just adopted a shelter dog, he is very loyal and sweet dog. But noticed when strangers pet him on his head/he licks his lips .. and when they are done he either jumps up on them, growls, or barks...
    i have had him for a year now, and it has happened 3 times. Should i just have people avoid him? or pet on his side?