Some dogs simply don’t enjoy being touched. This might be a shocking claim since most people associate interacting with dogs with ears scratches or belly rubs. But it is the reality. Sure, dogs put up with it, as they do with many other things.
There are those dogs who LIVE for touch. It is the highest reward they can receive. And there are those that simply don’t enjoy it at all. But the majority of dogs fall somewhere in-between on the spectrum and have their own very personal preferences and rules that can change based on the person touching them, their mood, their pain level, the environment they are in etc. etc.
How to be respectful
We already might know that dogs don’t like being hugged or that coming in with your hand above their head isn’t appropriate or safe, but there are some other rules around touching worth keeping in mind:
- When a dog comes up to you, don’t assume they are soliciting physical contact, they are first and foremost gathering information – let them make the first move and initiate contact.
- Just because a dog is sitting or laying down next to you, doesn’t mean they want to be touched, they might just want the companionship. This is a fact any husky owner can attest to. Rocco follows me around, sits close, sometimes even touching me, but gets offended and moves away if I touch him without him initiating contact.
- Dogs allow and enjoy different types of physical contact based on your relationship with them. Certain areas might be reserved for their humans (belly or head).
- A lot of dog’s might experience pain in their back or around their hips, so those areas can be painful for some, especially older dogs
- Hard pats are also rarely enjoyable, they are annoying at best and at worst might actually be causing pain.
- Different dogs have a different threshold, be respectful when they are sending signals to stop. The thing about dogs, is that they are very polite and don’t want to hurt our feelings, they will try and send subtle signals for us to stop, before actually moving away.
- Be mindfully present and aware of how your touch is affecting the dogs body.
Advocate for your dog
As a dog guardian don’t be afraid to advocate for your dog. Dogs already have to put up with a lot from us people and being touched by strangers, when it’s something they don’t enjoy, shouldn’t be one of them.