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Petting A Dog: How and Where?

4 minutes
Although it's true that dogs usually like being petted, some breeds are more hesitant about it. A dog allowing you to pet them all depends on whether they already familiar with you or if it's the first time they're meeting you. No matter what, you should be aware of the signs. 
Petting A Dog: How and Where?
Written by Yamila
Last update: 09 February, 2024

Dogs love to be petted, but in some cases, they’re not so “friendly” with physical contact. In this article, you can read how and where to pet a dog, which is quite useful to know when you becoming doubtful about petting a dog you’re meeting for the first time.

Tips for petting a dog for the first time

Most people tend to think that all dogs like getting petted and caressed, but that’s not always true. Some of them are more reluctant to have contact with people (for example, a White Swiss Shepherd is often very suspicious). Dogs act this way because they probably have a trauma from the past, or because they don’t know us. These tips on petting a dog can help you get to know a dog you just met:

1. Approach them cautiously

If the animal is alone on the street or is next to their owner, you should be very careful with your movements. You need to avoid frightening them or provoking them to attack. Keep in mind that dogs that are tied up or on a leash are more likely to growl or bite. Also the same goes if they’re eating or have some toy or personal belonging nearby  — and especially if they’re protecting their puppies!

2. Crouch down to their level

You can crouch or squat down to their level. Always face the animal so you can observe them at all times. Gradually extend your hand toward the dog and wait for their reaction. Don’t make any noise, scream, or sudden movements. Let them sniff your closed hand so they know what your intentions are.

3. Start with their forehead

The first area of contact for petting a dog should be their head, between his ears, to be exact. You have to be very gentle and pay attention to the signs the animal gives you. If they look calm with their eyes slightly closed or are wagging their tail, then they are enjoying your company.

Some figure

In the event that the dog doesn’t feel good when you’re petting them, they’ll be sure to let you know. They might move their head to one side, slightly growl, or “run off” to somewhere else. Respect their decision and don’t try to get close to them anymore.

On the contrary, if you feel that you’re connecting with the animal and they’re having fun, then you can pet them in other areas. Some dogs like to be petted behind their heads, on top of their back. Others prefer getting petted on their chins or chests. You’ll have figure out what areas they like the best by petting them.

How to pet a dog you know

Maybe it’s your pet or the dog of someone who you know. In that the case, then you’ve already “passed” some steps and now you’re left with only identifying which areas the dog prefers being petted on. The only way you can find out what areas the dog likes is by petting them.  

Some dogs love having their bellies scratched or rubbed. Others like leg massages. Some like to be petted on the head and others prefer the chest. We recommend that even if it’s your dog, not to touch their mouth, eyes, or tail, because dogs usually don’t people touching those areas.

Some figure

Pay close attention to the animal’s reactions, as they might “invite” you to pet their tummy while they are lying on their back and wagging their tail. However, there is a possibility of them biting you if you make any strange movements. So, don’t take it for granted that all contact is friendly.

When a dog is panting, quickly wagging thier tail, with their eyes halfwalf-closed, or asking you for more are all very good signs that the dog is having a great time with you.

It’s important to remember that petting a dog has is all about how much they allow you to pet them. Even if it’s your pet, they probably won’t like hugs or when you pick them up in a certain way. Therefore, always pet them with your hands. Don’t use your arms or any other body parts.

Therefore, when petting a dog, whether they know you or not, you should be very cautious and identify the signs that show whether he likes the petting or not. That way, you’ll keep him from biting you, and strengthen your relationship with him.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.