Not All Dogs Like Being Petted
Sounds crazy doesn’t it?
When we think of dogs we think of getting lost in their luxurious fur.
Just petting them lowers our blood pressure and can take stress right out of our lives.
Thankfully most dogs like being petted, but not all dogs do. Even dogs that were taken home as pups and loved and coddled may not like being petted and touched affectionately.
Some dogs are just not overly affectionate; it is part of who they are as individuals.
These dogs usually are the dogs that would rather play ball or train or interact in games with you than snuggle in your blanket with you.
They are the ones that are happy laying on their own beds on the floor and don’t generally come to you for affection; they get interaction from you in other ways.
Or these are the dogs that demand affection and “worship” from you but only on their own schedule. They may nuzzle you for affection one minute; and then threaten you for petting them the next.
Genetics vs. a Learned Behavior
Some puppies are born like this; they are just more independent and don’t want nor need what we consider “affection”. That doesn’t mean they don’t want to “be” with you, it just means they are content hanging out with you or would prefer training or playing over snuggling.
Some dogs are extremely dominant and only want the things they want, when they want it; these are usually the dogs that are overly spoiled and not trained or played with; these dogs demand affection or to be left alone.
And some dogs learn this behavior because they weren’t snuggled with petted or held as puppies.
When I use to train Service Dogs and we would temperament test them, we called this “backyard dog syndrome” because some of these dogs just learn to pay more attention to everything else in their environment then caring about humans.
Sometimes, if you don’t know the history of the dog it is hard to know the difference.
Why is this Important to YOU?
Because it is imperative to know that not all dogs like to be petted and to teach your children that not all dogs like affection. And for a great video series that shows you how to work with this type of impulsive behavior, click here.
Dogs are sooo very cute and fuzzy. Their faces are adorable and they have soft silky fur and we like petting them. So it is hard to understand that not all dogs like affection and being petted.
Some dogs see a hand going over their head as rude and even dominant behavior and may attempt to bite someone who is seen as being rude or pets them when they don’t desire affection.
When teaching children, it is always best to have them pet dogs on the chest first and if the dog solicits more petting or affection then that shows that he is more comfortable with friendliness.
The father to my puppy and my puppy are both not fond of affection.
Petting almost puts him into a hyper irritation mode. Some of these dogs will actually shake their fur or their bodies after you touch them because they don’t like it; it is as if they are trying to shake you off.
He loves me, and he wants to be with me, but he would much rather sit on my feet and play with me than he likes me to pet him.
And, he likes other people to pet him even less, and because it can irritate him; I don’t allow people to pet him.
It is like he has this super short fuse and one minute he is soliciting affection, seemingly enjoying it and the next minute he is nipping or putting his mouth on people.
People don’t mind so much when the puppy is just a couple of months old; but when he is over 50# and over 6 months this behavior is much less cute for all those involved. It can actually turn dangerous very quickly.
It is imperative to stop people from petting dogs like this!
Because affection is not a positive reinforcer (or something he likes) for these kind of dogs, forcing him to be petted is actually a negative and can make him show more aggression and even lash out.
Before I Even Consider Petting a Dog
- I always look at his body language.
- Is his tail held high at the base over his back? This is a sign of over stimulation or dominance more on tails here.
- Does he seem over stimulated?
- Is he barking?
- Is he making soft squinty eye contact with me, or is he staring at me, or is he completely ignoring me?
I never pet a dog that is staring at me or has dilated or hard looking pupils. If you can see the whites of the dog's eyes that is a sign that he is clearly uncomfortable (unless by breed he can't help it).
I am always cautious about petting a dog who’s tail is held very high over his back, because this tells me that he is being very dominant, even if the tail is wagging or he is demanding being petted the level of his tail tells me about what is going on in his mind!
And, a very dominant dog is much closer to biting than a submissive (not fearful) dog or a neutrally friendly dog.
I never pet a dog that is staring at or stalking something else, like another dog or a squirrel. The introduction of my hand at an inopportune moment puts my hand at risk for a bite or to be mistaken for that other dog or squirrel.
I also never pet a dog that is completely ignoring me or pretending I don’t exist.
I only want to pet a dog that WANTS to be petted, not one that will “put up with it” because this dog is closer to his bite threshold.
All dogs have a “bite threshold” an amount of discomfort or irritation that he will deal with before he bites.
Some dogs have a HUGE bite threshold and would put up with almost anything (including pain) before they will bite or threaten to bite; and some dogs have a very short or thin bite threshold where they are already very close to biting.
It is hard to tell what the “bite threshold” of a dog that doesn’t want to be petted is, but it is probably shorter than a dog that is overly solicitous and affectionate and wants to be petted.
I want a dog that has soft, squinty, eyes and a tail that wags from his base line or a low submissive tail wag; these are signs of a dog that wants interaction from me.
If You Have A Dog That Doesn't Seem to Like Affection
It is crucial that you control his environment and who pets him. Again, I cannot stress enough that these dogs are closer to their bite threshold and even though they may seem to initiate the affection, he may decide shortly thereafter that he doesn’t want to be touched and may try to bite the person he just wanted to pet him.
Remember that petting is not rewarding for these dogs, it is an irritant or a negative, almost like a punishment.
Do not allow him to DEMAND when to be petted. Just because he is demanding it, may not mean that he is enjoying it and you are rewarding him for demanding or telling you what to do!
What Do I do?
- I pet my dog when he is enjoying something else, so that he associates affection with something else he loves.
- I pet him while he is playing ball.
- I click him and treat him WHILE I pet him so he has a positive association of my affection.
- I pet him on my own terms and I don't allow him to demand or try and force me to touch him when its not my idea
- I never “pet” him while he is being possessive of something.
- My puppy is very, very possessive and although we are working through his possession I never pet him while he is being possessive. Not only would this put me at risk, it will condition (him more on conditioning here) to feel possessive when he is being touched, even if he doesn’t have anything to be possessive over.
- And, I always realize that I may be able to teach him to tolerate, and then even enjoy my affection; he may never enjoy it from other people that he doesn’t know!
Understanding Dogs and Their Impulsive Behavior is Crucial for All of Our Well-being and to Having a Good Relationship.
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.