How to pet your dog, when to do it and especially when a dog does not react as expected.
So many questions are important to answer because contact with a dog, whether it is yours or not, is not to be taken lightly.
Of course, we all want to pet a dog, especially when he looks at us with his puppy dog eyes, when he puts his back on us or when he puts his paw on our leg. Nevertheless, there is a way to contact a dog to avoid any misunderstanding, any outburst, and make this contact live positively by the dog.
I propose here to understand how to make contact with a dog, make sure that the caress is positive, and read the dog’s attitudes.
The initiative to make contact
First of all, and above all, you must always initiate the contact. In other words, if your dog is the one asking for attention and you systematically respond to it, it is not correct, and it will not be coherent.
Let me explain: a dog that always gets satisfaction when he asks for a caress will understand that he can always ask for what he wants, and when he doesn’t get what he wants, he can be even more insistent, and this could become complicated to manage.
For example, a dog that is used to always having an answer when he comes to ask for a caress is a dog that is in control of the contacts (I am thinking in particular of dogs that insist on pushing the arm of their humanity with their muzzle to be caressed). And the day you can’t pet him because you are busy with something else, he won’t handle this refusal well and maybe even more insistent, jumping on you, barking, etc.
Therefore, to initiate contact, you should ignore your dog when he demands your attention, wait until he has moved on and then call him to make contact.
What exactly is ignoring your dog? Well, it’s not looking at him, not touching him and not talking to him. Even if you scold him for insisting, he will take that as an answer to his request for attention! You must therefore ignore him completely, even if it means turning your back on him, to make sure you don’t look at him and even leave the room; why not.
Let’s move on to the actual contact. You ignored your dog when he wanted to be petted, he moved on and then you called him to offer him the contract he wanted (congratulations, your attitude is the right one!)
To ensure that the contact is positive and well experienced by the dog, it is important to first reach out to the dog’s nose. If he feels it and stays close to you, you can start to pet him. If he turns his head to the side, avoid contact. We will also see later on how to spot the signals of the dog that express discomfort during the contact.
Furthermore, it is not recommended to pet a dog on the head, as the dog may see this as a too quick and direct intrusion into its “bubble”. In addition, a dog that has had bad experiences with humans may react aggressively to a hand going over its head like this. Whether it’s your dog or a dog you don’t know, it’s always better to pet it from the side or under the neck.
Then, it is very important to keep in mind that not all dogs appreciate petting. Just like us humans, there will be tactile dogs and others not. Then, as we have seen, there will be dogs with bad experiences while others would kill father and mother to get a pat on the can. The key is to never make generalizations and always assume that, perhaps, the dog in question will not appreciate the contact.
In summary, to make contact with a dog, you must :
Differentiate between petting by the master and petting by a stranger.
Don’t think that a pat will always be a positive experience for the dog.
Take the initiative.
Ask the dog for permission (hand offered to the dog).
Check that the dog is willing to be petted.
Pet the dog on the neck and/or on the side.
Recognize the dog’s communication signals
To adapt to the dog and make sure that all contacts are positive, it is important to know how to read and understand all the signals that the dog sends to communicate its contentment or its immediate discomfort.
To put it simply, if your dog adopts any of the following signals, stop contact immediately as they are warning signals that, if not read, interpreted and understood, will be followed by potentially aggressive attitudes:
Repeated nose licking.
They are turning the head to the side.
On the other hand, if your dog opens his mouth, sticks out his tongue, squints his eyes, invites you to continue, etc., it means that he accepts and appreciates the contact.
Finally, I also invite you to initiate the end of the contact to make the dog understand that it does not have to decide either the beginning of the end of the contact.
When should you not pet your dog?
If we can imagine when it will be good to pet your dog (when he has adopted a behaviour you want, basically), it is important to know when not to pet a dog:
When he’s in his basket! The basket is a refuge area for the dog, a place where he knows he can be quiet. So never disturb a dog in his basket; prefer to call him to come to you if you want to pet him. Be very careful if you have children!
When he sleeps, whether in his basket or not. A dog surprised in his sleep could have a reflex behaviour that your hand would not appreciate.
When he emits contradictory signals, as we saw earlier.
When he behaves annoyingly, like jumping on you, barking, etc., we often pet a dog that jumps on us when we come home to say “hello”. This communicates to the dog that jumping up is okay, that we are validating and reinforcing it. However, if one day your dog is wet, full of mud, etc. and jumps on you, I don’t think you will be so enthusiastic about this contact. And if you sanction your dog to jump on you at that moment, you are not coherent since sometimes you accept, sometimes you forbid.
When he is afraid! Petting a dog to reassure it is like reinforcing the behaviour adopted about fear, and therefore, indirectly, you validate the dog’s fear and make it legitimate.
You are now armed to communicate well and pet your dog and all other dogs in general.