Why do dogs like being pet so much?
There are few things that bring more joy to your darling dog than a good round of cuddles and pets. But why do pooches like being pet so much, and what about it gives them pleasure?
Is there anything better than coming home to your overly excited dog and giving it the pets and cuddles it so rightfully deserves?
Dogs of all shapes and sizes just love a good cuddle. But what about the act of petting is so addictive to our canine companions?
We take a look at why dogs like being pet so much, why they're particularly obsessed with stomach, belly, and head pets, and whether they understand kisses.
Why do dogs like being pet?
As social pack animals, dogs see their humans as their leader, and their leader's pets as a form of affection and bonding. That's why they like being pet: you are expressing close connection and love for them, releasing oxytocin, and making them feeling happy and safe.
Every dog has different patting preferences, though, something we covered in our where to pat a dog guide, but the love of being pet is more-or-less ubiquitous. There's science behind it, too, with it all coming down to the influence and effects of oxytocin both upon the human and the doggo.
Petting supports your dog's mental health, makes it feel safe and happy, releases oxytocin that then makes you fur baby feel great, and is a bonding experience that indicates to your perfect pup that the head of its pack loves it and cares for it.
Why do dogs like to be pet on the belly and stomach?
A good belly rub will make pretty much any doggo incredibly happy, and there's an equally incredible reason for why that is. You see, dogs haven't been given the most conveniently shaped body and there are areas that they often can't reach. They don't have the flexibility of a cat, after all, so sometimes it's not so surprising that a stray belly itch can go untreated.
Dogs like to be pet on the belly for all the same reasons they like to be pet in general, plus one. The thing is, dogs can't reach every part of their body, and sometimes can really do with a good rub on the stomach to relieve them of itches and other discomforts.
Do dogs like to be pet on the head?
Dogs do not particularly like being pet on the head. They feel vulnerable well you touch their head, as it is possibly their most exposed and weakest point. As such, you shouldn't go scratching the top of its head or rubbing its chin unless you are extremely close with the dog or when the pooch is specifically making it clear that it wants to be given a head scratch.
Additionally, dogs should be given pets when they're sleeping or at any time in which they might feel vulnerable and at risk. You want your pets to be a display of affection, not power, and sudden cuddles and strokes when they're not expecting it will make them feel scared and intimidated, so steer clear!
Try not to pet your dog on its head, when it is asleep, or on the lower parts of its legs. Be respectful and you'll develop a closer and better bond with your canine companion.
Do dogs understand kisses?
While dogs don't understand the literal meaning of a kiss, over time they will come to associate them with good and friendly things. Since many humans like to dote over their pups, dishing out kisses left, right, and center while talking to them in a baby voice, this release of love, saliva, and oxytocin is never perceived as a bad thing.
It's best, though, to make sure that you're keeping yourself safe – and that means avoiding a peck on your dog's lips. No matter how clean and perfectly groomed, dogs still carry germs and stuff that really shouldn't be entering your mouth. Once in a while it fine, but don't make a habit of it!
So dogs will develop a positive understanding of kisses, despite not knowing what they literally mean. After all, everything surrounding a kiss is nice and full of affection, how could they not form a positive association?
Do dogs know we love them?
Canine cognition expert Dr. Brian Hare believes that dogs know how much you love them. The scientist told PEOPLE that dogs have "hijacked" our "oxytocin bonding pathway" making us look at them in more-or-less the same way we look at babies. It's what's behind the "cuteness" response, and something that your darling doggo can detect.
"When you stare at your dog, both your oxytocin levels go up, the same as when you pet them and play with them. It makes you both feel good and reinforces your bonding," Hare said.
"Does your dog ever stare at you for no reason? They are just "hugging you" with their eyes."
So, yeah, dogs know that you love them, and that's likely a big part of why they love being pet so much. It's an expression of that love, it feels good, and it releases oxytocin. What more could you want?
Cover photo: Unsplash/Roberto Nickson