In a moment that bordered on the surreal this morning, I heard a public service announcement on the radio at work featuring John Tesh talking about how dogs don’t like to be patted on the head.
But he’s right — most dogs aren’t fans of being patted on the top of the head. There will always be some exceptions to any rule, but there are lots of other “safe” places to pet a dog.
My dog Miko absolutely hated being patted on the top of the head. He also really didn’t like one particular friend of mine, and was always growling at her. It took me a while to put two and two together — but eventually I realized that the friend he growled at also always patted him on the head. When I suggested that she pet him elsewhere, he stopped growling at her!
Why don’t dogs like being petted on the head?
- It can block their view — they can’t see what you’re doing and it can cause anxiety.
- Some dogs see a pat on the head as threatening behavior.
- If the dog doesn’t see you coming, he may be startled or frightened by your touch on the head. Some dogs can react aggressively to being startled!
- It can be jarring if you pet too hard!
Instead of reaching out to pet a dog on the head, try these friendly gestures:
- Rub the chin, cheeks, and/or throat.
- Scratch his rear end.
- Give long strokes along the back.
Some dogs won’t mind being patted on the head — my dog Moose doesn’t mind it at all. To him, any touch is a good touch. But other dogs are fussy about how they want to be cuddled. (Some people are fussy, too! We all have our different personalities, and that’s what makes the world go around.)