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5 Best Places to Pet a Dog (With Pictures)

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

hand petting an old dog outdoor

Did you know that, in some instances, you can pet a dog in areas that may make them feel threatened, fearful, or uncomfortable? There are also certain areas or sweet spots that will have any dog melting in your hands. Some dogs prefer to be scratched, and some like gentle strokes. It will depend on the dog’s personality, comfort zone, and its history.

Whether you are petting your own dog or one you meet at the park, here are five ideal ways to pet a dog so you are the person they seek out, not the one they avoid.

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The 5 Best Places to Pet a Dog

1.  Underside of the Chest

woman petting her dog's chest
Image Credit: Natasa Ivancev, Shutterstock

Petting the underside of a dog’s chest is a safe position for a strange or nervous dog. This area puts you in full view of the dog so it can be relaxed and not feel threatened. If you do not know the dog, introduce yourself, and if the dog initiates contact, place your hand between the dog’s front legs and gently scratch or stroke its chest.

Be sure to check with the owner before you initiate any type of contact with their pet.

2. Under the Chin

petting a husky dog under its chin
Image Credit: Tanya50, Pixabay

The underside of the chin is not only pleasurable for your dog but also another excellent spot to pet pups you barely know or ones you may be meeting for the first time. It is a better option than reaching for the head since the pup may feel threatened by this approach, especially if it does not know you well.

As always, be sure to get the owner’s permission and allow the dog time to get comfortable with you before you begin any form of physical contact.

3. Base of the Tail or Lower Back

girl owner petting her dog's back
Image Credit: TaniaKitura, Shutterstock

If you have ever had an itch you can’t scratch, you will understand why dogs love to get scratched at the base of their tail. This is an area that is difficult for a dog to reach, so they love it when a human does it for them. In most cases, the dog will wiggle and shake while lifting its legs and wagging its tail. More than likely, it will move into you if you stop, in hopes that you will continue to do it some more.

4. Under and Around the Collar

saint bernard dog hugged by the female owner
Image Credit: Fotokostic, Shutterstock

Can you imagine what it is like to have a collar around your neck all the time? Getting a great scratch under and around the collar is a welcoming gesture for a dog. Not only do they have a collar to irritate the area, but it is also another spot that is harder for the dog to reach and get a good scratch in.

If possible, remove the collar and give the neck a nice long scratch. Your pooch is sure to appreciate it.

5. The Shoulders and Neck

Dog getting a massage from owners
Image Credit: Ekaterina Bolovtsova, Pexels

Dogs use their shoulders all day long. It is the area that gets a lot of workouts. So, if you want to treat your pup to a wonderful massage (we all love neck and shoulder massages), the neck and shoulders are the way to go. As you are gently rubbing in a circular motion with your fingertips, you may notice your pooch’s eyes getting heavy, and he is starting to get very relaxed. He may zone out and even take a little snooze.


Things to Avoid When Petting

Did you know that some types of petting may be uncomfortable for many dogs? They do not like it when children lightly pat them. Some may become agitated or fearful if you excitedly slap the sides of their body. Many times, a dog will become overstimulated by hard or vigorous petting.

A common misconception is that a dog is inviting you to rub its belly when it lays on its back. In fact, this may be a sign of fear or submission and you should avoid petting a dog if it greets you in this fashion.

Hugs and kisses can also be an uncertain interaction when it comes to a dog, especially with children. Some dogs may not be comfortable with hugs since it makes them feel trapped and unable to move away. Kisses can also make a dog feel threatened, trapped, and anxious, so it should be avoided.

To prevent injuries, children should be taught to never put their faces close to a dog’s mouth and always be gentle with their pets.

And lastly, adults and children should never approach a dog confined within a fence or inside a car or if it is chained to a specific area. If a dog feels trapped, it may bite to protect itself.

When It’s Okay to Pet a Dog

If a dog is friendly and wants to interact, it will approach you with the tail at medium height, ears slightly held back, and its tail wagging back and forth in a wide sweeping motion. The dog will sniff you so it can get to know you. That does not mean it wants you to pet it. To determine if a dog is relaxed and initiating interaction, its body will be wiggly and loose. He may make eye contact for a moment and his eyes and mouth will appear relaxed and at ease.

As you begin to pet the dog, slowly and gently scratch or massage the dog in the same direction as the fur. This type of contact will keep the dog calm and relaxed. If he enjoys the contact, he will beg for more.

man hugging dog while shopping in pet store
Image Credit: BearFotos, Shutterstock

How to Pet a Dog

The most important thing to know about petting a dog is to never reach out to a pup that is strange. You should avoid contact with any dog that is confined or cornered in a certain area, one that does not appear receptive, or one that is trying to get away. Children should also be taught to be cautious and never approach or touch an unfamiliar dog.

If you want to engage with a dog that appears fearful or unsure, turn your body to the side and squat down. This position invites the dog to come closer without feeling threatened.

A dog that is not fearful and appears to want to engage can be greeted with a slight bend of your body as you are backing up and patting your legs. This invites the dog to come to you on his terms.

When attempting to pet a strange dog, do not bend over the dog. Canines find this position to be threatening. It is best to avoid eye contact, turn your body sideways, and allow the dog to come to you first. If the dog is a shy one, look away and ignore him. When he realizes you are not a threat, he can approach you first.

It is also suggested that you instruct your children not to kiss a dog and to keep their faces at a distance from the dog’s mouth. Hugs and kisses can make a dog feel threatened, trapped, and anxious, which can lead to serious injuries.

As always, children should be taught to be gentle with their pets. It is also suggested that children and pets always have adult supervision.

Lastly, never approach a dog confined with a fence, inside a car, or chained to a specific area. If a dog feels trapped, it may bite to protect itself.

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Petting is a simple and enjoyable way to bond and interact with any dog. There are certain areas and ways to do it, however. Your relationship with the dog, the dog’s personality, and its history can determine how and where to pet a specific dog. Always remember to be polite and ask for permission to pet a strange dog and pay attention to its cues and body language. Most importantly, be sure to always supervise children and pets.

Featured Image Credit: Ksenia Raykova, Shutterstock

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