Why Some Dogs Don’t Want to be Petted: And why it’s okay

I have known several people who are afraid there is something wrong with their dog because the dog doesn’t want to be petted.  I need everyone to hear this:  it’s okay if your dog doesn’t want to be petted!

Just like humans who don’t want others in their personal space, some dogs prefer to not be petted, or prefer to be petted for short periods of time.  Some dogs may have a confidence issue while others may just not find petting rewarding.  It is important to respect this trait in your dog regardless of the reason she doesn’t want to be petted.

It is especially important to teach children when to recognize a dog has had enough petting or playing.  If your dog is attempting to walk away, is turning his head and/or body, averting eyes or giving quick licks with yawns, he is trying to communicate he is not comfortable with the interaction.  Dogs displaying these signals should be left alone at this point, so the dog doesn’t feel she needs to escalate to a snarl or bite.  Show your dog you respect her need for space by walking away or by directing children to another activity.

Many times we use petting as a reward.  This is a great way to reward a dog only if he finds petting enjoyable.  If not, use treats, toys or “good boy/girl” to communicate to your dog his behavior is acceptable.

For dogs who do enjoy being petted, always start by petting from the side.  Going over top the head to pet a dog can be confrontational.  Always ask other owners if it is okay to pet their dog if it is a dog you have never encounter.