Petting Dogs the Right Way

No Granny Hair Ruffle!

Believe it or not, there IS a wrong way to pet dogs – especially during training sessions. As dog lovers, we are known for exuding enthusiasm when we interact with our four-legged friends. But, often in our excitement we end up petting the dog on their face and we miss the signals they give that show they actually don’t like it. If you watch a dog’s response, when you pet them in a way that they don’t like they will often duck their head away, or even walk away completely. And this is more common than you may be realizing.

Have you ever had an affectionate grandparent ruffle your hair or grab your cheek? In their mind they were showing how much they loved you – but did you like it? Most people would say no. And most dogs will say the same thing about you touching or grabbing their face! This is particularly true if you are working a dog in a training session. Imagine a dog does a great recall and comes running to you from across a field, or picture a dog who has just completed an obedience routine, responding to your every cue. They are in a focused mode, excited about following your direction and then getting a reward. Do you think they want you to pet them all over the face for all that work? Probably not! When dogs are working they are typically looking to earn a high-value food reward or a rousing game of tug. Petting can definitely be an effective part of your overall rewards package. BUT, if you’re going to make petting part of the reward – make sure it’s the kind that the dog likes!
Petting and scratches on the chest or the belly are tried and true proven winners. Watch for the dog’s response. When they move in closer you know you’re doing something right. Don’t do the granny hair ruffle! That can actually be an unintended punishment and ruin the work you and the dog are putting in.

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Are you a fanatic for learning more about behavior and training?  CATCH courses and workshops go beyond basic obedience to help students work with dogs that have behavioral issues. We find the problem-solving process to be fascinating: from basic issues like jumping, pulling, barking, and house training to learning about the more advanced challenges like fear and aggression cases. Many of our students turn their passion for dogs into newfound skills and use them to work with dogs that otherwise would not have the easiest time finding a forever home. Get in touch with us to learn more!

One Response to Petting Dogs the Right Way

  1. Gustavo Parra says:

    Really good rewarding tips, thanks i love to do that in any dog.

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