Petting a Dog: How Affection Can Change Your Dog’s Behavior
Petting a dog at the wrong time can accidentally encourage unwanted behaviors and mental states. Alternatively, petting a dog when they are in a relaxed state of mind, will teach your dog that touch has a calming influence.
Inviting Not Invading
Unwanted jumping on guests is a common problem for many dog owners. ‘Nose Nudging’ is another frequent behavior that not everyone will appreciate.
So how do you keep your dog from invading you and your guest’s personal space? It starts at home. Petting a dog or verbally praising them when they are pushy or over excited for affection, only encourages them to continue. Make sure everyone in the household is helping to teach your dog the manners you want. Affection and play should always be on your terms and ignore or disagree with them when invading personal space.
When a dog is accustom to getting their way, invading behavior can turn to frustration when they do not get the outcome they are use to. This can lead to whining, barking and even nipping or biting.
State of Mind
When exhibiting a nervous, fearful, over-excited or a hostile demeanor, you should never be petting a dog. Many owners accidentally enable their dogs to be fearful or aggressive because they try to comfort their dog when they are in an unhealthy state of mind. If your dog is growling at someone or shaking with fear, you should not pet or tell them ‘It’s ok’ (see our ‘Puppy Fear Stages’ post). Instead of soothing, you are teaching your dog that they are giving the correct response to the current situation. Whenever petting a dog, remember the information you are giving them is ‘yes, I agree with this state of mind/behavior.’
When a Dog Tells You No
Dogs give many warning signals before biting. Some of them are very subtle, and sometimes they happen quickly, but they are there. Always ask an owner before petting a dog you do not know. Never reach out to a dog showing signs of stress.
Stress signs include:
- Tense muscles and holding very still
- Clenched jaw
- Looking away or turning head when you reach for them
- Licking lips or yawning
- Dilated or red eyes
- Drooling or Panting when not hot
- Tucked tail
- Low growling
The Right Time for Affection
A dog that is in a good state of mind is not showing signs of stress and is not being over-excited or pushy, you’ve got the green light to snuggle up as much as you want. Sound simple? It is. Petting a dog on your terms and not giving them attention when they demand it or trying to comfort them when distressed will make a better relationship and a happier, more enjoyable dog to be around.
Updated on Jan 15, 2018