Shared affection between humans and dogs is such a beautiful thing, don’t you agree? Petting just feels so natural for humans and dogs that have formed a bond, regardless of species. In this scenario, dog lovers know too well how openly dogs are able to express their satisfaction when they are being petted the right way and in the right spots.

Likewise, the affection brought about by petting our dogs brings us much joy. In fact, serotonin and dopamine levels have been found to increase in human-animal bonds.

Smiling, lying down for belly rubs, and looking so relaxed with their eyes closed are some of the obvious signs that our dog loves being petted. But what makes it so appealing for them? Why do dogs like to be pet? Also, where do dogs like to be petted or scratched?

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Why Do Dogs Like to be Pet?

Petting a dog is a great way to relieve stress and anxiety, whether of your own or that of your furry friend. When you pet a dog, their chemical reactions can be soothing to you and to your dog. For example, when you pet a dog, you're stimulating their parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for "rest and digest" functions like blood pressure and heart rate.

It also helps their body relax. Petting a dog can also help to relieve anxiety in dogs by reducing their cortisol levels. Cortisol is the stress hormone, and it's linked to all sorts of adverse health effects. If you're wondering how to reduce your dog's stress levels, consider petting them more often, as it's a low-cost and low-effort way to provide comfort and support.

Where Do Dogs Like To Be Scratched?

On several occasions, you might have noticed rapid leg kicking when you scratch or pet your dog and wondered: Why do dogs kick their legs when you scratch them? This kind of scratch reflex in dogs is involuntary. So you might ask: Is dog scratch reflex bad?

The answer depends on the situation. Think of it this way: in general, when we, humans, get a massage, our body doesn’t respond in rapid and involuntary movements (like when someone tickles us too much), rather, our body feels relaxed and at ease. It might be entertaining to see your dog showing the scratch reflex.

However, this may be actually triggering your dog’s nerves that lead to their spinal cord, causing them irritation. Yes, many of us might have had the notion that belly rubs that trigger the scratch reflex always mean that they’re begging for more, but this isn’t always the case and may actually indicate medical issues. Also, some dogs might prefer that you pet them on the chest rather than the belly.

On the contrary, however, many dogs like belly rubs. This becomes quite obvious when they start lying down with their bellies exposed, begging us to scratch them. It’s quite common for the scratch reflex to manifest in some way during this time.

If your dog doesn’t show signs of distress and shows that they feel good while you do it, it’s likely that it’s just part of them enjoying the way your rub their bellies. If you’re unsure, observing your dog’s body language really helps in determining how your dog likes to be scratched.

However, if your dog seems to be stressed, it’s best to consult with a veterinarian to determine what is causing their reaction.

Where To Pet A Dog To Make Them Happy?

● Chest

For dogs that have already developed trust towards their owners, the chest (particularly, the section in the middle of their front legs) is a good spot that many dogs like for a good old scratch. This is best done when you wrap your arms around your dog’s body while petting or scratching their chest area.

However, you should note that since this form of petting involves intimacy and your dog’s sensitive areas being exposed, it is only recommended if you’ve already gained their trust.

● Belly

If you’ve done belly rubs on your dog or if you’ve seen other pet owners do it on their furry friend, you have probably witnessed how happy dogs can get whenever they get their share. But what makes belly rubs so good that some dogs literally beg for it?

If your dog has formed a deep connection with you and fully trusts you, they may go towards you and lie down next to you with their bellies exposed. This is an invitation for you to pet, rub, or lightly scratch their bellies.

Read More: Dogs and Belly Rubs: A Love Story Worth Reading

● Ears

Do dogs like their ears rubbed? Of course! If you want to develop trust with a new dog, rubbing their ears is a good spot, specifically, the part with the most cartilage is located. Stroking this area gently and lovingly, including the jaw and neck, will contribute to relieving anxieties or worries your dog may have.

● Below the Chin

If trust is already built, the area under the chin is a spot that many dogs also enjoy. This is best done when your dog is relaxed. For best results, you can gently stroke their chin and then down towards their neck area.

● Around the Hips and Butt

This is another spot that many dogs love to be petted which can trigger the scratch reflex due to excitement. In particular, many dogs like the area near the base of their tail.

How To Pet A Dog

While dogs in general like to be pet, each dog is unique and so they may have individual preferences. With this, it is essential to know how to pet your dog the right way in order to establish a good foundation for showing affection towards each other. Below are some tips to strengthen your bond with your canine companion through petting:

  1. Wait for your dog to approach you
    Go slow at first. If your dog doesn’t show signs that they want to be petted, be patient with them and wait it out. When your dog starts signaling that they want to be petted, slowly motion your relaxed hand with palms facing down a couple of inches below your dog’s head. When they begin to sniff or lick your hand, gently start to pet them.

  2. Avoid heading over your dog at first
    When you’re standing up as you move your hands towards their heads, this may come off as intimidating. New to you dogs may react either in fear or aggression when they feel intimidated. So for them not to feel this way, it is best for you to kneel or sit so that your eyes are at the same level.

This act would help them feel that you’re not a threat to them. Upon signaling that they want to be petted, start slowly at the side of their face or below their chin. Once they’ve become accustomed to it, you can move towards their chest, shoulders, and sides.


A dog’s body language is a good indication of how to pet a dog. For example, if dog’s ears are up and their tail is downward and relaxed, it is likely that they can be approached. For dogs who already trust their owners, knowing the right places and spots where to pet them will help strengthen the bond and make both of you happy.

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