How To Pet A Dog

Most dog owners want to give their darlings as much love as possible. But when it comes to stroking, there are a few things you can do wrong. However, four typical mistakes can easily be avoided.

Anyone who owns a dog often strokes the four-legged friend almost out of reflex. Regular stroking is also important and right, after all stroking is a form of communication.

It is part of tactile communication, i.e. through touch. The stroking has a rewarding effect on the dog and promotes the bond between animals and humans. It also has a relaxing effect on those stroking it.

Nevertheless, people can do some things wrong when petting.

How to properly pet a dog

Luckily, proper stroking is neither difficult nor time-consuming. If you keep the following aspects in mind, nothing stands in the way of relaxing and enjoying two- and four-legged friends together.​

Do not stroke the face

Your dog promptly rushed to your call and is now sitting in front of you. Out of sheer joy you “tumble” over his head and face.

In slow motion, you would see that the four-legged friend at least blinks his eyes or lowers his head a little or turns away.

Often just because your hand moves diagonally from above in the direction of your face. He might even take a few steps backward. This movement is uncomfortable for the animal.

In general, don’t pet your dog’s face.

Reward calm with calm

Excited that your temperamental bundle is finally sitting or lying quietly next to you, you caress or pat it exuberantly. And hey presto, he’s jumped up again and the calm is gone.

Therefore, make sure to praise him for desired, calm behavior with just as calm strokes. With very jittery dogs, even that can be too much. Then quiet, vocal praise is enough.

Don’t reward unwanted behavior

Your four-legged friend barks at a passer-by or fellow animal. You pat him reassuringly. But your dog thinks: “Aha, I did well!”

This behavior can happen quickly but does not produce the desired effect. Therefore, make sure that you only praise your dog with petting for the desired behavior and not unconsciously for something that you really don’t want at all.

Don’t hug too much

Don’t be too wasteful with the pats. Especially not if you want to use them specifically as a reward. He will not make an effort for something that your dog always has available or that is already too much for him.

If you pet your dog at every opportunity, it will eventually become too much for even a cuddly fellow.

Dog training: There is strength in stillness

Always remember: Even if you are very happy – calm stroking and scratching are best for the dog. Scratch his neck or chest. For example, when he came on call.

Or slowly stroke his back in the direction of fur growth. For example, when he is next to you in the seat. Calm stroking along the flanks, for example, when you lie with him on the carpet, is pleasant for the four-legged friend.

However, you should keep in mind that not every dog likes to be cuddled. If a dog and child meet, you should keep an eye on both. If a child pets the dog and it then walks away, the child should leave it alone.

Surely, however, you can easily find out what your dog enjoys the most.

What is the best way to pet a dog?

Even if you are very happy – calm stroking and scratching is best for the dog. Scratch his neck or chest. For example, when he came on call. Or slowly stroke his back in the direction of fur growth.

Why not pet a dog over the head?

So the flight instinct is awakened and the dog feels uncomfortable. The head is the most important part of the body and needs to be protected accordingly so that dogs can react sensitively here and stroking can represent a stress level.

What dogs don’t like at all?

There are some things that they (and actually humans) don’t like. “BUT MY DOG LIKES THIS” I often hear the owners say. I usually answer “Then he’s one of those who accept some of the things because he has learned to tolerate them”. However, some things on the list below are a no-go, at least for strangers, and can unsettle and stress dogs. Sometimes the dog’s reaction to this conflict (growling, barking, snapping, running away in panic, howling…) can also frighten or even hurt.

Stroke human-style

The classic: Man looks the dog in the eyes, bends over the dog from the front, tries to pat the head, and is horrified when the dog tries to get out of the situation. In the worst case, there is also a growl or even snapping and the dog is already labeled as aggressive. The four-legged friend can do nothing about it because in his world man has threatened him.

Stare at

What we perceive as comfortable eye contact is a threat to the dog. Dogs stare into each other’s eyes, especially when challenged. The stare is a threat, a kind of showdown before it becomes physical. If you know that as a human being, you will understand much better why dogs avoid our gaze. Turn your head to the side, soothe them and let us know: Hey, I don’t want any trouble.


If you know a little bit about the body language of dogs, you will quickly see that hugs are anything but pleasant for dogs. They usually sit very rigidly, have turned their heads away, or pant or pull up their lips. All of these are signs of stress.

Patting the head

Let’s be honest: We humans also want to be touched on the face or head by others, don’t we? We want a bit of freedom just like our dog does.

Forced contact

Please always leave the decision to the dog to whom he wants to go and to whom not. Otherwise, even the friendliest dog can eventually have too much and then no longer want contact at all, as it is associated with unpleasant situations for him.

Compulsions in general

Compulsions of all kinds, especially from strangers, are anything but helpful. And otherwise, you don’t really get any further with pressure. Most of the time, it scares the dog at most.

Uneventful walks

Exercise alone does not make a dog happy. But since only a few people know this and because people usually don’t see much point in standing around in the area, the distance is covered with brisk steps. After that, the human feels good because the dog had exercised. But dogs love to explore their surroundings with their noses, to sniff around, to look around, to hunt. TIP: In leisure mode, keep the leash long (or let the dog run loose if possible) and give him a chance to follow his nose. Incorporate search games or exercises into the walk as a shared activity.


Actually, the dog is not allowed to go to bed, but because today is Sunday and everyone sleeps in, he is exceptionally allowed to… everything will be different again from Monday. Unfortunately, you’re not doing the dog any favors. Where there are no rules, uncertainty arises.
TIP: Once set, please stick to the rules

Constant fussing

You don’t always do a dog a favor by taking it everywhere with you. A dog that is always carried around in a bag cannot develop normally. In addition, dogs have a greater need for sleep and rest than humans. You need a retreat where this peace and quiet is guaranteed. Visits to big celebrations, fairs, or maybe the Christmas market should rather be enjoyed alone.


Dogs have a very keen sense of mood. You feel the tension and hear the loud screaming. They then instinctively withdraw into a corner so as not to become a target as well.

What do dogs think when you kiss them?

They perceive tastes and grasp textures. Transferred to humans, the dog kiss represents a way of instinctively gathering information. Happy kissing: Dog kisses bring happiness. At least they make the dog happy because kissing gives him an endorphin rush.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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