Do you love dogs? Do you always feel like petting a dog whenever you see a cute dog walking in the park? Don’t you always think of spending some time with a cute dog living next to your dog?

If you are a dog lover, of course, it is really hard to resist reaching out to the dog or pup when you see one at the park or on the street. You just find it hard to hold the feeling of scratching that cute little dog.

But, when it comes to the benefits of humans and dogs, it becomes important to understand the dog’s boundaries. You must think twice before you approach any dog to pet him. Even though you have years of experience in petting dogs, you may still not be doing it in the best way.

It seems so simple when it is about petting a dog. But, do you know there are a number of ways to pet a dog? Do you know the best way to pet a dog based on the dog’s preferences?

how to pet a dog properly

It may seem a little funny to read, but it is true.

The way you pet a dog plays a great role in making you his favorite person, or you may become a person that he will always try to avoid. There are certain petting tactics that make the dog feel safe and comfortable with you, while certain red-flag actions make him run in the other direction.

Whether you are petting an unfamiliar or familiar dog, you must know the best way to pet a dog that includes certain things to avoid while certain to employ.

You must go through this guide on how to pet a dog properly.

Approaching & Petting an Unfamiliar Dog

Understanding the body language of a dog helps in keeping you and the dog safe and sound. When you meet a stray or unfamiliar dog, make sure not to reach out to pet him immediately.

If a dog is with its owner, you must ask them first with a simple question politely – May I pet your dog? It is so because not every owner likes petting their dog by a stranger and also, not every dog likes to be petted by a stranger.

Now, approach him, and if you notice that the dog is showing interest in you and displaying relaxed body language, you can then pet his shoulder or chest.

How do you pet a dog? – The answer to this question includes the wrong ways to pet a dog – most people do the same.

Also, make sure not to touch the dog’s head at first. You must read the dog’s body language as his emotional state may change within seconds. If you feel that dog is displaying fearful body language and is uninterested in engaging with you, prefer to admire him from a distance.

Some important things to keep in mind –

  • Never touch a dog when he is sleeping or eating.
  • Always stay away from barking or growling dogs.
  • You must also not approach a dog who is running loose without his owner or guardian or who is tied up.

Have a look at some of the best ways to learn how to pet a dog properly, especially when you don’t know that dog.

Gently Knock The Dog Around The Ears

If the dog shows no sign of aggression, then gently knock or scratch his ears. Make sure to approach him from the side of his head, not above the face.

Move to Other Areas

Another best way to pet a dog is to move on to other areas if the dog is feeling safe with you. Move your hand across the back or to the crown. You may scratch at these areas with your fingers.

Many dogs love being scratched at the top of the back, and both sides of the spine. Scratching or petting at the front end near the neck and shoulders is less likely to make a dog anxious. The dog may feel anxious at the back end near the tail. So, never touch the legs, tail, and private parts of the dog.

On one side, where friendly dogs may love petting under the chin or on the chest, the other dogs do not like strangers to touch or pet near their jaw.

Immediately Stop if The Dog Reacts Poorly

Some dogs do not like petting on their head, while some dogs dislike being touched in other areas. If you notice any signal like growling, tail down, or sudden move, you should stop immediately and stand still. If the dog moves towards you after calming down, you can pet him in a different spot.

Not Liking

Don’t Scratch or Pet Suddenly

Never scratch or pet suddenly or forcefully. Also, don’t pet its sides or move quickly to a different area. If you feel that a dog is enjoying an area being pet, you may move gently from petting from light scratching or from one hand to two hands. Make sure whatever you are doing keeps it gentle as you don’t know when the dog may react.

Petting & Scratching A Familiar Dog

A familiar dog will be happy to see you and will feel safe and comfortable when you pet or scratch him. Still, there are some rules that you need to keep in mind.

Know The Dog’s Sweet Spots

The best way to pet a dog you know is to find the areas he loves to be petted or what type of petting he enjoys the most. Some dogs like to rub on the belly, while some like legs massage. Some dogs start growling if you try to touch these areas.

So, you must pay attention to the body language of the dog as well as focus on areas he likes to pet. A wagging tail and whining are the signs that a dog is enjoying a pet.

Sweet spots how to pet a dog properly

Be Careful About Belly Rubbing

When a dog is lying on his back, it does not always mean that he is asking for petting. Sometimes, even a familiar dog who likes belly rubbing may perform this action for some other reason. If you want to learn how to pet a dog properly you know, you must not rub his belly if he looks nervous, tense, or unhappy.

Belly Rub how to pet a dog properly

Teach Kids How to Handle Dogs

Most dogs often feel nervous around kids. Even though they have grown up with kids, they do not like petting because kids can be clumsy during petting.

If you have kids in your home, make them learn not to hug, grab, or kiss the dog. Because these actions can make your dog stressed, or he can even bite the kid. Also, teach your kids not to pull the dog’s tail or never throw objects at him.

Give a Thorough Massage

It takes around 10-15 minutes to rub a dog you know, from head to tail. How do you pet a dog? Are you doing it the right way? When it comes to dog massage, start with the face, under the chin, and chest in a circular motion.

Gently and slowly move to the neck, shoulders, and back to the tail. Some dogs also allow you to massage their legs.

Massage on Paws

Some dogs do not like touching their paws. But, if your dog lets you touch his paws, pick them up safely and gently rub them. It can also help in locating grip or sharp objects that cause pain. If you feel the paws are cracked and dry, you can consult a vet for a suitable moisturizer for dogs.

Paw Massage how to pet a dog properly

Massaging puppies on paws without any trouble can also help in making the nail trimming process easier, as it makes them used to having their feet touched.

Massage Puppies in The Mouth Area

If the puppy is very familiar with you, he may let you message his mouth and feet. Massage in the mouth also gives comfort and feels great for a teething puppy. It also helps in making the puppy get used to touching the mouth area. Thus, make later dental work easier and smoother.

For a puppy’s mouth massage, start with gently rubbing the cheeks and jaws in a circular motion. To massage his gums, you can use a finger toothbrush that is available in the pet store.

Read More: Dog Training Tips 

When Not To Pet A Dog?

When we talk about how to pet a dog properly, the very first thing is the safety concern of you and the dog. It means you must know when to avoid petting a dog as it will keep you and him happier.

Signs of Aggression

You must know that even a familiar dog can have moments of aggression. When a dog feels unsafe or threatened, he shows aggression as a means of protection. So, it is very important to make a dog feel relaxed.

If you notice that a dog has a stiff posture and is straight-legged, the dog in this style usually looks straight at the target. Some dogs move towards the target with the thought of approaching the threat. Some dogs growl, lunge or bark.

When a dog you are going to approach exhibits any of these behaviors, you must avoid approaching him as this could result in a bite.

Signs of Anxiety

An anxious or scared dog usually tries to make himself look smaller. The experts say that some of these dogs may shrink to the ground and lower their head. Some of the dogs put their tail between the legs and start flattening their ears back and yawning.

Another sign of anxiety is to hide behind something to be safe from the approaching threat. If a dog finds no place to hide, he may snarl or bite. When the dogs are scared, they may avoid eye contact or lie very still.


If you approach a dog with any of these signs of fear or anxiety, the best idea is to give him some space and make him understand that you are not a threat.

Avoid Eye Contact

Maybe a dog looks lovingly into your eyes, but it does not mean that he will love petting or scratching. Sometimes, direct eye contact can make a dog feel unsafe and uncomfortable, while some can become aggressive and domineering. This is what dogs hate about humans.

Instead of this, approach a dog without direct eye contact and try to speak gently, and walk slowly towards him.

Invite Him to Meet You

Another best way to pet a dog properly without troubling him is to bend down to the dog’s level and determine if he is interested in meeting and greeting you.

Hug how to pet a dog properly

Simply put your hand towards him, and if the dog walks away, it clearly indicates that he is not interested in any kind of interaction with you. If a dog stays and nudges you, it means he is allowing you to pet him.

Best Petting Spots

As per the studies, it is found that dogs do not like touching or petting their head and face. You might have noticed this with your familiar dog as he never enjoys being touched or patted on the head or face. It is a sign of giving him personal space.

Instead, pet or scratch him on the chest, shoulders, and base of the neck. Also, make sure to avoid touching the belly of a strange dog. A dog may lie on the back to show that he is fearful, not because he wants you to scratch his belly.

Pet Gently

If you don’t know how to pet a dog properly, the best way is to start with slow and calm petting. It is good to rub in the direction where the fur grows. Never be rough and tumble if you don’t know the dog. It will give you the signs that the dog likes petting and wants to play.

When you pet a dog in a slow, calm, and gentle manner, he may lean in tight for more.

Don’t Hug

A hug is the most common way to show our love and affection. But, it does not work for dogs. Toddlers and kids love to hug their dogs, but it makes them uncomfortable.

You possibly know how your own dog reacts and feels about hugs. But, it is not a good idea at all to hug a strange dog as he may not tolerate it in any way and can be a threatening situation. You must find the spots where a dog loves to pet.

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Final Words

It is also true that without social interaction, the dogs get bored and seem bothered. So, a sensation of being touched by a human can help in boosting the level of good feeling in the dog.

If you know how to pet a dog properly, it will be easier for you to know the sweet spot of the dog that makes him love spending time with you. Simply make petting a dog a stress-free and comfortable situation for both of you.

Just learn the tactics to know the dog’s body language and indulge in plenty of petting.