Petting and the Power of Choice

When it comes to petting, we’re all about asking the dog for his permission. So, how do we do that?

We like to use a handling technique called: Pat, Pet, Pause. This technique can be a great option for kids and adults with your own dog, or for dogs you meet. For those of you with kiddos, you’re going to want to teach this to the family. Let’s begin!

Pat: Pat your legs, and encourage the dog to come into your space. If the dog comes over to you, you can move to the next step, “pet”. *If the dog chooses not to come over, no biggie! The dog doesn’t want to be pet right now. Try again in a few hours.

Pet: Once your dog comes over to you, you can go ahead and pet. Dogs enjoy being pet on their chest. If you have a dog who leans into you, you could also pet around their shoulders and side. Avoid reaching over them or petting on top of their head. Gently pet the dog for 3-5 seconds, then continue to step 3, “pause”.

Pause: Hold off on any more petting and wait. Look for any stress signals like a shake off (the kind of shake your dog does when he gets out of the bathtub) and/or moving away. If the dog does move away, this means “I am done now, thank you!”. If he stays, you can go back to petting for another 3-5 seconds and a pause.

Pat, Pet, Pause allows our dog to make choices they want. When we can listen to our dogs wants and needs, we can avoid causing unnecessary stress or issues. It may seem small, but freedom of choice increases confidence and can deepen the trust our dogs have in us. Learning what our dogs enjoy and how they choose to interact in a certain situation will help us get to know our dog even more and strengthen the relationship we have with them.