3 Things Dogs DON'T Actually Enjoy


An Auckland Dog Training Workshop

A couple of weeks ago I ran a corporate dog training workshop for a group of door-to-door salesmen. One of they key learnings I had the opportunity of teaching this crowd, were a few certain things dogs don't actually enjoy having done to them. 

These are classic actions we all do, and the reason we do them is simple: social conditioning. We've been brought up our whole lives seeing and doing these things, so we've treated them as the norm. 

And here's the problem with the norm: we stick to it, and generally avoid opportunities at change. So when I explain these 3 topics, understand it's coming firstly from a place of compassion (to prevent further discomfort to our furry friends, and to ensure the safety of friends and family) and secondly from a place of learned understanding. 

I first heard of these from Fern Camacho from Fern Dog Training. I'm a huge fan, and absolutely love all the work he's done for dogs in the world. Some of the images I'm using in this blog are actually taken from one of his videos from his new subscription-based website - Fern Dog World. It's still being worked on, but so far it's been amazing. Fern's given me permission to use a little of this content - so I'm stoked to share and explain. 

Without further ado, here we go:


3 Things Dogs DON'T Actually Enjoy Having Done To Them


1. Hugging

Dogs aren't hot on hugs most of the time, and certainly not headlocks from kids.

Dogs aren't hot on hugs most of the time, and certainly not headlocks from kids.

Shock horror and mad denial, I know! 

This one all depends on context, but generally speaking, dogs don't enjoy being manhandled. This involves being picked up, wrap around cuddles, headlocks, etc. 

I personally have a dog who loves cuddles, but here's the catch: it needs to be on their terms. 

You know those lazy Saturday afternoons on the couch with your dog sprawled over you, limbs and tongue all in different directions? Or maybe sporting the dead-bug position? Those cuddles are on their terms. They've made the decision to hop up and chill, and more often than not, they are the ones who have put themselves there. 

How about those times you've picked them up off the ground, tried to assemble them into a cushion, and proceed with a cuddle-fest? They usually squirm and run away. Serves you right! Those are cuddles on your terms, and unless the circumstances are just right, that cuddle isn't going to happen. 

Think about it like you're with another human being. How about a stranger. You wouldn't force a random person on the street into a hug right?? How would they feel about that!

A family member on the other hand, even if not so keen, would probably tolerate one. 

It's all about context. Everyone has their own sense of personal space, even dogs. Some are going to be okay with it, others not so much. 

Respect your little friends and ensure they're comfortable. 


2. Being Pet On The Head

"I'm really not happy about this...!"

"I'm really not happy about this...!"

Again, surprising and debatable. 

But do you want to know the real reason you pet your dog on the top of the head?

2 reasons: 

  1. Social Conditioning.
  2. Physics. 

We pet dogs on the head because we always have. You do it, I do it, we all do it!


It may be the norm, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's the best method. The reason for this norm is due to point number 2, physics. It's literally a shorter distance from our hand to their top of their head. 

Give it a go. Stand next to your dog and feel that inherent natural feeling as your hand drifts to the top of their head. It's the easiest option and the one we're most used to.

But think of it this way. When you're congratulating a friend on a job well done, and you're after a physical expression, do you put a hand on their shoulder in acknowledgment, or do you put your hand over their head? 

If you're a taller than average person - do you put your hands on peoples heads because you can, or do you make the effort to go for something less intrusive?

It's the same deal here. A dog is going to appreciate much more a gentle hand coming under the chin, as opposed to a hand on top. Coming over the top can stem a number of uncomfortable feelings: anxiety, fear of dominance/aggression (you never know what's happened to that dog in the past), and a number of other hidden contextual experiences this particular dog has picked up in his or her past. 

Again, it comes down to context. Archer, my introverted boy, loves digging his head into me for rubs and scratches and a bit of general snuggle action. However, if I'm walking around and reach down for his head, he'll duck and move away.

To be respectful and kind in the first instance, always go for a gentle underhand approach.


3. Getting Up Close And Personal

"I'm really uncomfortable with how you're approaching me..."

"I'm really uncomfortable with how you're approaching me..."

While pretty obvious to most readers, children are going to vehemently deny this.

They'll say:

"You're such a fruit loop Mum, he loves it when I trap him in a corner and shove my face into his!"

You'll become confused and attempt to correct this obviously malicious and untrue statement, but before you can...

"He loves it even more when I sit on him, wrestle him when he tries to run, and generally pull on him and push him around!"

While I may be exaggerating, the point is this: dogs need to have their personal space respected, just as with people.

If a human isn't so hot with you up in their grill, they'll verbally let you know. Unfortunately for dogs, they can't speak English.

Their communication primarily comes from body language: they'll turn their head or body away to indicate they're not so cool with this invasion, or they may even try to move away. I won't go into stress signals in this post, but their eyes may widen with the whites showing, they make flick their tongue, or they may yawn to express unease.

Most of us don't understand these body and stress signals as clear warnings they're not happy with our behaviour. Our shortfall is that most humans don't speak dog. 

Here's a general rule of thumb to be respectful: let the dog initiate contact. 

An awesome example of great interaction. Notice the boys position and hands, and the body language of the dog. All happy & relaxed.

An awesome example of great interaction. Notice the boys position and hands, and the body language of the dog. All happy & relaxed.

This young boy above shows the perfect example of all 3 points listed above. 

His hands are below, he's not hugging or forcing the dog anywhere, and he's provided her with plenty of personal space and the opportunity to leave if she so feels inclined. 

While dogs are incredibly different from us humans physically and psychologically, they're very similar to us socially. 

The overall message is this: be respectful of your canine companions, and afford them as much respect and deliberation as you would a person.

Let me know what you thought of this piece with a like below, and if you know a friend who needs to know this, share away!

And as always, any questions, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

Merry Christmas!