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You go to pet your dog on the head, and she ducks as though she’s about to be stricken. But you’d never hurt your dog, and she doesn’t have a history of abuse. Why would she flinch at your touch?

As it turns out, dogs don’t really love being pet on the head.

Why Dogs Duck When Getting Pet On The Head

The top of your dog’s head and the front of her face has various sensitive spots.

She has those highly sensitive whiskers on her chin, cheeks, and eyebrows that pick up the slightest breeze.

Her reflexive reaction to having her whiskers touched will be to duck, just as you reflexively blink when something touches your eyelashes.

Her ears are highly sensitive, too, constantly twitching and turning to pick up sounds and tune into her surroundings.

Naturally, she’s going to duck when your hand gets in the way of all of her highly receptive parts.

Do All Dogs Hate Being Pet On The Head?

Cow has luxuriously soft fur on her noggin and on her ears. I love to pet it.

Cow loves being pet so much that she doesn’t seem to mind at all.

Matilda isn’t as blessed with such a soft head, but she loves being scratched on the side and back of her neck, or massaged all over her back.

If your dog sometimes likes to be pet on the head, but also ducks, you may just need to work on technique.

Start on your dog’s chest or neck and work your across her body, up her neck, down her spine, everywhere, and watch how she responds.

Don’t Get Into Your Dog’s Space

Another reason why your dog might flinch when you go to pet her head?

She might feel as though you’re hovering over her, getting into her space.

This may not be the worst thing you can do to a dog, but respecting your dog’s space is valuable for building a trusting relationship.

Petting Tips For A Happy Dog

Petting should be enjoyable for your dog. It does wonders for us, lowering our blood pressure, releasing endorphins, and just making those bad days melt away. It should be reciprocal for your dog.

When your dog lies next to you or in your lap, that’s a good sign that she’s ready for some petting.

Remember, a dog’s skin is more delicate than you might think. Work your way up from gentle touches to deep tissue massages.

Touch can be incredibly therapeutic for dogs with anxiety.

You may want to look into Tellington Touch, a method founded by Linda Tellington-Jones that’s based around using gentle bodywork to change your dog’s state of mind to help overcome emotional and behavioral issues.

For example, while head pats might be stressful for your dog, you can actually massage your dog’s ears in a specific way that helps her calm down.

Going Forward

Dogs are resilient.

If you’ve been going for your dog’s head, causing her to duck or flinch, you can repair your relationship by approaching her in ways that she likes.

You may notice your dog spending more time close to you. She may enjoy your company more.

Develop those massage skills, and get to know what kind of petting she enjoys. When you’ve got that golden touch, you really can use petting as a training reward, as a bonding technique, and to soothe your stressed pup.

Lindsay Pevny
Lindsay Pevny lives to help pet parents make the very best choices for their pets by providing actionable, science-based training and care tips and insightful pet product reviews.

She also uses her pet copywriting business to make sure the best pet products and services get found online through catchy copy and fun, informative blog posts. She also provides product description writing services for ecommerce companies.

As a dog mom to Matilda and Cow, she spends most of her days taking long walks and practicing new tricks, and most nights trying to make the best of a very modest portion of her bed.

You'll also find her baking bread and making homemade pizza, laughing, painting and shopping.
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