A simple “good boy” and a pat on the head aren’t going to cut it, dog owners.
A new study indicates that your dog loves being petted more than scientists previously thought.
Researchers placed 72 shelter and pet dogs in rooms one-on-one with volunteers. Three eight-minute sessions of interaction took place in which participants petted, spoke to or ignored the dog.
The study found that all the dogs showed a huge preference for petting, while their interest in being ignored and praised was about the same. What’s more, none of the canines showed any signs of being satiated by the petting session. You can pet your dog all day, and he doesn’t seem to get sick of it.
Previous studies have shown that petting lowers a dog’s blood pressure and heart rate, notes researcher Dr. Erica Feuerbacher.
Dr. Clive Wynne, the study’s co-author, says that it may not be that dogs feel ambivalent about vocalizations, but that they’re only attuned to their owners’ voices. On the other hand, petting feels just as good from anyone.
This study doesn’t say that you can’t train your dog to recognize vocal praise. If vocal praise is paired with rewards that dogs do care about (petting, food, etc), then they can learn to value it.
So give your dog a treat and a big hug. He needs it more than you knew.