Hands down! What is Consent Petting a Dog?

It is amazing the wide range of personalities that all of our Habibi Bear puppies have, everything from the most rambunctious to the most calm and docile of babies. While I was watching our passel of original Teddy Bear puppies play the other day at the Habibi Enrichment Center, I began to think about body language in dogs at play and how dogs use their bodies to invite or discourage their participation in activities. This led me to think about how often we wait to see if a puppy or dog invites us to touch them, what we like to call consent petting.

Consent petting is just as it sounds, watching your Habibi Bear puppy for signs and signals that they want to make physical contact with you. Are they approaching you? Are they leaning into you? Are they following you as you move, in an effort to engage? If you are sitting, are they moving under your hand? These are very strong indications of a dog wanting or seeking physical contact and affection, giving you the green light to go ahead and snuggle away. 

There remains one caveat for petting a dog, and it’s a big one…

 Number One Rule: Please Do Not Hold Your Hand Out or OVER Puppy’s Head
Many dogs, especially smaller dog breeds, are extremely sensitive to objects, especially hands, hovering over their heads, which they interpret as threatening or menacing. If you have ever had a puppy or dog wince slightly as your hand passes over the top of their head, you may have a dog with overhead awareness. Overhead awareness isn’t necessarily debilitating, just an acute awareness in certain dogs of things being above their heads. Think of it as how some people prefer to sit facing the door in a restaurant. If your little Habibi Bear puppy has shown this characteristic, it pays to be vigilant and mindful not to loom or hover over them with hands or bodies. Having this awareness will ultimately increase your bond with your Habibi Bear puppy, and you will be the safest person around and the provider of All the Good Things because you can read their preferences and respect their boundaries. 

Now that we have covered the caveat, we can get to the good stuff: approach from under the chin, scratching the chest, moving around to the back of the head and slowly making your way to the backs of the ears. See what elicits the most positive reaction from your pup. Take your time, make long, smooth strokes and some gentle scratches, and remember to breathe! This should be a mutually relaxing experience for you both. 

If you have had the chance to catch our video on the same subject (Consent Petting on You Tube)
You can see that little Amil is eating up all the love he is getting! He is leaning into it, when we take a break, which is always recommended, he is coming in and asking for more by moving his head back under our hand and following our movement to maintain contact. That is exactly the kind of consent and hearty “YES” you are looking for. Just like people, there will be times when our pups might not be in the mood for various reasons, such as being overwhelmed, having physical contact with too many distractions, or just not having the right time. It is important, in this case, to follow the lead set by your pup and seek their consent before handling them. If they want to stop the session, allow them the choice of whether to continue or not. Their trust in you will increase because you honor and respect their decision. Honestly, it's a win-win situation; you will get a more confident puppy, and confident puppies offer fewer behavioral challenges overall. 

Is your Habibi Bear puppy a snuggler or cuddler? Where do they like to be scratched? We always love hearing from our Habibi Bear Tribe members! Send us an email about what is special about your little Habibi Bear Puppy, and maybe they will be a feature of the week. We’d love to hear from you, and as always, we are always here for you, cheering you on!