19 Things Your Dog Actually Wants from You
Think your dog lives for nose smooches and belly rubs? Not even close. Here’s what your dogs really, really enjoy (and what they hate).
Pats, rubs, and butt scritches (and skip the hugs)
Dogs are love-sponges when it comes to physical affection, but there is one point where they draw the line: hugging. Being wrapped in a warm embrace actually makes them feel anxious, according to one (slightly controversial) study in Psychology Today. “While we may think it’s sweet and comforting, pets often feel trapped and scared during hugs, particularly when humans pull pets into their faces,” explains Erin Askeland, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, a pet behaviorist and training manager at Camp Bow Wow. That’s just one of 50 secrets pets want you to know.
Your dirtiest, stinkiest, sweatiest clothes
Your dog’s favorite smell in the whole world is… you. And the more of your body odor on something, the better—as evidenced by the number of times dogs have embarrassingly dragged out their owner’s dirty underwear. “Dogs have much stronger noses than ours, and for them, a shirt covered in your scent is one of the most comforting objects in the world,” says Meg Marrs, a dog care expert and senior editor at K9 of Mine. “Next time your dog is anxious about being left alone or is staying at a kennel, leave them with that sweaty shirt you wore to hot yoga.”
Toys of their very own
Just like you love your things, dogs really like to have things that belong exclusively to them, says April Olshavsky, AKC-accredited Canine Good Citizen Evaluator and Certified Trainer. This includes their food bowls, dog bed, and especially their toys. What about when your things suddenly become their things? “When a dog chews up your shoe, he may be trying to tell you he needs more toys or attention,” she says.
A challenging puzzle to solve
When you’re considering what toys to get your pup, include a puzzle toy that involves a challenge followed by a reward, Marrs says. “Dogs are desperate for mental stimulation, and they’ll act out if they are bored,” she says. “How would you feel if you had to sit at home all day with nothing to do? It might even drive you crazy enough to start tearing open pillows.” Try one of these six ways to keep your dog busy (and away from your shoes) while you’re at work.
No outfits, please
Doggy couture may be adorable but pups hate being dressed up, says Melissa McCue-McGrath, CPDT-KA, author of Considerations for the City Dog. “Many dogs hate the feel of wearing clothes and they really don’t need additional clothing for warmth,” she says. The one exception: Using a dog coat or special blanket when you take short-haired or small dogs for a walk outside when the temps drop below freezing. Plus, this will help you save some cash in the long run—do you know how much owning a dog really costs you?
Chest rubs, not belly rubs
The idea that dogs love a good belly rub is based on outdated dominance theories, says Sara Taylor, CPDT-KA, director of animal behavior and training at the spcaLA. “A lot of dogs roll over to be submissive, which shows insecurity and fear, and it is not a good time to rub the belly of a dog,” she explains. “As trainers, we only pet the belly when the dog is familiar to us, is initiating this contact for petting purposes, and is not scared or fearful.” Most dogs prefer a good chest rub to a belly rub any day, McCue-McGrath adds.
A nice, peaceful nap in a quiet spot
You may think your dog can sleep anywhere, anytime, but just because they can sleep through a six-year-old’s birthday party doesn’t mean they like it, Askeland says. And they definitely don’t like being awakened by a herd of said six-year-olds. In fact, startling your dog out of a deep sleep can make them grouchy or even aggressive. Move the doggie bed—one of the 15 necessities your dog needs—to a safe, quiet spot.
To check their “pee-mail”
It may not be your jam, but sniffing every dirty, smelly thing around is one of your pup’s favorite activities, McCue-McGrath says. “When you take a walk, let them check their ‘pee-mail,’ catch up on all the changes in the neighborhood, or see what wild critter skittered by,” she says. “Dogs see the world through their noses and love nothing more than when we give them time to sniff instead of rushing on walks.” Here are 30 funny dog photos you need to see.
For you to be their fearless leader
“Most dogs are not born leaders and they do not want to be in charge of anything, so they look to you to give them the structure they need,” says Andrew Horan, owner of Citizen K9. If you fail to be the leader by setting the schedule, providing consistent rules, and giving loving feedback, they’ll try and step in, which can cause serious behavioral issues, he adds.
A consistent, predictable routine
“Dogs appreciate routine, and it can be difficult for them to adjust to abrupt schedule changes, even just going from a weekday to weekend,” Askeland says, adding this can lead to behavior problems like chewing, barking, digging, or other destructive behaviors. “Try to wake up, take them out, feed them and exercise them at the same time every day,” she recommends. And make sure you’re protecting them from these 11 common household items that can harm pets.