How to pet a dog

Betsy and May

Touch remains forever the most potent reward that a dog can receive.
~Bruce Fogle, The Dogs Mind

Physical touch is a powerful way to communicate with a dog.  By far the most common means is petting. While petting might seem like a no-brainer it is incredible that so many people do it incorrectly.

First of all, petting a dog is not “patting” a dog. “Patting” is a slap and similar in motion to dribbling a basketball. Dogs don’t like to be “patted” anywhere but especially on their heads. (I’ve seen dogs flinch when being “patted” on the head.) Watch while a dog is getting “patted.” It’s obvious by the expression and reaction of the dog that it’s not a pleasing or enjoyable experience.

What dogs really like is being touched with gentle, stroking motions. This petting can be applied differently to various parts of the dog’s anatomy and to convey specific messages.  Long, slow, light strokes calm and quiet a dog while harder, short, quick pets will excite. Petting a dog under its chin is similar to how a submissive dog reacts to a more dominate dog and isn’t the message to convey. When petting the side of the head or cheek area in a front-to-back motion, the dog assumes a “submissive grin” which reinforces your status as the pack leader.

All dogs have a “sweet spot” where they love being petted. This spot is the area between and slightly behind the shoulder blades. When dogs roll on their backs on grass or carpet, they are really focusing on these parts of their bodies.  It’s obvious how good it feels.

Petting your dog using the proper touch, technique and location is very important. You’ll be communicating the message you desire and the dog will be much happier, too!

Mearns and gambels hunting in the southwest

Last January, Betsy and I spent time in the country south of Tucson and I fell in love with it. The vast rolling oak savannas, beautiful desert and one million acres of public land with its three species of native quail are a bird hunter’s dream.
A friend, Rolly Reidhead, and I recently returned from a trip to the area both to hunt and to get out of the Minnesota winter. In years past, Rolly hunted there with his father and was excited to go again.


Jeff Hintz is a good friend and Minnesota neighbor and he and his wife, Carol, migrate to Tucson every year. He is a serious dog guy and avid bird hunter and works his experienced pointers on quail several days a week during, before and after the quail season. He provided invaluable help to Rolly and me.


My favorite Arizona quail is the mearns—over gambels and scaled. Compared to last year’s mearns population, the numbers are dramatically lower and we truly hunted for them more than we found them. We had better success with gambels quail when, for several days, we hunted their cover. 
Rolly and I brought seven dogs and all performed quite well, considering the conditions. Traveling 1,600 miles from their snowy kennels and freezing temperatures to sunny, warm, dry Arizona was a big change. But it was fun to see young dogs in new country and witness their first contacts with the various quail.


We didn’t find as many birds as we hoped but had a great trip nonetheless.  As Arnold Swartzenneger said in The Terminator:  “I’ll be back!”

Northwoods Birds Dogs    53370 Duxbury Road, Sandstone, Minnesota 55072
Jerry: 651-492-7312     |      Betsy: 651-769-3159     |           |      Directions
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