Consent…not just for humans

The issue of consent has been a hot topic in the media lately and most people would agree that unwanted physical contact is intrusive and unpleasant. But do we apply the same standards to our interactions with our dogs? Stroking your dog feels good – it lowers blood pressure, releases oxytocin, fights off depression – so it’s no wonder we love to pet our dogs. But do we ever ask our dogs if they feel the same? Do we ask whether they are happy to be touched & stroked in that moment? And how can we tell? One way is to watch their body language – Does he move away when you reach out to him? Does he yawn or lick his lips when being touched? Does he turn his ahead away when being touched? Does he lower his head as you reach out to him? A dog that reacts in these ways is trying to tell you that he’s uncomfortable and would rather not be touched. Respecting that choice will not only strengthen his trust in us but also mean that he doesn’t have to resort to more explicit communication like growling, snapping or even biting. If your dog… Moves towards you when you reach out to him Has a relaxed, open mouth Leans in towards you Looks towards you …then it’s likely that he’s happy to be petted. Watch his body language….are there areas he is less comfortable being touched? Does he position himself in a certain way to solicit touch in a particular area? We can learn so much about how our dogs feel about things by listening to them. If you’re not sure whether your dog is enjoying being stroked then simply stopping will tell you. If your dog asks for more he’s enjoying it. If he moves away or makes no move to get you to start again he’s probably had enough. Charlie is really clear in this video that he wants the petting to continue. And then his shake off at 42 secs tells me that he’s done. So when it comes to petting don’t assume…ask. Cheers x