Most dogs enjoy petting, but even the cuddliest dog has times when simply not in the mood! Prolonged touching can be overstimulating to some dogs, and can make others uncomfortable or stressed. When dogs don’t feel able to move away – which they may not when in physical contact with us – they may resort to telling us to back off in less desirable ways.
Give dogs a way of “opting in” to social contact by using the “3-second rule” of petting. Pet for no more than three seconds, then stop. Does the dog nudge you or move into you to say keep going? Then go ahead and resume. Do they shake off or move away? Then stop.
Encourage new people to use the 3-second rule when getting to know a dog, too. Dogs who know they have a choice are much more likely to choose interaction, and everyone can stay happy and safe.