We all know if we're ticklish or not. What about our dogs? Are dogs ticklish?
Even in humans, tickling isn’t understood. Psychologists disagree about whether it’s a reflex; if we can’t tickle ourselves because tickling requires surprise, contact with another person, or both; and even if it’s pleasurable. There's not much research on humans being ticklish. As a result, we know even less about whether or not dogs can be tickled, at least from a scientific perspective.
Talk to dog lovers, however, and you’ll hear something different. Many dogs have an intense physical reaction to certain kinds of petting. Pet a dog’s stomach in the right spot and their leg will twitch uncontrollably. Some dogs respond this way to a specific spot, while others respond to multiple spots. People have reported dogs responding as if they’re being tickled when the hairs between their paw pads are gently stroked. Some reports say dogs show signs of being ticklish in their ears because they paw at their ears when they’re scratched or blown on. If anything, that sounds like a kid hating being tickled by Aunt Virginia, whose response to a request to stop is “But you’re laughing!” Dogs pawing at their ears usually indicates discomfort, so that’s either not ticklish or not something you want to do to your dog.
I once had a dog, Lucky, who was very ticklish. Scratch her chest in the right spot and her leg went crazy. Scratch her belly in the right spot and her leg went crazy. The weird thing was it was never the same spot. While scientists may disagree about whether or not that meant Lucky was ticklish, she definitely enjoyed it. She would lay there as long as you were willing to scratch her, and she’d nose your hand and roll over again for more if you stopped.
Are dogs ticklish? It seems so. They may not be ticklish in the same ways we are, but just like humans, it varies. Some people and dogs are highly ticklish; some not at all. The spots that tickle vary too.
If you’re wondering if your dog is ticklish, here’s how to find out:
• Sit down on the floor next to your dog.
• Give him a good belly rub. Start by scratching under the chin, then work your way down his neck, across his chest, and to his belly.
• If your dog’s leg twitches, keep rubbing that spot. If not, keep going.
At the very least, you’ll get some good bonding time with your dog and your dog will enjoy a great belly rub.
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Photo credit: Eileen