Training Tuesday: Petting or Praise – What Do Dogs Prefer?

By Claudia Bensimoun


What’s the best way to reward your dog – petting or praising?




Image Credit: Pixaby

Agility requires plenty of teamwork between dog and handler, and we all understand the importance of effective communication with our furry best friends. If you’re wondering how best to connect with your dog, consider this research by two canine cognition behaviorists and experts who examined what dogs preferred most – petting or verbal praise.

Dr. Erica N. Feuerbacher from the University of Florida and Dr. Clive Wynne from Arizona State University worked at ASUs Canine Science Collaboratory with 42 dogs of different breeds and mixes – including rescue and pet dogs – to compare their reactions to petting versus praise. They also examined whether dogs had a preference for being petted by their owner over being petted by strangers.

In the first part of the testing, researchers studied how individual dogs got along with two people in a room. The dog was petted by one person, while another person praised the dog verbally. Both researchers then compared the amount of time the dog spent with each person.

In the other half of the study, 72 rescue and pet dogs were used to examine petting and verbal praise response. In this case, one dog was walked into a room with one person inside. The rescue dogs had a stranger with them, while pet dogs were with their owners. Interactions between the dog and person were studied and recorded. This took place during three-minute increments, over eight times.



Image Credit: Pixaby


The study demonstrated that dogs clearly enjoy being petted far more than being showered with verbal praise. Furthermore, they enjoy being petted regardless of who is doing the petting their owner or a stranger.

Dr. Wynne, well known for his work on canine cognition, added that the dogs seem to show more interest in the person who was touching them than whoever was doing the verbal praising or talking, even if it was their owner.

Dr. Feuerbacher also mentioned that dogs have a lower heart rate and lower blood pressure when petted, similar to humans.

Nonetheless, research from a previous study does show that there is one thing that dogs do prefer above all else – eating.

So next time you’re thinking of rewarding your dog, try petting and treat instead of just a “good dog.”

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Woofs & Wags!


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