Social animals, dogs touch for any number of reasons. In the litter, a mother’s touch means warmth, food, safety, life itself. Littermates snuggle, introductions start with noses to butts. Even my guys will nuzzle, spoon, or lay back to back.
It’s only natural that touch would become a form of communication between our dogs and us. As this is written, Buddy is getting a scratch at that spot on the front of his ear hole … that magic place where the right pressure will make his head will sink lower and lower until it’s on the ground. But his repertoire goes well beyond that.
Scratches, rubs, strokes, nudges are like cocaine to a dog. They will do almost anything for some finger action behind their ear, a palm rubbed on the chest, a squeeze on the sweet spot at the base of the tail. Fingers applied to flank equals leg twitch equals ahhhh.
But don’t dogs get as much from touching as being touched?
A nudge urges movement, attention, or warning. I used to think it was a German dog thing, but most bird dogs get a quiet thrill from simply leaning against a leg. It is often accompanied by a deep, satisfied sigh … from both of us. A cold nose brushed against the back of our hand reminds us that the hunting relationship involves two beings.
A paw on your arm asks forbearance, or assures that someone loves you. Chin on thigh signals admiration, or maybe tolerance.
A dog’s touch feels good, physically. It feeds the psyche, too.
I may be anthropomorphizing, possibly reading more into it than I should. Real dog experts might pooh-pooh my ideas. And that’s fine. Maybe they’ve never had a need for the tangible, tactile communication in which dogs excel. But I do. Maybe you, too.