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My Dog Won’t Let Me Pet Him: 8 Reasons Why & What To Do

Petting our dogs is just one of the many ways we can show them how much we love them. While most canine friends love nothing more than a good belly rub, there are some pups that struggle with the concept of being pet. 

These struggles can be tied to everything from hyperactivity to anxiety, so it’s important to be aware of all the possibilities if you have a dog that shies away from your hand.

Okay, let’s run through the main reasons why your dog won’t let you pet them below!


Do All Dogs Naturally Enjoy Being Pet?

Most dogs do enjoy being pet, but there are some furry friends that have to get used to the idea.

If a dog is not raised with any affection in the form of petting, they may not be comfortable with the idea of our hands touching their body. 

This can be even scarier when they see our hands moving toward their face, as some dogs simply do not understand that we just want to pet them.

Though most dogs will eventually enjoy being pet by someone they trust, it is not something that all dogs will naturally be open to. 

Some dogs will simply need to gain trust in their owner and environment before they allow anyone to pet them, and there is nothing wrong with this. 

8 Common Reasons Why Dogs Won’t Let You Pet Them

If you have a dog in your home that does not let you pet them, you may be wondering what could cause them to shy away from your daily cuddles. To help you better understand your dog’s behavior, let’s discuss some of the potential causes below. 

1. They Are Not Used To It

If a dog was not raised in a setting that offered plenty of love and attention, they may not be used to the idea of being touched by humans. They may still be uneasy with the idea of letting their guard down, causing them to shy away from daily pets. This is most common in dogs that have been rescued from a shelter or rescue setting, as well as dogs with an unknown past. 

2. They Are Too Hyper

Does it seem like your dog can’t sit still long enough to enjoy some pets? If this is the case, your pup may just be too hyper to relax and allow their head to be pat. This is especially common in puppies, as these canine friends are known to be wiggle worms. Many hyper pups will even chew at their owners hands as they attempt to pet them, as they just want to engage in play time. 

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3. They Are Shy

If your canine friend backs away each time you lean in to pet them, they may be trying to work through their shyness. Some dogs need to warm up to the idea of being loved by a human, whether they come from a traumatizing past or not. If it seems like your dog is a bit uncomfortable in their own skin, they may simply be shy. 

4. They Don’t Trust You Yet

In order to effectively bond with our pups, it’s important for your canine friend to trust you. It can be scary to allow someone they do not yet trust to touch them, causing them to shy away from your attempted petting. As long as you are patient and gentle with your furry friend, they should grow to trust you in no time. 

5. They Are Anxious

Just like you and I, many of our pups can struggle with anxiety and stress. Any form of anxiety can cause them to be on high alert, whether it is due to scary noises outside or the addition of a new pet in your home. When a dog is anxious for any reason, they may be unwilling to relax and enjoy our petting. 

6. They Are In Pain

Have you ever been in so much pain that you just want to be left alone? Our dogs can experience this feeling as well, causing them to pull away from their owner’s touch and hide. This is especially true if the area you are petting is painful, and they may even cry out when these regions are touched. 

7. They Are Feeling Sick

Just as a dog that is in pain may not want to be pet, a dog that is feeling sick may shy away from being touched as well. Any type of illness can cause anxiety for dogs, especially because they cannot make sense of the way they are feeling. You may notice your dog actively isolating themselves, as well as an array of behavioral changes that could point to underlying illness. 

8. They Don’t Like To Be Touched

At the end of the day, some dogs just do not like to be touched. This can be a result of not being used to affection, a traumatizing event in their past, or simply being an independent pup. These dogs can still find a way to bond with those in their homes, but it just may take some time to learn what they are comfortable with. 

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My Dog Suddenly Does Not Want To Be Pet, Why?

Any veterinary professional will agree that any abrupt change in behavior should always warrant concern.

If your dog that typically loves to be pet is suddenly shying away from your touch, this should always be taken seriously.

We get to know our pups and their standard behaviors, so any sudden change in their habits can point to the potential for underlying illness. 

A dog that suddenly does not want to be pet could be experiencing pain, illness, anxiety, and an array of other changes that could be deeply impacting their comfort. Due to this, we always suggest reaching out to your vet for guidance on their behavioral changes. 

What If My Dog Just Doesn’t Like To Be Touched?

As we mentioned above, some dogs just do not like to be touched. This is often due to complicated reasons we can’t always understand, but it does not mean you are unable to bond with your pup in other ways. 

A dog that does not want to be pet can still enjoy being in their owner’s presence, and they may still deeply love everyone in their home. An independent pup that keeps to themselves can still be a wonderful companion, you will just need to learn how to bond with them in their own way. 

Some of the best ways to bond with a dog that does not like to be touched includes offering them plenty of toys, making sure they always have their favorite treats, talking to them throughout the day, giving them cozy places to rest,  and taking them on plenty of adventures. 

Your dog may even grow to enjoy your affection over the years, so it’s best to just meet them where they are at and be patient. 

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Why Does My Puppy Bite Me When I Try To Pet Them?

Puppies are a bundle of energy that find it challenging to sit still. Cuddling can seem boring for an energetic furry friend, causing them to find the “fun” in their situation. If your hand moves toward them in effort to pet them, they may see your hand as a potential chew toy. 

This is a common behavior in growing puppies, and many will need to be trained away from this behavior before it becomes a habit. Some of the most effective ways to get your puppy to stop biting when you pet them include:

  • Substitute your hand for a chew toy when they begin to chew on your hand.
  • Distract your hyper puppy with some tasty treats in your hand as you pet them. This will help them learn how to calm down and enjoy the moment.
  • Make sure your puppy has plenty of fun toys around your home at all times.
  • Encourages non-contact games that don’t rely on close contact with your hands. This can include games of fetch, tug of war with a rope, and even filling interactive toys with kibble. 
  • Using a stern corrective word like “no” or “stop” can be effective when teaching your puppy that biting is bad. This does not involve yelling at your puppy, but rather using a more stern tone to offer a correction. 

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are plenty of reasons why your pup may be shying away from being pet. As long as you are patient with your dog and respect their boundaries, many dogs will warm up to the affection down the line!

Additional Resource: How To Pet a Dog Properly: Vet Street


Before making any decisions that could affect the health and/or safety of your dog, you should always consult a trained veterinarian in your local area. Even though this content may have been written/reviewed by a trained veterinarian, our advice to you is to always consult your own local veterinarian in person. Please read our full dislcaimer if you have any questions.