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Are dogs ticklish?

Owner tickling dog

Are dogs ticklish? Let's find out!

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Has it ever happened that you’ve been having a scratching session with your dog and hit that spot that made your dog smile? Maybe your dog is ticklish… So, if you are wondering if your dog is ticklish, you should continue reading.

By Emilie Heyl

Published on the

We all know that dogs love a good tummy rub, but sometimes you scratch an area that makes the dog react differently. You might stroke the back of the dog’s ear and he’s going to arch it. Or you might scratch the dog’s neck and you’ll notice one of its paws start twitching. They are definitely places where dogs are more ticklish than others.

If you've ever wondered whether dogs can be ticklish or why scratching that particular spot on their belly makes them twitch, you're not alone. So let's see if it's possible for a dog to be ticklish!

Can dogs be ticklish?

Yes, dogs can be ticklish. Actually, the tickle reaction, also known as gurgling in humans can also be witnessed with other animals such as primates and rats, and it seems that dogs can also have this reaction to scratching and tickling.

Now, with that being said, it’s important to keep in mind that although dogs are ticklish, not all dogs are the same. While tickling can be a great way to bond with your puppy, you should always respect your furry friend and never force him to do anything, especially not tickling if he doesn’t like it. Indeed, it could happen that some dogs don’t like to be touched even less tickled because some may have trust issues, are anxious or have traumatic experiences. Thus, if you want to enjoy a good tickling session with your furry best friend, who may not be very confident, you should start slowly. Make sure your dog is in a place where he feels comfortable and relaxed. Start by petting him gently and read his body language and facial expressions to see if you have touched an area he likes.

Why are dogs ticklish?

Just like humans, being ticklish is a matter of nerves. It can be helpful to try to think about why you are ticklish and make a comparison. If someone tickles the bottom of your foot, you will usually laugh and jerk them away. This is similar to the reaction you would have if you touched something that hurt, such as a hot object or pricking your finger on a thorn. If you touch something that could hurt you, your muscles contract and you quickly and instinctively move your hand or foot away.

The same goes with scratching. Indeed, when you scratch a dog, it stimulates the nerves under its skin, which send signals to the spinal cord, a signal to announce that something is itchy. The dog's central nervous system then sends an impulse back to its leg to tell it to scratch the itch and push away the cause of the problem, which activates its muscles and causes it to scratch. The problem is that you are already scratching the itch and he is just kicking it away.

Because of the similarity between this defensive reaction and the reaction to tickling, one theory is that tickling is a defence mechanism. This is because most ticklish areas of the body are soft, vulnerable places, such as the soles of the feet. So if you or your dog feels something in these sensitive areas, they react and therefore appear ticklish.

It has not been confirmed scientifically, but we can assume that the reaction of dogs is similar to that of humans. Especially since their usual ticklish spots are also vulnerable areas like their paws and ears. But we may never know if dogs are really ticklish, or why they are ticklish.

How do I know if a dog is ticklish?

Like most of the time by reading your dog’s body language, you’ll be able to find out a lot: if he’s happy, anxious, bored, feeling threatened and… if he’s ticklish. Of course, when you tickle a dog, it doesn't (or at least shouldn't) make the dog squeal like it does for humans. But the animal should smile, enjoy it, ask for more and even roll over onto his back. This is a submissive position that tells you that he is comfortable with you and enjoying the tickling session.

It’s not always easy to know if a dog is ticklish, and perhaps sometimes you don’t don't realise it! For example, if your dog doesn't like you touching his ears or paws, or if grooming these areas causes him to shake his head or paws, it's entirely possible that he's ticklish.

But rest assured, they are ways for you to find out if your dog is ticklish or not. If you're curious about whether your puppy has ticklish feet for example, lightly tickle the pads of his paws. There's a good chance he'll move his foot. You can also blow air gently over his ears, which will probably make him move its ear or scratch it. You can also run your fingers lightly along his back, as you would a person, which can sometimes make your dog shiver.

However, it is difficult to determine whether this is because your dog is ticklish or because you have triggered the scratching reaction.

Now, with that being said, if your dog doesn't seem to like it, you should probably check your pet for any rashes or other medical problems that might be causing it. But also remember that not all dogs like it, and that's okay! You know your dog better than anyone.

Where are dogs ticklish?

Like their human counterparts, the belly is a top-notch spot for a good tickle. Other spots include the chest, just between the front legs and on the back legs near the base of the tail. Along with the belly, the chest, the front legs and back legs, you can focus on other areas such as behind the dog's ears. That’s usually spots that dogs love to get scratched. Scratch with your fingertips, applying a little pressure to give the dog a good scratch. Keep scratching until you reach a spot that elicits a positive response, such as a smile and a kick. Go on, scratch scratch scratch, your dog will love it.

To conclude, here are the places where your dog could be ticklish:

  • Back of the ears
  • Belly
  • Paws
  • Neck
  • Armpits
  • Back (especially above the tail!)
  • Front legs
  • Back legs
  • Chest

Do dogs like to be tickled?

When it comes to tickling, just keep in mind that dogs and humans are very similar. This means that dogs experience tickling sensations much like humans may enjoy tickling more, while others may not be so ticklish. Do you like being tickled? Well, it’s the same for dogs - some do and some don’t.

We humans are in the best position to understand, we know it can be annoying and even painful being tickled, especially if we are not in the mood, well it’s the same with dogs! Sometimes your furry best friend loves a good tickle session, while other times he doesn’t want to be bothered and can potentially get angry. This is why you should also pay attention to your dog’s body language. See how your dog reacts when you start tickling them, you’ll soon find out if your pooch is happy or not.

Please keep in mind that a ticklish dog is not always a good thing either. Indeed, if your dog is suddenly ticklish or has sensitive skin, it may be a sign of something not so great. If you have noticed your dog becoming ticklish all of a sudden or has started scratching a lot, he may have fleas, dry skin, dermatitis or something else that is simply irritating his skin. Look for signs of disease, parasites or rashes, and consider taking him to a vet.

How do I know if my dog likes to be tickled?

If your dog shows obvious signs of happiness, such as a soft, relaxed expression, smiles, wags its tail, it's clear that he doesn't mind what you're doing. Also, if your dog leans into your hand, it is a sign that he is enjoying the scratch you are giving him.

However, if your dog shows signs of displeasure, do not try to tickle him. If he pulls away from you, it is a clear sign that he is not interested. On the other hand, if his ears are pinned back, or his tail is low, wagging stiffly, or between his legs, he is uncomfortable. And it goes without saying that if your dog growls or snarls when you tickle him, stop immediately!

We’ll never say it enough, but observe your dog's body language and try to understand what your four-legged friend is trying to tell you.

Tickling can be a great way to bond with your dog. It gives your dog pleasure and builds trust, friendship and closeness between the two of you.

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