Reading into your dog’s wants is a difficult task more often than not as a lot of his body language feels similar. Like, how are you supposed to know if your dog wants pets or not?
I’ll be the first to admit that even I find it hard to tell what my own dog’s intentions are, but most of the time it just takes a bit of awareness.
Context clues help uncover what your dog actually wants, his mood in particular.
This makes it a lot easier to figure out if your dog wants pets or not.
However, before we get into the meat of the article, do note that every dog is different and not all dogs like to be pet.
It’s not exclusive to any particular breed, but rather the dog’s own disposition, so don’t force it if he doesn’t want to.
With that out of the way, let’s see what type of canine behavior your dog is going to exhibit when he wants to be pet and when he wants to avoid it.
The 6 (3) Affirmative Signs That Let You Know If Your Dog Wants Pets
1. A Relaxed Expression
The first sign that your dog is open for some pets or a belly rub is a more relaxed expression on his face.
One that plenty of lovable dogs make that can be identified with a more relaxed jaw and a dopey, non-threatening look visage.
It’s usually a sign that he’s unbothered and can easily be approached, but on its own doesn’t really tell you whether he wants to be petted or not.
However, it is a great complementary sign of affirmation toward the act when paired with any of the other signs.
2. He Approaches You With A Needy Intent
The other clear sign that he wants something is him approaching you rather than it being vice versa.
You’ll often see him casually stroll on over and move toward you, often followed up by another sign that he’s looking for something specific.
However, this, paired with #1, are already good enough grounds to give you the green light.
3. He’s Actively Trying To Grab Your Attention In An Endearing Way
This manifests itself as a number of signs that I figured needed to be put under one umbrella since they all convey the same message.
The first of these signs is your dog pawing at you, most likely your hand if the intent is to be petted as he tries to indicate his desire.
The second sign is him making eye contact with you and producing some sort of sound that indicates happiness or a specific want.
The most common one would be something equivalent to a grumble followed up by a swish of his head as if he’s trying to get you to go somewhere.
Next, you may have your dog actively try to push his muzzle into you, a very clear sign that he needs a little bit of petting and cuddle time for whatever reason.
Finally, some may go for a subtler approach and may simply lean up to you or lay down next to you as a sign that they want that area petted real good.
These signs can manifest individually, or as a mix of any number of them, so pay close attention if your dog is showing any said signs.
The 5 Negative Signs That Show Your Dog Isn’t In The Mood For Pets
Now that you’ve learned the very simple body language that indicates a desire for being petted, it’s time to learn about the signs that mean the opposite.
They too are quite obvious and may often show up even if the initial affirmative signs are there, however, there’s no harm in an honest mistake, as long as you don’t push the envelope.
1. He Freezes On Attempted Contact
Behavior that’s common in newly acquired dogs or ones who’ve gone through human-inflicted trauma.
It’s a lack of trust in the individual and, when seeing a hand come over to them, their first thought isn’t pets, but discomfort.
This has that prior fear swell up in them and they just freeze up until the hand (and you) move away.
This is also a common reaction from dogs who simply aren’t fans of petting (they do exist!).
2. He’s Ducking Away From Your Touch
When you try to reach for his head or his back, you may see your pupper ducking, dodging and leaning his body away from you to try and avoid it.
This means that he’s either not in the mood or that he may have perceived it as a potential scolding. He also may just not be a fan of pets, as previously stated.
Whatever the case may be, back off and let him have his space.
3. He’s Looking Away From You
If your dog is trying to look away from you when you go in to try and pet him, then it may be a sign that the act of petting is stressful for him.
Much like cats, dogs can suffer from sensory overload which can cause them to not particularly like forced contact for longer periods of time, petting included.
The act of him looking away is him trying to look away from the source of his stress, which, in this case, would be you and your hand.
Should this happen, immediately cease the action as you may be causing your dog distress unintentionally.
4. He’s Tired And Sleepy
You know the expression Let Sleeping Dogs Lie?
Well, that has a very literal meaning too where your dog, if he’s tired from a long day or is readying up for a nap, isn’t really looking forward to pets and just wants to get some rest.
Let him be and let him rest, you’ll have plenty of time for play and pets when he’s done with his nap.
5. He’s Straight Up Trying To Move Away From You
Whether it’s caused by fear or a clear distaste for the act of petting, your dog’s reaction may simply be to walk away from you.
Don’t take it too personally though, he’s most likely just not in the mood.
It can also be brought on by being a bit too pushy, so the best thing you can do is give your dog his space until he cools off a little.
Trying to press the issue will only lead to more apparent, and even aggressive behavior as he gets upset or cornered and ends up feeling like he needs to defend himself.
EXTRA: The 5 Mixed Signals
While the signs prior gave a clear cut message of your dog’s intent, there are some that can be interpreted as either or.
They’ll require more contextual input before determining whether they’re positive or negative.
1. Laying On His Back
While most pet parents may think this is a clear sign he’s looking for a belly rub, if his face is tense, then it’s the exact opposite and you should leave him be.
He may just be looking for a pose to sleep in.
2. Pushing His Muzzle Into Your Hand
This sign is most commonly seen during the act of petting.
Depending on the specific time when this is done, it can be either a sign to continue or stop the petting entirely.
If he’s pushing his muzzle into your hand when you stop petting, then he wants more.
If it’s the opposite and he’s doing it while you’re petting him, then he wants you to stop.
Similarly, he can end up licking your hand instead of just rubbing his nose in it, and the sign indicators will remain the same.
3. He Lifts His Paw Up
A sign that’s commonly interpreted as your dog wanting you to stop, but it all depends on how he displays himself.
If he’s leaning backward and trying to move away from your hand while raising his paw, then he’s not in the mood and he wants you to stop.
On the other hand, if he’s leaning forward and craning his neck or other body part to present it, then he’s trying to tell you to continue doing what you were doing.
4. He’s Moving His Body Around
Finally, a dog wiggling his body around energetically (or frantically) can mean different things too.
Some dogs, when excited, will practically be shaking from the thrill of the act they’re currently involved in.
Others, however, may do a similar action, but they’re expressing anxious behavior and they’re quite literally shaking in fear in some scenarios.
Know the difference between the two in your pup so you can spare him some short term mental trauma.
What To Do If You Have A Dog That Doesn’t Like Pets?
There’s no way to know if your dog wants pets or not when you get him as, in most cases, he’s too young to really express himself.
However, if you do end up with one who isn’t a big fan of petting, it’s not the end of the world.
There are still plenty of activities you two can do together to help grow your bond like going for walks and playing games together..
Your dog may simply not have gotten warmed up to the idea just yet and you may need to earn his trust.
In other cases he may not like a specific area on his body to be petted or touched in any way.
If this is the case, you may be able to approach a different part of his body to test the waters, but don’t push too far.
But even if he outright refuses pets, know that he still appreciates your regardless and just asks that you appreciate his own preferences back.
How to know if your dog wants pets or not? As we’ve seen throughout the article, it is somewhat simple at first glance, but can be tricky at times.
The language barrier between our species will lead to misunderstandings from time to time. It’s up to us to learn our precious pooch’s cues and adapt accordingly.
It’ll take a bit of trial and error, but you’ll be able to know how he ticks in due time.
The most important skill is paying attention to the context of the situation.
The rest should be relatively easy.
I fully trust that you’re capable of this and that the bond between you and your canine companion will only grow stronger for it.
Until next time, pet parents.
READ NEXT: Does My Dog Know How Much I Love Him?
 Maya B., Lucy A.,Sibylle F., Isabel L., Hanno W. and Luca M. (May, 2017.), Development of the “Highly Sensitive Dog” questionnaire to evaluate the personality dimension “Sensory Processing Sensitivity” in dogs, DOI
 Juliane K., Marie N. (June, 2013.), Do dogs get the point? A review of dog–human communication ability, DOI