Dude, Can’t You Take a Hint?

Are you that kind of pet owner or animal lover that doesn’t know when to back off?  I used to be one of those people with my animal companions at home.

A few years ago I went to a workshop for Reactive / Fearful Dogs hosted by Grisha Stewart of Ahimsa Dog Training​. One of the many techniques she taught was the 5 Second Petting Rule.

How Do We Do It?

Grisha explains:

Here’s a way to ask your dog if he or she likes the way you are petting. I call it the 5-second rule. Every person who interacts with a dog, cat, or even a horse should know it, because it’s excellent bite prevention and also just basic polite manners!

1. Wait for the dog (or other animal) to interact with you, scratching the body part that is closest to you first, like the dog’s side.

2. Pet for no more than 5 seconds. (Pet less if the dog is shy or not a dog from your family.)

3. Stop and wait for the dog to turn or move toward you, asking you for more.

4. Repeat steps 2 and 3, alternating between petting and waiting.

You also need a way to tell your dog to stop asking for petting.  If you are done and the dog is still interested, give an All Done hand signal.  In the video, the “All Done” signal is two flat hands, showing that both hands are empty. After you give the signal, ignore the dog for a little bit so that the meaning of the All Done signal is clear.

Watch how to do this technique here:

 “Take the Hint: How to Use the 5-Second Rule for Petting Dogs” 


Why Do We Need To Know This?

When you are interacting with any breed or species animal, it’s very important to know if they are enjoying it, or merely tolerating it.  (You can learn more about that here.)   It’s important for a number of reasons:  safety, respect, and maintaining a healthy relationship.  This is something that we can practice with many different kids of animals.

Try it out.  You will be surprised to see how often the furry, feathered, and scaly ones we love might not love the interaction as much as we do.  Once you become aware of this, you can teach your kids, spouse, and guests!   I teach this technique to my clients, friends, and other family members, and also in my public workshops. It’s especially important for children to learn!

I hope that this brings some awareness to how you or your family members interact with your companion animals, and the animals that we meet in other homes


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