New research has revealed that dogs love being petted more than anything, and while verbal praise is also welcome, for a canine nothing comes close to long hard stroking.
The co-author of the new study, Dr. Clive Wynne, who is also a professor and director of the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University, spoke to the Huffington Post about the study,
“I spend half my day talking to my dog. It always looks like it’s valuable to her. It’s quite a shock to discover that what we say to dogs doesn’t seem to be rewarding to them after all,” he said.
The study, which was published online in the journal Behavioural Processes, observed 42 shelter and pet dogs as they interacted one at a time with two people in a room. One person petted the dog while the other praised it verbally.
The observers then measured which of the two people the dog favored by seeing how long the dog chose to interact with them individually.
In the second stage of the interesting study, 72 dogs were placed alone in a room with one person who either petted or praised the dog, or both.
The researchers found that the dogs showed a much keener interest in the people who petted them over those who offered them verbal praise. Moreover, dogs showed no more interest in spoken praise over having no interaction at all with a human.
The other co-author of the study, Dr. Erica Feuerbacher, assistant professor of anthrozoology at Carroll College in Helena, Montana, told the publication, “I was surprised that when only one alternative was available, dogs still did not engage with the human for vocal praise.”
Accordingly, as Feuerbacher noted, dogs’ heart rate and blood pressure is lowered when they are petted and this is why it is way preferable to verbal praise.
In conclusion, Feuerbacjer said, “I just recognize better that I’m doing it more for my benefit than for hers. And this study doesn’t say that you can’t train your dog to recognize vocal praise. If vocal praise is paired with rewards that dogs do care about (petting, food, etc), then they can learn to value it.”