I was sitting in my recliner the other day watching TV, when my Cat, Harper, jumped up on the arm of the chair, and started purring. This was his normal signal that he wanted to be petted. I don’t know about your cat, but Harper has, not only a specific time-frame of approximately thirty seconds for petting and gentle scratching, but clearly noted areas of his body, which can and cannot be touched.
Rubbing of the top of his head, behind each ear, along the full length of his back, and continuing to the tip of his tail is okay. Any petting, rubbing or scratching anywhere else, and especially the belly is met with an ear-piercing meow, and the possible nipping of any fingers foolish enough to be close to his razor-sharp teeth.
After Harper’s usual thirty seconds, he got bored, turned to me with a dismissive glance, jumped off the chair, and went in search of food or a warm place to take a sixteen hour nap. His behavior got me thinking, and I called over my dog, Chase. It should be noted that Chase loves to be petted. Normally, all I have to do is raise my arm to about two feet off the ground with my palm facing down, and he will run over, and place the top of his head firmly against my palm. I decided to do a little research on dogs, and how much they enjoy human contact.
I began to gently rub behind Chase’s ears with both hands. After a minute I moved to the top of his head, and along his back. He seemed to be in heaven as he remained perfectly still. After about ten minutes of this, my arm started to get tired, and I rested it for a moment on the arm of the chair. Chase immediately moved over and nuzzled my hand until I returned to a gentle massage of his head. This continued for another ten minutes until I began to feel the onset of carpal tunnel syndrome, and my hand began to get friction burns. He then turned and presented his rear end, in the hope of continuing the obviously pleasurable experience.
Intent on continuing my research, but quickly tiring, I called for my Son, Adam. I explained to him, not only my experiment, but its vital importance in furthering mankind’s knowledge of canine behavior. He said, “What?” I said, “Just pet Chase until I get back.”
I then left, and returned fifteen minutes later to a tired and bored teenager, and a dog that was standing still with a face that held an expression of unbelievable joy. I relieved my son, but told him to be available in a half hour or so, to possibly continue with the experiment, and help me analyze my extensive data.
As I continued to pet Chase, I noted that he had particular areas of the body, including: behind both ears, the top of his nose, and his back at the base of his tail which he preferred. Secondary areas which did not evoke a warning growl, were the back and front of his neck, the entire length of the back, and his belly; especially across his chest. When my son returned, I had him continue to pet Chase, while I furiously scribbled down data and formulated hypotheses.
My main question from my research on petting dogs is, how long will a dog, actually allow itself to be petted? We may never know. A man and a teenager managed to pet a dog continuously for over two hours, before fatigue, hunger and boredom ended the experiment. As we wolfed down bologna sandwiches, my wife came home, and began to pet Chase. He seemed to ignore delicious slices of processed lunchmeat as my wife rubbed his head and nose while crooning,
“Who’s mommy’s good little boy.”
I may someday continue my research. I still have many unanswered questions. Would a dog forgo food and water for days until he collapsed in order to feel the comforting touch of his owner’s hand on his head and back? If I were to invent a robotic dog petter, would Chase remain still under the soothing gentle motion……….. forever? What if I forgot to turn it off, was subsequently involved in a plane crash, and became stranded on a tropical island for months? Would I return home to find a skeleton being gently petted?