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11 Odd Reasons Why Your Dog Won’t Let You Pet Him + 3 Tips

Why Won't My Dog Let Me Pet Him

Every time your hand comes near your dog, he moves away. 

It’s like he’s wearing an invisible sign that says:

“Back off! This body is a no petting zone.” 

You just want cuddles, while your furbaby wants to be left alone.

What’s a dog parent supposed to do?

In this article, you’ll discover:

  • How can you tell if your dog likes petting?
  • 3 different scenarios of dogs who don’t like pets.
  • 11 weird reasons why your dog won’t let you pet him. 
  • 3 tips on what to do if your pooch doesn’t like being petted.
  • And much much more…

Why won’t my dog let me pet him?

Your dog won’t let you pet him for reasons such as being independent, having a shy personality, not being used to it yet, having pain or injury, losing trust, having dog dementia, preferring play, being aroused, having depression, or past trauma, or you’re petting him the wrong way.

Why won’t my puppy let me pet him?

Your puppy won’t let you pet him because he’s not used to it yet, and because of this, he’ll also try to nip and bite at you to avoid any form of physical contact. This is normal behavior as a puppy as he prefers exploring and being playful during this stage in his life. 

11 reasons why your dog won’t let you pet him

#1: He’s an independent dog

“Mom/Dad, I don’t need cuddles anymore. I’m a big pooch now.”

Your dog won’t let you pet him because he’s an independent dog. And he’s not the type of pooch who needs to be affirmed with hugs and cuddles all the time. 

He also doesn’t rely on any physical contact to be able to function normally. (I bet he can also sleep and eat well without you.)

But sometimes you wonder, 

“Is the reason why my dog doesn’t like pets because he doesn’t love me?”

Oh, certainly not. 

I’m sure your dog loves you. He just wants to show his affection in other ways. 

Perhaps he enjoys watching and guarding you always. He could also be giving you his favorite things. 

Or whenever you call him, he comes to you at the speed of lightning. And he always waits for you to arrive (and even howl for celebration) when you come home after a long day

Your pooch may not like petting much. But that doesn’t mean he’s not an affectionate dog. 

#2: You have a shy dog

Your Dog Won't Let You Pet Him Because He's Shy

“Why does my dog back away when I try to pet him?”

The reason why he doesn’t like petting is that he’s still shy. He needs more time to adjust and get acclimated with you. 

This rings especially true if you just got him. 

He doesn’t know what to expect from you. So he’s still being cautious and wary around your presence.  

#3: He’s not used to it yet

Your dog moves away from you when you pet him because he’s not yet used to physical contact. 

This happens when he’s not petted when he’s still a pup. Or he didn’t receive a single belly rub or cuddle from his previous keepers. 

But this doesn’t mean that he doesn’t like being touched. He just needs some warming up and getting used to it.

And once he does, I’m sure he’d start to enjoy it, just like most dogs do. 

To know if your dog likes being pet, he’ll show signs like:

#4: He’s in pain or injured

“I’m devastated. My pooch doesn’t want pets all of a sudden.”, you tell your friend with a deep sigh.

Your dog may suddenly hate being touched because he’s hurt. 

Every touch makes him wince. So he tries to avoid physical contact at all costs.

It’s possibly caused by an injury or a muscle sprain from doing his daily adventures activities. Or he’s had recent surgery and he hasn’t fully recovered yet. 

According to Vets-now, these are the signs your dog’s in pain:

  • Heavy panting.
  • Being less active.
  • Showing signs of agitation.
  • Limping or having difficulty walking.
  • Snapping or growling when touched.

#5: Your dog has lost his trust in you

Your dog won’t let you pet him anymore because you’ve hurt him in some way. Either intentionally or not. 

For instance, you accidentally stepped on his foot or tail. Or you may have hit him once because he’s being noisy when you’re talking on the phone

This gave him the wrong impression, so he’s hesitant about how to act around you. 

Some dogs are more sensitive than others. You can make it up to your furry friend by reinforcing the behavior you want.

In other words, if he behaves quiet or sits when you do something important, give him treats. But don’t hit your dog. As it may lead to aggression.

And if you have an aggressive pooch or one who has traumas, he may easily lose his trust. 

Because dogs like him are easily threatened or triggered by these kinds of situations. 

#6: Dog dementia

Dog Dementia

“Who are you, and why are you in my home?”

Not only does your senior pooch won’t let you pet him anymore. But he’s also having trouble recognizing you. 

He barks at you when you stare at him. And he backs away when you try to pet him.

What’s happening?

Your dog could be having symptoms of dog dementia. Or also known as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD).

According to a study, aged dogs are prone to having a decline in their physical and mental health. 

As well as changes in their behavior and relationship with their dog parents. 

Because of CCD, your senior dog’s starting to develop memory loss. You may also notice other changes in him like:

  • Disorientation.
  • Eating non-edible items.
  • Unusual interest in new objects.
  • Repetitive behaviors like pacing in circles.
  • Changes in sleeping and waking up routine.

#7: He prefers playtime over petting

“Why won’t my puppy let me pet him without him biting me?”

Puppies can be really stubborn sometimes. You just want to pet them, while they want to snack on your finger or hand instead

Don’t worry, it’s natural for puppies to behave this way.

Try to put yourself in your dog’s shoes. 

He just came into this big world. And every single day, people keep on carrying him around and cuddling him because he’s so darn cute. 

But he just wants to play and explore everything. 

So to stop people from man-handling him, he’ll try to nip or bite as if to say: “Stop carrying me around, hoomans!”

Aside from that, your puppy isn’t enjoying pets yet. 

The wonders of petting would dawn on him later on, so let him enjoy playing and discovering things for now. It’s all about priorities. 🙂 

#8: It’s the mating season

Does your dog avoid you like you’re a door-to-door salesman who’s trying to sell him multilevel marketing products? And when you reach out your hand to pet him, he quickly retreats?

You think it’s unusual as this happens every once in a while. Especially when he’s aroused and sex-crazy.

“Why’s my dog being like this?”

Your dog won’t let you pet him because there’s a female dog who’s in heat. And during this time, he prefers spending time with her instead of you. 


My friend who’s had the same experience shared her story. She also has a male pooch who behaves the exact same way. 

Every time there’s a female dog in heat nearby, her dog would try to escape and avoid my friend altogether. 

He wouldn’t come home (not even to eat) unless he’s caught. 

And the only time he’d go back to his old self is once the mating season is over. 

Note: This goes vice versa. If you also have a female dog, she may also avoid pets when she’s in heat.

#9: Depression

“My dog won’t let anyone pet him, not even me.”

Did your dog like pets before, and this problem is just a recent issue? 

Because if it is, the reason could be because he’s sad and gloomy. Which could then lead to depression. 

If your dog has a condition like this, he’ll rather be left alone. 

So he’ll try to avoid any form of physical contact. He won’t want pets and he’ll lose interest in playtime as well. 

Depression could be caused by several factors. For instance, a sudden change in his environment like a recent relocation. 

Or he’s now crated or caged when he’s used to having freedom before.  

A new baby could cause this, too. Because you’re giving your pooch less attention. 

Lastly, your dog could also become depressed when he’s mourning because of a recent loss. Especially if it’s one of his dog parents or his fur companion.

#10: Past traumas

Your Dog Has Past Traumas

Trivia: Animal abuse can be a sign of family violence. 

Based on research, 82% of the families registered in RSPCA for mistreating their dogs are also registered in Social Services. 

Because not only their dogs but their children also show signs of being abused.


If your dog won’t let anyone pet him, it may be because of past traumas or negative experiences. 

For instance, he’s been physically abused before. And every touch he’s received was always meant to hurt him.

Because of this, he’s associated any kind of contact with pain. That’s why now he cowers and flinches when you attempt to pet him.

This is also a common case in rescue and stray dogs.

Being petted is unusual for them because they haven’t experienced being loved before. 

#11: You’re petting him the wrong way

You often wonder why your dog agrees to belly rubs and massages. But when you pet him on the head, he moves away. 

Sometimes, he even growls when other people give him a quick pat.

Uh-oh! Why’s that?

Your dog won’t let you pet him on the head because he’s threatened by this gesture. He doesn’t see pats as something nice and friendly. 

Think of it this way. 

A taller man comes straight to you and looks at you downward from his towering height. And then all of a sudden, he gives you a thump on the head. 

That doesn’t really feel good, does it? Well, your dog kinda feels the same way.

Reading tip: Why does my dog cry when picked up?

3 tips on what to do when your dog won’t let you pet him

#1: Let the dog make the first move

This tip isn’t just for your pooch. Because this also goes for every dog that you’ll want to pet from here on. 

The key in dog petting is that you shouldn’t make the first move. Let the dog come to you first. 

They must be the first ones to initiate pets. Because if you force yourself to caress them, they may get aggressive. 

So, to make any dog come to you, squat down and put your open palm in your lap. 

You must be on their eye level as well, this makes your posture less threatening. And lastly, call on them with a high-pitched voice.

“Come here!”  

Wait for them to come and read their body language. If a dog paws at you, this means they want some pets. 

#2: Take things slowly

If your dog had a traumatic past or he’s going through a tough time, it’s best to take things slow. 

You don’t want to force your dog to accommodate pets when he doesn’t want to. 

Forcing him could only make him more anxious, especially when he was abused before.

Let him take his time. 

Once you’ve gained his trust, he’ll ease and get comfortable with receiving physical touches.

#3: Pet them the right way

To get your dog to like pets, you must first know his best spots. 

For instance, some dogs dislike being touched on their heads (pats) and tails. So if you want to make a good impression, avoid these certain places. 

Instead, you can stroke him on his chest or at the base of his tail. You can also rub his chin with your hand facing upward. 

If your dog lays down, go for some belly rubs. Keep your strokes gentle as this can make your dog calmed and relaxed.  

Also read: Why Does My Dog Yawn When I Pet Him? 9 Surprising Reasons

Bonus: Counter-conditioning

Getting your dog to like pets if he’s still a pup is quite easy. 

Just give him treats using your hand. And when he accepts it, stroke his back as a reward.  

Refrain from man-handling him as well. This’ll avoid him from associating pets with bad experiences.

Now, if you have an adult dog who’s hand-shy to other people, you need to counter-condition him. Watch the video below to see how this works. 

When to go to the vet if your dog doesn’t let you pet him

You must take your dog to the vet if he’s showing signs and behaviors like: 

  • Being aggressive.
  • Not wanting to eat or drink.
  • Having repetitive movements.
  • Showing signs of physical injuries.
  • Frequent anxiety attack (due to phobia or trauma).

3 scenarios of dogs who don’t let you pet them

#1: New dog doesn’t let me pet him

It’s normal for a new dog to avoid physical touches because he’s still shy. 

This just means that he needs to warm up and get comfortable with you first before he lets you pet him. 

But if you have a pup, oh my! 

For sure you can’t give pets without receiving a bite or a little nip here and there. 

Puppies like him don’t want to be held yet. They’re still in their discovery and experimental stage and they just want to play during this time. 

So just let him be for now. 

Once he matures, he’ll get used to getting pets. (So much that he’d always be the one asking for it.)

#2: My dog doesn’t let me touch him

There could be different reasons why a dog won’t let you touch him. So the first thing you should know is what’s the reason behind this.

Look at your pooch’s body language. 

Is he showing aggressiveness when you come near him? Or is he fine with pets, but he’s just not a big fan of it?

You should also know when this started to happen. 

If your dog enjoys cuddles before and is avoiding it now, there may be a trigger that started this. 

For instance, there’s a big change in his life and surroundings. Or you accidentally hit him so he avoids your touches because he’s scared.

“What am I supposed to do? I still don’t know why my dog’s being like this.” 

In this case, you can ask for help and advice from a veterinarian or a dog behaviorist. 

#3: My rescue dog won’t let me touch him

Dogs are trusting animals. 

But if they’ve been through so much in the past, it may be hard for them to give their heart to people once again.

If you have a rescue who’s been abused, he may not let you pet him. Because he associates physical touches with abuse and mistreatment.

This may get quite difficult for you. 

Surely, it’ll take you a lot of patience and understanding to get your dog’s trust. 

In this case, it’s best not to force your dog. The more you push him, the more he’d get scared. 

What you need to do is take it easy and let your dog lead you. 

Don’t stress too much about it, because if you do, he’ll sense this. And this can make him avoid pets even more. 

BONUS: Dog won’t let me pet her head

“My dog won’t let anyone pet her. When someone pats her head or comes near, she goes ballistic.”

A reason for this is she’s having a hormonal imbalance, possibly caused by certain factors like:

  • Whelping.
  • Estrous cycle.
  • Being pregnant. 

During these times, you shouldn’t let your dog get close to strangers and other dogs. Because she may get aggressive and snappy if they touch her. 

People also ask:

Why won’t my dog let me pet him anymore?

Your dog won’t let you pet him anymore because he’s injured. When dogs are unwell, they’ll try to hide and avoid physical contact because pets are painful for them. 

Another reason why your dog will avoid cuddles is because you’ve hurt him. 

So if this is your situation, you have to earn your dog’s trust back. 

Spend quality time with him by playing and exercising with him. That’ll make him happy again in no time. 🙂