Why Dogs Demand Butt Scratches
When your dog looks back at it, you know what to do.
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Every morning, my dog Daisy trotts towards me, half asleep but all a-wiggle. As soon as I bend down to show her some love, she spins around and looks back at me as if to say, You know what to do.
Like most dogs, Daisy loves a good butt rub. She loves it as much as a belly rub — maybe more. What is it about that area that makes dogs demand “scratchies”? “The reason most dogs like their rears scratched is because that is a very hard area for them to reach themselves,” says Dr. Bonnie Beaver, professor of veterinary medicine at Texas A&M University. “Think about the hardest place you have to reach in the middle of your back...and how nice it would be if someone would scratch it for you.”
It’s also an area with a lot of nerve endings, which explains the pleasure many dogs take in having their butt scratched. But Dr. Beaver recommends keeping an eye out for signs that your dog’s butt scratch request is about more than hitting the spot. Excessive scratching, a bad odor, or bald spots can signal allergies or skin issues.
She also cautions against offering unsolicited butt scratches, as not all dogs are into them. The thoughtful gesture will be lost on some pups, such as ones fearful of touch or others with arthritis in their backs or hind legs. If a dog growls, snaps, or simply moves away, take the hint but don’t take it personally. Says Dr. Beaver, “A few dogs are just not into being touched in many places and don’t appreciate the help.”
Kathleen St. John
Kathleen St. John is a freelance writer for The Denver Post and The Onion’s A.V. Club, and a lifelong dog lover. She lives in Denver, CO, with her husband and her dog, Daisy, who’s a mix of just about everything.