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Why Your Dog Loves Butt Scratches

That pleading, over-the-shoulder look is unmistakable — your dog wants a butt rub and this is why.

by Kathleen St. John
June 30, 2021
Woman and man petting dog outside
Yura Shevchenko / Stocksy

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I’m half-asleep. I can hear the “tip-tap” of Daisy’s nails on the wood floor. I open my eyes just a millimeter and see Daisy’s face right in front of mine. Her chin is resting on the edge of the bed, and her expectant face moves gently from side to side with the movement of her wagging tail. It’s time to wake up and eat and walk — the best time of the day!

I reach out to pet her cute head and, suddenly, there it is: The Rump. Or, more precisely, Daisy’s luxurious, wagging tail and poised hindquarters. Right in my face. She cranes her head around to look at me, as if to say, “Well?”

Like many dogs, Daisy loves a good, solid rubbing on her rear. She loves it as much as tummy rubs — maybe even more. What is it about that area that drives dogs mad with pleasure?

Why Do Dogs Like Butt Scratches?

The canine rump, also called the croup, roughly corresponds to the human sacrum. Looking straight down at a dog’s back, it’s the muscular area right in front of their tail. It’s an area with a lot of sensitive nerve endings, which may account for the pleasure many dogs take in having their bum scratched.

According to Dr. Bonnie Beaver, professor of veterinary medicine at Texas A&M University, “The reason most dogs like their rears scratched is because that is a very hard area for them to reach themselves,” she says. “Think about the hardest place you have to reach in the middle of your back, and how nice it is if someone will scratch that for you.”

This explains the pleading eyes and subsequent looks of rapture from Daisy. Keep an eye out, though, for signs that your pup’s posterior-petting obsession isn’t just a good time. Beaver says to look out for signs of an issue like excessive scratching, a bad odor, or bald spots.

And keep in mind that rear-rubs aren’t universally loved. Some dogs are not especially pleased by a rump-scratch, and move away, growl, or snap when a well-meaning human touches their hips too directly. “A few dogs are just not into being touched in many places and don’t appreciate the help,” Beaver says.

However, if your dog is a butt scratch-lover, remember that you’re doing them a big favor (even if sometimes you’d prefer to stick with a nice ear scratch or chin rub). And you know they’d return the favor if they could.

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Kathleen St. John

Kathleen St. John is a freelance writer for target The Denver Post and The Onion's A.V. Club, and a lifelong dog lover. She lives in Denver, Colo., with her husband, John, and her dog, Daisy, who's a mix of just about everything.