Sarah Wilson

Dog Expert

3 Games to Get You In Touch With Your Dog


How to Massage Your DogIt is blistering here in St. Louis and after a few minutes in the backyard, Pip was panting and I was sweating. We’re now in until evening.

As I pondered what to blog about today, I massaged Pip’s head. Glancing down I saw her bliss and had my topic: touch.

Most of us touch our dogs in routine ways that we don’t think much about. And most of us think we do that pretty well but this blog challenges you to check that assumption by “asking” your dog what they prefer. You ask with your hands and dog responds “yes” by coming closer, leaning in, and/or blissing out or “no” by moving, leaning, or turning away.

Here are 3 dog games to play to help you get more in touch with your dog.

1) You’re Getting Sleepy
Can you massage your dog into near total relaxation? If not, no worries, it can be learned. It is just a skill.  To massage well, you need to slow yourself down and, as an old horse saying goes, “Put your heart in your hands.”

All dogs have favorite spots for massage. You can see one of Pip’s here: a fairly firm thumb sweep from the bridge of her nose, between her eyes to the back of her skull.  Your dog may enjoy gentle ear “tugs” (gentle!), circles along the spine, or firm neck massage. They will tell you if you listen with your hands and watch with your eyes.

2) Up and Down
How you touch your dog directly impacts your dog’s energy level and mood. This game helps you bring awareness to that. First, use touch and touch alone to get your dog’s energy and mood up! Then pause and, using only touch, calm him back down. Pause. Repeat.

Not only will this show you how you may, unintentionally, be revving your dog up but it also is excellent practice on how to help him calm down once he is excited. And wouldn’t that be useful?

3) More or Less
Take a minute to pet your dog . Is he asking for more or less of your touch? Do not take his “comments” personally. It has nothing to do with how much your dog loves you; it’s all about his preferences. Vary things a bit to see what is enjoyed: faster or slower, firmer or lighter, pats or strokes. Cultivate curiosity about what has probably been routine for a long time.

Their love of touch is one of the great gifts our dogs give us. When we touch them, we change our minds for the better – literally. Our brain chemistry shifts. And we have access to it anytime we’re near them.

These games are a small pay back for this and the many other things dogs add to our lives. Give them a try and let me know what you discover. I look forward to hearing from you.


  1. What a great article Sarah. I think the biggest nugget you gave in this read is to really be in tune with what your dog wants versus what you the owner wants. This is a great analogy for any relationship. Often times we as humans want certain things out of a relationship. However, the most meaningful relationships often require us to look beyond ourselves and see how we might be able to serve the other person. Thank you for your daily nuggets and wisdom.

  2. I need help with this issue. I have a 4 month old Lab and unless he is totally exhausted, ANY type of touch just makes him mouthy and excited. I have tried every type of soothing stroke, scratch and massage I can think of. I’ve never had a puppy get so easily excited…..I’ve also never had a Lab. He seems to enjoy touch as long as he has something in his mouth, like a bone. Is this normal and what can I do?

    • Hi Judy – That is pretty standard for many a teething Lab pup. So, put something in his mouth then to long, slow, firmer than usual strokes… in fact… I’ll blog on this soon.

  3. Thank you so much!

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