A few nights ago, I was relaxing in my favorite recliner, drinking a strong cup of dark roast coffee, and watching reruns of Cesar 911 on television. Also, commonly called “The Dog Whisperer,” it’s one of my favorite reality television shows. It features, Cesar Millan, a dog trainer, who uses behavior modification techniques, and a philosophy that exercise, discipline, and affection are the keys to having a happy and healthy dog. My dog, Chase was lying next to my chair, and periodically, I would reach down and gently rub his head. I had done my best to follow the dog whisperer’s advice concerning dogs. I believe that affection, is definitely a key part of having a happy dog. Chase, for his part, can never get enough attention and petting. He has a special place, behind his left ear that he particularly enjoys being caressed.
As Cesar, swiftly pulled apart two fighting dogs, I became distracted by a loud meow on the side of my chair opposite to Chase. It was a signal from my cat, Harper that he needed to be fed, have his litter box changed, or required a small bit of human interaction. Harper has learned that if I raise my arm up level with the palm facing down, it’s his signal to jump up on the arm of the chair. I’ve learned that when Harper rubs against my hand, and softly purrs, he’s looking to have a few moments of petting.
It should be noted that Harper has a specific time-frame in which a human hand can caress his well-kept, and luxurious fur. It’s approximately thirty seconds, give or take a few ticks of the clock – never more. He also has defined areas of his anatomy that are fair game, and others which are not. The areas allowed include: the top of his head, behind both ears, along his back, and the length of his tail. Anywhere else, will elicit either an ear-piercing meow, or possibly the nipping of any hand foolish enough to be within reach of his razor-sharp teeth. He never bites very hard, but he’ll let you know he doesn’t appreciate what you’re doing.
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 more food, or a warm place to take a sixteen-hour nap. Harper’s feline behavior, piqued my curiosity; so, I called Chase. Immediately he sat up, and placed his head firmly under my outstretched hand. As I stroked the top of if head, he looked at me with a look of perfect contentment.
As you may have noticed from some of my previous posts, I have a very analytical mind. I enjoy collecting and analyzing information, answering difficult questions, and making conclusions based on my accumulated data. With this in mind, I decided to do an experiment, and no it doesn’t involve large quantities of beer – though I wish it would. If you want to revisit one of my previous experiments involving alcohol, you can go to, “Drinking to Look Better.”
The experimental study I propose, involves the interactions of humans with humans, and humans with canines. It will be an analysis of whether a human being, or a dog derives the most pleasure from the tactile sensation of a thorough and gentle petting. The research project, will also determine, if there is a definitive time frame in which they will allow themselves to be petted.
It should be noted for scientific purposes, that the initial parameters of the experiment I discussed above, needed to be changed, when my wife refused to participate. At this time, I will admit freely, and with no shame, that I love, not only to be petted, but could relax for hours under the strong, but gentle hands of my wife, if she agreed to comb and brush my carpet-like back hair. Okay, I’ve said it – now let’s move on. When I asked her to help me with this vitally important research, she said,
“Patrick……. Dykie. What in the world is wrong with you? I love you dearly, but you are sometimes so weird, and your back hair is not like a carpet. It’s more like an out of control Chia Pet, on steroids.” I replied, “Listen sweetheart. I work hard, try to be a good husband, don’t go out with the guys, rarely frequent bars, and I’m here when you need me. I don’t think it’s too much to ask. Besides, that darn brush would feel – soooo good.”
My new research study has been changed to one simple question, which I will try to answer. I have already determined, it is quite obvious that all dogs enjoy physical contact with their humans. I will now consider the length of time that dogs will allow themselves to be petted. Luckily, my son was available to assist me with this important research.
As the study ensued, 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 tire, 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 possible onset of a cramp, or worse yet; the beginning of carpal tunnel syndrome. After switching hands, and proceeding for another fifteen minutes, I noticed an increase of heat on my palm, which would eventually lead to friction burns. Chase 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 replied, “Just pet Chase until I get back.”
I then left, and returned fifteen minutes later to a tired and bored young man, and a dog that was standing perfectly still, with a face that held an expression of unbelievable joy. I relieved my son, but told him to be available in half an hour or so, to possibly continue with the experiment, and help me analyze my accumulated information.
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 complicated data, and formulated hypotheses.
The key 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 young adult, managed to pet a dog continuously for just over three hours, before the effects of fatigue, hunger and boredom ended the experiment. As we wolfed down bologna sandwiches, my wife came home, and began to pet Chase. I smiled at her, and held up a new comb, I had recently purchased. She ignored me. Chase on the other hand, seemed oblivious to the delicious slices of processed lunch meat we were consuming, as my wife rubbed his head and nose while crooning, “Who’s mommy’s good little boy.” Hearing this, and pointing at myself, I held up the comb again. She still ignored me.
My experiment seems to have turned up some startling and unexpected results. 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 deserted tropical island for months? Would I return home to find a skeleton being gently petted?