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Do pooches prefer petting or praise?

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When it comes to man’s best friend, praise and attention can go a long way, but do dogs have a preference on the matter? Whether you pet a dog or sweet talk him, you always seem to get a positive reaction, but Discover reported on Wednesday, Sept. 3, that a new study shows it isn’t quite the same to our pet friends. In fact, they prefer petting.

Conducted by researchers at the University of Florida, the study compared whether dogs preferred petting or vocal praise, and if it mattered if their owner or a stranger gave it to them. There were two parts of the study: experiment one used “concurrent choice to evaluate dogs' preference for petting or vocal praise and measured the initial choice, the time spent with each alternative, and the number of within-session alternations.”

The groups that were tested included shelter dogs, owned dogs with strangers doing the interacting and owned dogs with their owners doing the interacting. All dogs across the board preferred petting to vocal praise. It didn’t even matter if it were a stranger doing the petting, or their owners. Dogs simply just love being pet.

In the second experiment researchers compared the time the dogs spent with each interaction when only one alternative was given. Shelter dogs were paired with strangers and owned dogs were paired with their owners. The interaction options included petting and vocal praise, vocal praise and no interaction, or only petting.

In both groups, dogs chose to spend more time in the petting interactions. The results showed that, “Vocal praise produced as little proximity-seeking behavior as did no interaction. Additionally, dogs did not show any sign of satiation with petting across all eight sessions. Overall, petting seems to be an important interaction between dogs and humans that might maintain inter-specific social behavior but vocal praise likely has to be specifically conditioned.”

Petting your dog is not only great for the dog, but also to your health. WebMD shared that among the many benefits of owning a pet, petting your dog (or cat) can help lower blood pressure in children with hypertension and create a calming effect for those suffering from depression.

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