Are Dogs Ticklish?
December 16, 2022 | 3 min read
Updated December 16, 2022
By Sarah Milton
Published: December 18, 2022
Updated: May 11, 2023
Summary: Can dogs be ticklish? Do they even experience that ticklish feeling the same way humans do? Learn about whether a dog can be ticklish here...
We know our doggos love a belly rub or two from us, but have you ever noticed your dog twitch or kick their leg repetitively when you pet them in a certain spot? Does this mean that they’re ticklish...?
Can Dogs Be Ticklish?
Yes, dogs can be ticklish - the technical name is “gargalesis”. Alongside humans, rats and other primates share this response to certain touches too!
Can Dogs Get Ticklish On Their Paws?
Yes, and they can be ticklish anywhere on their body (like humans!) but the most common areas are their neck, ears, under their armpits, their back, and their tail. Like humans, every dog’s ticklish spot (if they have one!) will vary from animal to animal.
However, just because your dog reacts to a certain area, this doesn’t directly mean they’re definitely ticklish in that spot – that area may just be sensitive and induce a scratch reflex which is completely involuntary. When this happens, it means the touch is essentially tricking the nerves to tell the brain the skin is irritated and the brain tries to get the limb to kick the “irritant” away. It can actually be very tricky to differentiate between the two responses.
If your dog reacts to a pet by twitching but then lean into it, wags their tail and opens their mouth, and pants, this is more indicative of a positive tickle response in canines. This indicates they’re enjoying themselves!
Dogs experience ticklishness for the same reason humans do. When we receive a ticklish touch, our body reacts because our nerves tell us to do it! Some even argue that the tickle response is a defense mechanism as people are often ticklish on sensitive areas of their bodies. But we’ll never truly know why dogs are ticklish and even whether they truly are...
If you’re petting your dog and they twitch and walk away, hold or wag their tail low or between their legs and/or pin their ears back, this indicates they didn’t enjoy the pet and you should stop petting them in that place. If they growl or snarl at you, stop your interaction immediately – they are not having fun at all and want to be left alone.
If you have only just discovered your dog’s ticklish spot after several months or years of ownership, then this might actually mean there’s a health issue going on. If they’ve never displayed being ticklish before, their skin may actually be irritated and it might be worth checking the spot out for signs of a problem and asking your vet to give them a once over.
Author Miller, Andrew MRCVS “Are Dogs Ticklish?” Pure Pet Food, Feb 24. 2021 https://www.purepetfood.com/blog/are-dogs-ticklish
Comes from a family of animal lovers and got to grow up with a menagerie of pets! I believe owning a pet is a privilege and I love researching and creating informative, fun content for fellow pet owners to help their furry friends have the happiest and healthiest lives. When I’m not writing blogs, you can find me sharing a walk with my pet dachshund or at a yoga class!