Things We Do to Our Pets That They Don’t Like

Because our pets are such an important part of the family, sometimes we tend to forget they’re not human. While we may think they enjoy some of the things we do with them—and to them—the truth of the matter is that they don’t appreciate many of the situations we put them in.

For example, have you ever dressed up your pet? Maybe as a child this was part of your playtime. Or perhaps you thought it would be fun for your pet to participate in holiday festivities along with the family. But putting clothes on dogs—and especially cats—can result in discomfort, stress, and even injury.

When it comes to putting clothing on a dog, I can think of only a few occasions when it would be acceptable, and only for a short period of time:

  • Comfort: Nervous dogs may respond well to wearing a ThunderShirt or a tight-fitting sweater or doggy t-shirt. These target various pressure points, creating a sensation similar to swaddling a baby.
  • Protection: Wearing an oversized t-shirt can help protect dogs with post-surgery incisions or skin conditions such as allergies and itching.
  • Warmth: Dogs with thin coats and very little body fat may be more comfortable wearing a jacket or sweater when going outside for a potty break or walk.
  • Picture time: If you are going to put your dog in a holiday outfit, make sure it’s comfortable and safe to wear. And be prompt—chances are high that your pet is not having as much fun as you think.

Showing your dog affection can be misunderstood too. While it’s only natural for us to want to cuddle our furry loved ones, most dogs don’t like hugs. Have you ever noticed how some dogs will get super stiff or become motionless when being hugged? This is a good sign that they’re not enjoying this form of affection. However, that’s not to say that dogs don’t love receiving affection from their owners. Some dogs absolutely adore cuddles, but most prefer a belly rub, back scratch, or squeeze. And don’t forget the ears. Dogs literally get high off ear rubs because their ears are loaded with nerve endings. Rubbing their ears sends signals to the brain that helps dogs relax and also increases their production of endorphins, the feel-good hormone.

Another thing that dogs really don’t like? Strong fragrances. When I was a little girl, I remember thinking that my dog’s groomer smelled so good. Well, at least I thought she did, but my dog would sneeze for hours after getting home. This is one reason you should never use human products on your pet. Directly applying some shampoos or sprays can cause skin reactions, nausea and lethargy, or even airway irritation. Simply bathing your pet regularly can help decrease the “dirty dog” smell. Forcing our dogs to play with other dogs can be another mistake that leads to undesirable consequences. Just because you venture out to the dog park or go for an evening stroll with your pet doesn’t mean they have any interest in meeting a new friend. Not all dogs are social or find playtime with other dogs fun and exciting. It’s important to observe the body language of each individual dog. If they want to play with each other, you’ll notice certain body language. A play bow is a clear signal between your dog and whoever (or whatever) they want to play with. Make sure their tails are wagging and both dogs are engaged to have some fun.

Let’s focus on what we know our pets enjoy—playing ball, tummy rubs, and healthy treats. Let’s avoid the temptation of treating our pets as we would like to be treated. Remember, they prefer being treated like a dog or cat!

Images from iStock/Firn (main), smileitsmccheeze(post). 

Tracie Hoffman, VT

Tracie Hoffman is a veterinary technician with over 20 years of experience. She is able to use her knowledge of conventional veterinary approaches and her expertise in whole food nutrition to create better options for doctors and their staff. Although she is most present with Colorado Standard Process West clients, Tracie offers assistance via phone and email throughout the region. She hosts lunch and learn programs, reviews cases, provides protocols and assists clinics with start-up, client education and advertising. She has also developed a number of complementary veterinary reference aides, available from SPW. If you would like to contact Tracie, please email her at

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