Are Dogs Ticklish? Know The Tickle Spot [Updated 2022]

In short: yes! When touched a certain way in certain areas, dogs will experience what we would call tickling. It’s a type of touch sensitivity that makes them wiggle, and if you listen closely, you might hear your dog’s version of laughter—a sharp exhalation that they use during play. Tickling also usually triggers involuntary muscle movement, which is why leg kicking. Both Dogs and cats are Ticklish.

As you can see, tickling in dogs is amazingly similar to how we experience tickling. Dogs and humans aren’t the only ones capable of being tickled. In research environments, rats and great apes have been known to be ticklish, and there’s anecdotal evidence that many more species, from owls to meerkats, may also experience tickling.

What are the common doggy tickle spots?

Are dogs ticklish

The belly is a favorite location for a good tickle, just as it is for humans. The only way to tell whether you’ve discovered it is to look at it. The chest, directly between the front legs, the belly, and the rear legs towards the tail’s base are possible locations. Until you get a favorable reaction, like a smile and tapping the foot, keep scratching. Dog Kicks Their Hind Leg When You Rub Their Belly. 

“Scratch reflex” is the name given to a reflexive reaction to an irritant, such as an insect. Nerves in the dermis, which are related to the spinal cord, are stimulated by scratching, causing the muscles to contract.

Veterinarians use this method to identify neurological problems. Nerve injury or neurological trauma may cause a lack of muscular activity when encouraged.

What Does it Mean to be Ticklish?

To answer whether or not dogs are ticklish, we have to consider what happens to the brain and body when tackling occurs. First, let’s rule out the act of mimicking a ticklish reaction. What we’re referencing here is a verbal reaction to touch that involves laughing and contracting the body even though the touch doesn’t, in fact, tickle. We see little kids do this often, and it’s a form of game-play that, like real tickling, facilitates bonding!

However, what we’ll call “true” tickling requires an involuntary reaction to touch. There are two types of ticklish feelings, and they’re known as gargalesis and knismesis.


Gargalesis is the kind of tickling that usually results in laughter. It has to be induced by another person and stems from the moderate pressure applied over and over to a sensitive area.

Gargalesis is the sort of tickling associated with social bonding. However, it stands to reason that when executed purposefully and pleasurably, knismesis can also facilitate social bonding!


Knismesis doesn’t often result in laughter but instead creates a sensation of itchiness. This may not sound pleasurable, but it often is! Knismesis is often brought on by a light touch and movement across the skin.

When knismesis occurs, what you’re experiencing is neurological stimulation. The sensation created by touch creates a nerve impulse sent to the spinal cord.

This can cause shuddering either on the area being touched or up the spine. Think of the feeling you’re describing when you say, “That gave me chills!”

The Pleasure Factor

If you’re not happy with the scientific explanations for tickling, you could go with a looser definition! If social tickling elicits laughter and even joy, perhaps you could consider tackling any touch that elicits similar reactions.

For example, think of times when someone has scratched your back or stroked your hair. This sort of touch may not make us laugh, but it does feel pleasant! To some extent, this kind of touch could fall into the category of knismesis, although it is not always light.

Benefits of Tickling Your Dog

As dog owners, we do our best to maintain our dog’s physical wellbeing. We buy them healthy food, get them checked up regularly, and keep them active. If tickling can boost moods and make social bonding easier, we should consider ticking a major part of mental and emotional wellbeing.

We often assume that all dogs love human touch, but we must remember that some pups have been through unpleasant experiences. They may need some extra help in this department! If we consider a ticklish dog who feels and shows pleasure upon being touched, there are several reasons to practice this with your dog!

If your dog struggles with fear, anxiety, or aggression, practicing tickling may help them become more comfortable with a human touch. Not only will this improve your relationship with them, but it will make it easier for vets, groomers, and pet sitters to interact safely and comfortably with them.

Where Are Dogs Ticklish?

You might have wondered whether dogs are ticklish anywhere in paw-ticular, like how some people only seem to have ticklish feet. The spots where your dog is ticklish are similar to common human ticklish spots. If you want to know where a dog’s ticklish spot is, there are a few places to try that are almost certainly going to be sensitive and touchy.

Paws-ible places where your dog is ticklish are:

  • Ears
  • Paws
  • Neck
  • Armpits
  • Their back (Especially above their tail!)

Why do dogs kick their leg when you scratch them?

The nerves in your dog are being stimulated, which is why he kicks. These posterior leg muscles contract involuntarily when they signal from neurons under their skin linked to the spinal cord. As a rule of thumb, the leg that moves is usually on the side of the body that is scratched.

Some claim that a scratch might cause your dog to assume that a certain location is itchy, resulting in their scratching it. Because your dog may assume it has a flea crawling through its coat, this may be the case.

Now that we know the truth, here are some tickling do’s and don’ts.

As we mentioned, there are a few scenarios in which your doggo might not be up for a tickle session. And, one way to turn your dog off to the whole experience is by petting them the wrong way. Of course, every dog is different, but here are a few general rules to make sure your pup loves their tickle time:

Don’t tickle too roughly. Your dog can’t tell you when your tickles go from pleasant to painful, so it’s always important to err on the gentler side.

Look at their body language. Is your pup giving you the happy signals, like tail-wagging and tongue-lolling? Or, is their body language more reserved or relaxed? Take these cues to know whether your dog is open to engaging with you at that moment.

Know the difference between a ticklish dog and an itchy dog. If your pupper seems to be ticklish at the slightest touch, it could be a sign that they’re suffering from allergies or a skin condition. Make sure to take your pup to the vet if they seem to be constantly itchy.

How to tickle a dog

Tickling a dog isn’t difficult to master once you get the hang of it. However, not all dogs react the same way to being tickled as do people. And a pleasurable tickling may turn into an annoyance in a matter of seconds. When their tolerance is wearing thin, our pets can’t warn us with words. Our job is to keep an eye out for signs that they’ve had enough of being tickled.

You can tell whether they’re annoyed if they flinch or pull away from you during the tickling or shake their head afterward. When your dog shows signs of boredom, it’s time to end the session and give them some space.

Are dogs ticklish? The final answer is yes!

Some dogs enjoy tickling, others prefer a nice head pat, and just about every dog loves the attention they get from their beloved humans.

Now that you know the basics of doggy ticklishness, how tickling can be a bonding experience and the right way to tickle, you can see whether your pup wants to join in the fun. We can’t wait to hear about your answers to the question, “Are dogs ticklish?”

Leave a Comment