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The Short Tail of the Rump Scratch
Why so many dogs love being rubbed on the rear
Can you help a pup out? We can reach itchy spots they can't.

I’m half-asleep. I can hear the “tip-tap” sound of Daisy’s nails on the wood floor. I open my eyes just a millimeter, and see Daisy’s face right in front of mine. Her chin is resting on the edge of the bed, and her expectant face moves gently from side to side with the movement of her wagging tail. It’s time to wake up and eat and walk—the best time of the day!

I reach out to pet her cute head and, suddenly, there it is: The Rump. Or, more precisely, Daisy’s luxurious, wagging tail and poised hindquarters. Right in my face. She cranes her head around to look at me, as if to say, “Well?”

Like many dogs, Daisy loves a good, solid rubbing on her rear. She loves it as much as tummy rubs—sometimes maybe more. What is it about that area that drives dogs mad with pleasure?

According to Dr. Bonnie Beaver, professor of veterinary medicine at Texas A&M University, the answer is very simple.

“The reason most dogs like their rears scratched is because that is a very hard area for them to reach themselves,” Beaver says. “Think about the hardest place you have to reach in the middle of your back, and how nice it is if someone will scratch that for you.”

This explains the pleading eyes and subsequent looks of rapture.

Keep an eye out, though, for signs that your pup’s posterior-petting obsession isn’t just a good time. Beaver says to look for excessive scratching, a bad odor, or bald spots.

Rear-rubs aren’t universally loved, either. Some dogs are not especially pleased by a rump-scratch, and move away, growl or snap when a well-meaning human touches their hips too directly.

“A few dogs are just not into being touched in many places and don’t appreciate the help,” Beaver says.

However, if your dog is one of the rump-scratch lovers, remember that you’re doing them a big favor—even though sometimes you’d prefer to stick with a nice ear scratch or chin rub. They’d return that favor if they could.

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Kathleen St. John is a freelance writer for target The Denver Post and The Onion's A.V. Club, and a lifelong dog lover. She lives in Denver, Colo., with her husband, John, and her dog, Daisy, who's a mix of just about everything. avclub.com

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