Science Questions

Are animals (specifically dogs) ticklish?

Sun, 10th Apr 2011

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Brent asked:

Are animals (specifically dogs) ticklish? I would think they are?


I love your show, I listen to your podcast every week!!


Kat -   Sad news is, they're probably not.  Some people do say and certainly, I know this from my parentsí dogs, that if you scratch them in a particular spot like behind their ears or on their tummy, their back legs starts moving like crazy.  Sadly, this isnít actually tickling.  Itís actually a scratching reflex that they have that helps them to scratch away fleas.  So, the research that I've found at the moment suggests that they're not actually ticklish.  Sorry.

Chris -   Because horses do that too.  If you actually touch the horse on the wrong place when you're sort of doing up the saddle then touch their withers then they get terribly upset and they bite you or kick you.

Kat -   Yeah, itís a reflex.


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Brent asked the Naked Scientists: Are animals (specifically dogs) ticklish? I would think they are? I love your show, I listen to your podcast every week!! What do you think? Brent, Thu, 12th Feb 2009

I've just tried tickling our dog - there was a lot of sneezing and squirming and even a low growl but no evidence of the sort of response humans give. I am not ticklish. blakestyger, Thu, 12th Feb 2009

Where would they get tickled? Under their feet? Chemistry4me, Fri, 13th Feb 2009

My dog is thicklish. Especially under her feet, yes. But also at her ears and sometimes at her belly ;-) atrox, Mon, 23rd Mar 2009

This is worth a look.... rats laugh when you tickle them!

Variola, Mon, 23rd Mar 2009


Sounds like they're screaming: 'eeek let me go!'
Either that or I'm starting to imagine things. Chemistry4me, Mon, 23rd Mar 2009

Variola, Mon, 23rd Mar 2009

Yes indeed. Chemistry4me, Mon, 23rd Mar 2009

"...and when when we tested these animals to ask whether they were enjoying this activity the unambiguous answer was Yes."

Right - so they talk as well as laugh.
'Scientists' like this should be should be poked with a sharp stick until they talk sense. blakestyger, Mon, 23rd Mar 2009

I tried tickling my pet hyena & cucabura & they definitely laughed.
Others animals laugh too, check this outÖ alansm, Mon, 23rd Mar 2009

When I stroke my tortoises chin, they put their head right out to get the maximum stroke along the length of the soft skin of their neck, so I can only assume they like it. As for ticklish, have you ever tried to tickle a shell? Don_1, Mon, 23rd Mar 2009

Addressing the scratch response deflects from rather than answers the tickle question. Don't they teach rigorous research before drawing conclusions anymore? Anecdotal evidence time: I've a dog who, especially when in a heightened emotional state (ie, playful), responds to manual stimulation of his sides at approximately the armpit location by collapsing to the floor while vocalising and play-biting at my hands until I stop. This is the only situation I've found where he reacts that aggressively, usually being more inclined to paw lightly and sneak in a few licks. It's repeatably highly dependent on both heightened state and correct location of the tickles. So, what say you, Mr Scratch-Response-Equates-Mistaken-Tickling-Beliefs? passing through, Mon, 15th Jul 2013

While I can accept that it is a reflex, it doesnt explain when my dog keeps coming back for more? goldfish, Sun, 4th Aug 2013

use fun thanks Whisperline , Fri, 27th May 2016

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