Most canines don't enjoy the typical human pat on the head, but rather prefer to have their chests rubbed or their chins tickled. A quick search on the Internet will reveal countless photos of dogs displaying stressed body language while being patted on the head. Signs of discomfort may include bending down, lowering their head, moving away, putting their ears back, licking their lips, or a whale's eye (showing the whites of their eyes). In some cases, the dog perceives the pat on the head as something aversive and not as something rewarding (Farricelli, 201).
If your pup doesn't like being stroked on the head, try petting them somewhere else such as on the side of the neck or chest (Gormly). Instead of initiating contact first, you should always let your dog make the first move. Avoid reaching out to or over your dog to pet them, and don't hug or otherwise restrain them (Becker). While at home, practice touching your dog's head so that you can trust strangers to follow your instructions to pet them gently instead of patting them roughly. It is important to remember that not all dogs are comfortable with being petted on the head.
Some may find it uncomfortable or even frightening. If you notice any signs of distress in your pup when you pet them on the head, it is best to stop and try petting them somewhere else. Additionally, it is important to be aware of your dog's body language and respect their boundaries. If they move away from you when you reach out to pet them, it is best to let them be. If you want to show your pup some affection, there are plenty of other ways to do so.
You can give them treats, play with them, or simply spend time with them. All these activities will help strengthen your bond with your pup and make them feel loved and appreciated.