Making friends with humans was a smart evolutionary move by dogs. We’ve kept them by our side, learning from and caring for each other. And now they’re coming with us to the virtual realm, too.

Dogs in video games make sense. A pixelated pup offers companionship through this often-solitary pastime. They offer humor when things get tough. A virtual dog is a shortcut to emotional investment in an otherwise alien digital play park.

So why do games developers insist on making their virtual dogs unpettable? Are they afraid we’ll be too busy mashing the ‘tummy rub’ button on the joypad to fulfill our primary mission?

Here at Protect My Paws, we are big fans of Can You Pet the Dog?, a Twitter account that catalogs which video game dogs you can and can’t pet in-game. We analyzed their data to create an instant guide to the pettable pooches of each major games platform – and the dogs that gamers want to pet the most.

These Are the Most Pettable Dogs in Video Games

First, we counted up the number of ‘likes’ for tweets about each video game dog. The most enthusiastic response was for Polterpup from Luigi’s Mansion 3, which got 124,000 likes. As his name suggests, Polterpup is a ghost dog – but still, you get to see Luigi patting and hugging him, and you can do the deed yourself early on in the game. Best spooky boi, indeed, as one follower replied.

Cutting right to the heart of what people want, Studio Cacti’s Dog Petting Simulator does just what it says on the (dog food) can. Upwards of 77,000 people clicked ❤️ on the announcement that the game’s fleet of polygonal pups is designed specifically for rubs and tickles. The happy recipients of your affection include “Eddie, the energetic and playful Parson Jack Russell, Momo, the sweet and sleepy Shiba Inu, and Ben, an older, yet just as loveable hound.”

But You Can’t Pet These Video Game Dogs

“I was frustrated that [The Division 2] purposely put dogs in a poor situation, meant to evoke empathy from the player, but there was no way to comfort or care for these hungry, frightened creatures,” Can You Pet the Dog?’s author told The Guardian. This notion comes at a moment when developers are wondering why video games near-exclusively tap into the ‘fight or flight’ instinct rather than our impulse to ‘tend and befriend.’

And what are the hideous, blade-wielding hell-hounds of Bloodborne in need of more than a little ‘tend and befriend’? Sadly, for now the only way to interact with these dungeon-dwellers is to use the blunt end of your gun or distract them with ‘Pungent Blood.’ Still, more than 45,000 Twitter users reckon they could tame this beast, the most pettable video game dog that you can’t yet pet.

The Most Pettable Dog on Each Video Game Platform

They say your choice of dog says a lot about you. Well, so does your choice of console. Might the two overlap? Scroll on to find out!

PC: Dog Petting Simulator is the Most Popular Dog Petting Simulator

One’s PC is not primarily a machine for gaming: today, it is primarily a machine for petting. Dog Petting Simulator is the most anticipated dog-petting experience for the PC. Although to get a convincing slurp in return, try second choice Far Cry 6 (you can also pet the crocodile).

The gentlefolk of the PC fandom have another pure petting experience available via Pet the Pup at the Party. You have to do a bit more work for the payoff in this one (it looks like a dog-oriented spin on the original Leisure Suit Larry), but if you can find the dog, you can pet it. And you win.

Playstation: Adrenaline and Chill for Far Cry 6 Players and Their Dogs

Far Cry 6 is the top choice for Playstation gamers wanting a snuzzle. And who wouldn’t benefit from some puppy love while immersed in the “adrenaline-filled world of a modern-day guerrilla revolution”? Far Cry 6 is out in October, but gamers are already salivating over the prospect of being salivated over by Chorizo, a paraplegic, wheelchair-toting dachshund.

The developers of The Last of Us Part II were happy to make the TLOU2 dog pettable. And they love dog-petting a dog so much that they recorded the sound designer petting his own beloved dog Ollie… and used it as the sound effect for petting the giraffe in TLOU2. Who you can also pet.

Nintendo Switch: Monster Hunter’s Palamute is 2nd Most Popular Doggo

Polterpup takes ‘Best in Show’ on the Switch. Special mention goes to the 2D sandbox game Terraria, which makes the top 10 for Nintendo. The 8-bit-style cutie who becomes ‘town dog’ in Terraria is chosen at random from six breeds: husky (pictured), Labrador, pitbull, beagle, corgi, and Dalmation. You can talk to the dog, and petting it unlocks the achievement: Feeling Petty.

The Palamute dog was a new addition to the Monster Hunter franchise in Rise. You can pet them and teach them tricks. The Palamute makes a solid canine alternative to the cat-like Palico, but you have the option to take one of each on your adventure. “Or you can decide to take two Palamutes with you because you’re a dog person,” suggests Rise’s director, Yasunori Ichinose.

X-Box: Pet, Clothe, and Arm the Dog in Overland

Chorizo the Far Cry sausage-dog is the most popular pup to pet on the Xbox. And number two? “You can pet the dog and then give them a hat and a knife in Overland,” reports Can You Pet the Dog?. Dogs can also “roll in dead critters” (just like real naughty dogs!). Perhaps it’s a way of winning back some cynophile love, given that Overland is reputedly “the first video game ever made where players actually choose to sacrifice the dog.”

And a final mention to Enter the Gungeon, who apparently added dog petting functionality to their shooty RPG as a result of a tweet from Can You Pet The Dog?. A worthy collision of people power and puppy power.

Down, Boy

Dogs are particularly suited to the video game life. In a video game, the dog is reduced to its essence. That’s why some of the most pleasing video game dogs are the cute 8-bit style ones: the added retro-cuteness makes up for the loss in tactility.

There’s something pleasingly absurd about the coded neatness of video game dogs – so proper and finite, without the emotional and olfactory mess that we know and love of IRL dogs. Plus, of course, unless you choose a particularly niche game, you don’t have to pick up the poop.

METHODOLOGY

All data on dogs featured in video games and whether or not you can pet them was collated from the Can You Pet The Dog? Twitter account and their game reviews on Steam, which were later cross-referenced with the tweets.

A total of 463 tweets mentioning dogs and in video games were analyzed, recording the number of likes for each tweet using Twitter API. Platform availability of each game was looked up on IGDB. Only games and dogs with the highest number of likes for tweets about them are featured in the visuals.

Data collected in June 2021.