Dogs Don’t Like to Be Hugged? Seriously?
28 April, 2016
a loving and candid portrait of a happy woman hugging her large German Shepherd dog.

Most dog owners love to hug their beloved pooches.  And, of course, we think they love it too!  Well, according to “Psychology Today”, Stanley Coren of canine studies at University of British Columbia has found that while dogs like most human contact, hugging gives them some serious stress.   What’s the rub?

The study says most dogs turn their heads when being hugged

While this news will come as a shock to many dog owners, Coren says the clues have always been there in canine body language. Dogs often turn their heads away from whatever is giving them anxiety, sometimes closing their eyes, which is a behavior you can often see in pooches being hugged. Pups also show the whites of their eyes and lower their ears to the sides of their heads when they start feeling stressed; two more cues that often pop up when dogs are being embraced.

In the study, 82 % of dogs showed stress when being hugged

In the Psychology Today piece, Coren describes a recent data collection exercise of his, in which he combed through Flickr and did a Google image search for terms like “hug dog” or “love dog,” and found 250 photos of people hugging their dogs. He and some colleagues then analyzed these photos by rating the dog’s body language, looking for those signs of dog-anxiety. Nearly 82 percent of the dogs in the selected photos showed at least one sign of stress. To reiterate: Dogs hate hugs.

Human-to- human hugs are different than human to dog hugs according to the study

An embrace between humans signals communication and warmth and intimacy, but dogs, of course, are not humans. Coren explains why the restriction of an embrace may annoy or frighten a dog.

The study also says dogs feel trapped when being hugged

Dogs are technically cursorial animals, which is a term that indicates that they are designed for swift running. That implies that in times of stress or threat the first line of defense that a dog uses is not his teeth, but rather his ability to run away,” Coren explains. “Behaviorists believe that depriving a dog of that course of action by immobilizing him with a hug can increase his stress level.”

Be careful when you hug a dog that isn’t yours

As always, be careful when approaching a new dog or one that you don’t know.  Maybe that dog will feel threatened when hugging him.  And, of course, small children should be very careful when hugging a dog as they sometimes don’t know how to handle them.

Should you stop hugging your dog?

My personal opinion or take-away from this study is that each dog is different.  Some dogs might love to be hugged while others just tolerate it.  Look for the signs to see if your dog is just, well, being nice to you and putting up with it.  Maybe your does look when you hug him because this is something that you enjoy but your dog doesn’t.  Only you, and your dog will know the real answer!

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