Should You Hug Your Dog?

    child and dog

    Does my dog like it when I hug  him?

    Dogs are designed for swift running. The first line of defense for a dog is to run not bite.  Animal Behaviorists believe that depriving a dog the ability to run by immobilizing him with a hug can increase his stress level and, if the dog's anxiety becomes significantly intense, he may bite.

    Dogs provide many signs of stress that an owner can see.  Do you know the signs?

     Signs Your Dog Does NOT Like Hugs:

    The dog's ears are lowered
    They have their eyes closed
    When the dogs head is turned
    They are licking their nose
    They are licking their lips
    They start licking your face
    They let out a big yawn

    These signs mean “step back a bit, I’m I little nervous”.  If he tries to gets up and walk away (or leaps away) when you lean in, it's safe to say he doesn't like them at all. If his ears drop immediately and he turns away, he does not enjoy it.  Try ear scratching, belly rubs and petting to show love.

    Another important thing to remember is that each dog is different. You may be sitting there saying, "My dogs love my hugs!" You may be right.  Some dogs might enjoy hugs from anyone. Some might enjoy hugs from their family only.

    Signs Your Dog Like Hugs?

    If your dog leans into you and snuggles up, it's safe to say he likes hugs just fine. If he is relaxed and his mouth is open and not licking, he probably doesn't mind the hug.

    Dr. Stanley Coren, a professor emeritus in psychology at the University of British Columbia, writes in a Psychology Today blog post that hugging a dog actually increases the dog's stress level.

    For his study, Coren looked at a random sampling of 250 pictures of people hugging dogs from Google Image Search and Flickr. "I can summarize the data quite simply by saying that the results indicated that the Internet contains many pictures of happy people hugging what appear to be unhappy dogs," Coren writes.

    Can You Teach Your Dog to Like Hugs?

    Yes.  Our furry family members love to learn, especially when a reward is involved, so it’s possible to use positive reinforcement to teach them that hugs are good and not a threat. Teaching a dog to tolerate hugs can be beneficial in situations when you may need to hold them still, like during a visit to the vet or groomer. Also, if you have small children around your home, it can be helpful to get your dog used to having arms around them. 

    Here’s what you can do to teach your dog that hugs aren’t so bad after all:

    • Sit beside your dog. Then, slowly and carefully wrap an arm around their back or shoulder.
    • Reward your dog with a treat when they show positive responses, like staying calm or leaning into you.
    • Continue wrapping your arm farther around them, or use both arms, and give them a treat each time you move in closer.
    • Eventually, the cycle of embracing and treat giving should help your dog associate hugs with something positive.

    It’s important to remember that some dogs may really like hugs from their human family, but not from new acquaintances. It’s the same way we like close physical contact from friends or family, but we might feel awkward or freaked out if a stranger gets too close to us. Watch out for warning signs that your dog is uneasy around strangers to prevent any mishaps.

    I've had many dogs in my life and some hated hugs, some enjoyed them and some tolerated it. I am just so happy the dog I have now loves hugs as much as I love hugging her.

    Related Articles:

    Do You Kiss Your Dog?

    Why Does My Dog Sleep with Her Tongue Out?

    Prevent Your Dog From Biting

    Why Does My Dog Sleep Between My Legs?

    Most Common Sleep Positions

    What does my dogs sounds mean?