Hugging your dogWhile you might love wrapping your arms around a furry canine friend, most dogs hate hugs. We as primates think hugs are awesome and express support, love, joy and other emotions through hugs. It’s totally normal to us to wrap our arms around something and squeeze, and it only means good things. But dogs did not evolve this way. Canids don’t have arms and they don’t hug. Rather than camaraderie, if a dog places a foreleg or paw on the back of another dog, this is considered an act of dominance. No matter your intentions with hugging, a dog is hardwired to view the act of hugging as you exerting your dominance. Many dogs will tolerate it with grace — the smiling face of the family golden retriever with a child’s arms wrapped around it comes to mind. But some dogs will feel threatened, fearful, or just flat out loathe the feeling — and in fact, a child grabbing a dog for a hug is why many dog bites occur. Also, the same dog that enjoys one person’s hug might react entirely differently with another family member who tries the same thing. You’d be hard-pressed to find a dog that actually enjoys or seeks out hugs.
To build further on the point above, as it was the most unpopular comment in the article; do Dogs like hugs? Dogs are social animals, they operate in packs. They enjoy each other’s body warmth, however they definitely don’t give and receive hugs in the same way that we do, as they are wired differently. Dogs think differently to humans, so our affection and hugs can be intimidating or dominant to them. Depending on the personality of your dog, you could get a number of different reactions, so here is how to be affection with your dog in a way that is NOT worrying for them.
- Never try to hug a dog that you do not know.
- Never let anyone that your dog doesn’t know, hug it.
- Never hug your dog while it is trying to clamber on to you. If it is trying to climb on you it is either feeling stressed, or seeking attention in it’s own terms. Either way, if you hug it, you are confirming it’s thoughts, i.e. “yes you are right to feel stressed” or “yes you are going to get attention whenever you demand it” which then leads to stress!
- Only offer affection when your dog is already in a relaxed state; e.g. lying down, eyes closed.
- The affection is only ever given via invitation – call your dog over, rather than going into their personal space.
- When they come over, smile warmly. Greet gently, with praise.
- Keep it brief; don’t hold them to you if they are trying to move away.
Always always remember that dogs think different to humans. This is the number one problem when it comes to dog behaviour. We treat them like humans, but they don’t respond in the same way a human does. If you want to read more on how dogs DO think, then I can recommend “the Dog Listener” by Jan Fennell, which is available in my shop.
If you would like some help and support with your own dog, please call me or email me to discuss your dog’s problem and we can see whether a 1-2-1 consultation would be right for you.