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Pet Bucket Blog

Dogs Don't Like Hugs

 by jaime on 28 Jan 2015 |
4 Comment(s)
It's an early learned behaviour of children to give hugs to parents, siblings, friends and even their favourite toys as a way to show love and affection. As such, we equally search for ways to show our four-legged friends how much we love them, but seemingly hugging should not be one of them. The truth is, dogs do not appreciate your warm hugs...but why?
Within the dog world, there is an abundance of behaviours shared between canine parties, including face smelling, rump smelling, tail wagging, licking, but importantly, there is never hugging. Dogs have particular methods of greeting, none of which involve having a foreleg over the shoulder of each other. In actuality, the closest approximation dogs have to hugs as we know it actually means something other than friendship. Dogs standing over each other relates to some form of social status and competition for resources, so hugs are considered a form of power manipulation and control.
Despite hugs being associated with play and not necessarily something aggressive, a hug can be regarded by dog behaviourists as a very assertive, controlling behaviour. It follows suit that many owners and people are most commonly bitten in relation to the benign interactions such as petting, hugging or bending over the dog.
Dogs may manifest their dislike about being hugged in various ways, including subtle uneasiness by licking its lips or turning its head away. Some signs may be quite evident such as growling or seeking to escape. It is an innate response triggered by the dog's self defense system, where they automatically become alarmed and enter into their ''fight or flight mode'', forcing them to react aggressively by giving a warning growl or a straightforward bite because of the restraining nature of a hug.
The reason behind the inherent dislike of human hugging by our dogs lies in the idea that humans and primates appreciate ventral to ventral or chest to chest contact, sub-consciously associated with feelings of pleasure gained through nursing. Dogs do not have this sort of positive association so therefore do not by nature appreciate this form of contact. We wrap our arms around another's shoulders as a sign of affection but in the dog world, a leg over the shoulder is a sign of dominance or assertiveness. Therefore, when we try to hug a new or unknown dog, it is understandable that they may misinterpret that gesture as threatening and will either run away, submit, or return the challenge.

Have you noticed this reaction in your dog?

Feature image credit


Hershey - Comment
Hershey29 Jan 2015Reply
Yes, our 7yr-old Chocolate Lab (Hershey) does exactly this. We've always thought that maybe it was because he felt a banded from his early family, and now we know.

We will certainly approach Hershey with different styles of love other than hugging. You should do a follow-up on the best techniques used to express love for our dogs.

We deeply love our dog, Hershey. Thank you very much for the great advice...WOOF!
Lemons - Comment
Lemons29 Jan 2015Reply
This is not always the case. Our dog Tori hugs my husband. She gets up on his lap, puts her paws around his neck and lays her head on his shoulder. Then she gives him kisses and lays down to watch tv. She is not being dominant at all. She has watched me do it and she liked what she saw so she does it too.

Just like Bonnie watched Animal Planet one day and saw a show on water Buffaloes and now he paws the dirt and charges when he plays.

Some dogs do like to be hugged by anyone, some are only wanting that affection from their own people and there are some dogs who just do not want that kind of closeness. There are people like that too. Do not like to be crowded. It's normal.

Always get to know your dog. If it does not like hugs let people know it prefers it's space. Knowing your dog is over half the battle.

I have been to homes that I know more about their dog in 5 minutes then they know from having it for years.
Candy - Comment
Candy29 Jan 2015Reply
My dog puts his paws on my shoulders knowing I will hug him. However one of my smaller dogs hates be hugged. I think this depends on the dogs personality.
Peter - Comment
Peter29 Jan 2015Reply
Our dog, Tex has such a great disposition and enjoys all contact with us. He will lie on my stomach with paws outstretched and be in bliss mode as you pat him. Never growled in the two years we have had him. Don't really think your assertion has much validity with dogs I have owned. Don't doubt it but haven't experienced it.

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