Humans love hugging dogs. There is something about snuggling up against that warm fur that we really love. In fact surveys have shown that dog owners spend more time hugging their dogs than they do hugging their human companions. Because we love it we tend to assume that our dog feels the same. But does he really?
Dogs Are Not Children
In the dog world, one dog putting a leg over another dog is a way of showing dominance. Dogs show their feelings with their body language and if you carefully study a dog who is being hugged, you will see that he is exhibiting signs of stress. These signs include avoiding eye contact, his ears are laid back and often he will yawn.
Mothers hug their children and this experience is enjoyable for both of them. There is evidence that touching and hugging children is important for their emotional development. We have a habit of assuming dogs have the same feelings as us - they don't.
Ancestral dogs developed limbs for running fast. And it is this ability that is their first line of defence. In a dangerous situation, they would prefer flight to fight. Hugging takes this option away from them and their stress levels rise.
What Can We Do?
Not all dogs object to being hugged. You should check your dogs body language when you hug him to see if it is OK. A good way to do this is to get someone to take a photo as you are hugging your dog. The body language consists of a series of calming signals. Calming signals are used by dogs to communicate with each other, but dogs also use them with humans. Remember, all dogs are individuals and they all react differently.
Related Article: Calming Signals in Dogs
If your dog shows signs of stress, then you should give up hugging him. It is not fair to stress the dog for your own pleasure.
Dogs do enjoy physical signs of affection from their owners, But these should be confined to scratching and petting. Even if your dog tolerates hugs, it doesn’t mean he is enjoying them.
Children should be taught how to approach dogs safely. As part of this training, they should be taught not to hug dogs. A dog’s stress level can become intense enough that he will bite.
It is natural for kids to want to hug dogs. Kids hug everything and everyone– their toys, their siblings. Their parents and their friends.
The problem arises from a mismatch. We belong to a species which uses hugs to express our feelings and dogs don’t.
There are plenty of ways that we can show our affection for dogs. Just because our pet doesn’t like being hugged, it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t love us. He is just being a dog.