Do Dogs Know What Hugs Are?
Most everyone loves to snuggle, cuddle, and hug their dogs, but what do they make of it? Personally, I have two dogs who have very different opinions on the matter of hugging. One dog loves to be hugged, picked up, and is an excellent little spoon. The other goes into a panic if you even attempt to wrap your arm over him for a snuggle. So what do dogs think you’re trying to do when you want some hugs and affection?
Hugs Mean Something Very Different to a Dog Than to a Human
While a hug for humans signifies love, friendship, encouragement, and praise, for dogs it can mean something quite different, or even the opposite. Dogs have evolved with legs that are unable to embrace in the same ways we do. They simply do not hug each other. When sleeping, dogs may curl up with one another to stay warm and feel comforted, they may even do this with a human, but this is not the same thing as hugging, and when awake it is a very different story. If a dog places its paw on the back of another dog it is usually considered an act of dominance. Many dogs will panic or even get aggressive when this happens. When a human hugs a dog it can cause great fear and anxiety in the dog. Hugs make most dogs uncomfortable. In fact many dog bites occur from when a child tries to hug a dog from behind.
How Do I Know If My Dog Likes Hugs or Not?
The vast majority of dogs do not like to be hugged, so as a general rule of thumb, just don’t do it. However, if you are convinced that your dog does like to hug and you just want to be sure, there are some things to look out for in their body language to see if they are stressed out by your embrace. Does the dog lean their head away from you? Do they look off in the distance? This could mean that your dog feels trapped and wants to run away. Do they tense up and stiffen their bodies? Do they avoid eye contact? Do they lick their lips? Do they lean their ears back? This could mean they are simply being submissive but are still very nervous. So don’t be fooled. And of course, if the dog makes any type of exasperated sigh or a snarl of any kind, they might be just plain upset and angry.
What Else Can I Do to Show Affection to My Pooch If They Don’t Like to Be Hugged?
Don’t worry if your dog doesn’t like to be hugged, there are many ways to show they are loved. Dogs usually love a good pat on the head, a back or ear scratch, or some kind and encouraging words. Also, giving them a yummy treat here and there couldn’t hurt!
By Adam D.
Mother Nature Network: Why Dogs Don’t Like to Be Hugged
NPR.org: Let’s Not Hug It Out With Our Dogs
About the Author
Adam is a writer, director, and cartoonist who specializes in animal centric and children’s programming. He lives in Los Angeles with two goofy and loving dogs that really don’t like squirrels.