Do Dogs Enjoy Hugs?

The Big Squeeze on Hugging Your Dog

Raise a paw if you hug your dog! We have our paws raised but according to studies, we may need to rethink how our hugs are being perceived. Read why below.

It is human nature - we hug the ones we love to show affection, comfort, and joy so why not hug our dogs? But, do our dogs enjoy the embraces we give them, or are we misinterpreting their signals? Are they just tolerating it – or, worse yet, is it having the opposite effect? 

According to experts in animal behavior, the answer is more complex than a simple yes or no. Here is what recent research tells us about hugs from a dog's perspective:

  • Lost in Translation: Dogs communicate primarily through body language and scent. Studies suggest that dogs may struggle to understand the human act of hugging. While we might see it as loving, a dog might perceive the embrace as restricting or even dominant behavior.
  • Personal Space: Our canine companions come in all shapes and sizes, and their tolerance for hugs varies greatly (like people – some like hugs, others not so much). An article from 2023 by the American Kennel Club highlights that some dog breeds may be more comfortable with cuddles than others. Always pay attention to your dog's cues.
  • Stress Signals: Watch out for signs of discomfort when hugging your dog. Yawning, licking their lips, flattened ears, averted gaze, or half-moon eyes (seeing a bit of white in the corners) might indicate your pup is stressed. In a study by Stanley Coren for Psychology Today, Coren analyzed 250 images from Flickr of people hugging dogs, looking for signs of stress. Of the 250 images, Coren found that 81.6% percent of dogs showed at least one sign of stress in the photos, compared to 7.6% who looked comfortable getting hugged, and 10.8% who showed no reaction.

So, how do we show our love for our dogs? Luckily, there are plenty of alternatives to a hug:

  • Belly rubs and ear scratches: Many dogs adore petting and gentle touch. Focus on areas they enjoy most, like the chest or behind the ears - it's positive enforcement and a great way to connect with them.
  • Playtime: Engaging in games like fetch or taking a long hike with your dog is a fantastic way to bond and expend energy.
  • Quality cuddle time: Relaxing near your dog and allowing them to choose how close they want to be is a great way to show affection.

In an ideal world, we would want our dogs to hug us! Then we would know they loved us as much we love them, but we need to understand our dogs - and their communication style is key to building a strong and loving bond with us.

While a hug might be our way of showing affection for humans, there are plenty of other ways to make your dog feel cherished and loved.  Did someone just say "COOKIE!"?

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published