Is It OK to Hug Your Dog?

Is It OK to Hug Your Dog?

Our pets provide us with a lot of things, including love, companionship, amusement, and affection. We want our pets to understand how much we love them, and we are frequently overcome by the desire to show them. We buy them toys, feed them delicious snacks (and share our meals), take them on outings, and shower them with pets. Hugs are part of some dog parents' physical gestures.

"Hugging a friend or loved one is a way of expressing our affection for them. We feel supported when we receive hugs. There are some people who dislike hugs, yet hugging is a common human activity. I believe we embrace dogs because we love them and want to show it "KPA-CTP, ACDBC, and MS candidate in Applied Behavior Analysis Lauren Novack adds.

Even though your dog loves you, it's possible that hugs aren't your dog's (or your neighbor's) thing. It makes all the difference when (and how) you hug your dog.

What About the Love Hormone?

It is generally recognized in the field of developmental psychology that people hugging other humans, such as a mother hugging her infant, increases the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin has been dubbed the "love hormone" and the "social bond" hormone because it is linked to human feelings of love and commitment. According to studies, when a dog and a human interact positively, both of their oxytocin levels rise.

However, studies show that while engaging with a favorite human might enhance oxytocin levels, receiving a hug (which your dog may mistake for a restraint) from that same person can trigger dread, stress, and tonic immobility in dogs. And when a dog is fearful or stressed, they are more inclined to bite.

To Hug or Not To Hug

Understanding what we mean when we say "hug," as we do with each other, is the first step in answering the subject of hugging. In her blog The Other End of the Leash, Patricia McConnel, PhD, and professor emeritus, says, "Yes, your dog may leap into your lap and kiss your face, cuddle against your neck, and urge you to stroke her tummy." "That, however, is not 'hugging.' Many dogs, in my experience, dislike it when a human wraps one or two arms around their shoulders and squeezes them. That is the hug we are referring to."

While some dogs are specifically trained to like hugs (such as therapy dogs), most canines dislike having human arms around their upper bodies. This could be related to dogs' natural instincts to fight, fret, escape, or freeze when frightened. It could possibly be because paws and jaws placed around the neck evoke diverse, complex behavioral reactions depending on the situation in dog-dog communication. It could also be due to a dog's genetic history, social history, prior learning experiences, and current environment.

"Do some dogs enjoy receiving hugs? Maybe, but they're an outlier "Novack explains. "When dogs don't like something and respectfully request space repeatedly, they're likely to escalate their message to snarling or biting. I don't want stressed dogs, nor do I want humans to get bitten. Hugs are stressful for most dogs."

What to Do (and Don’t Do) Instead

Never hug an unfamiliar dog.

The majority of the time, dogs do not appreciate embraces from strangers. A dog, like you, would think it unacceptable if a stranger surprised you with a hug.

Avoid hugging your dog when there's a lot going on.

Loud noises, crowds, and lots of moving stimuli nearby create scenarios unsuitable for hugging a dog, no matter if the dog is your fur baby or not.

Never encourage a child to hug a dog.

While it's adorable to see dogs and children interact, those photo-worthy moments of your youngster holding your dog are really dangerous (don't do it!). Even the family dog should be kept under constant supervision. Children are statistically more likely to be bitten, and this frequently occurs as a result of a child cuddling a dog. Doggonesafe is an excellent resource for teaching youngsters how to interact with dogs properly and avoid bites. "Teaching youngsters to ask permission before engaging with a dog and to pet dogs with one hand instead of hugging them is extremely crucial," Novack explains.

Never approach a dog from behind.

Dogs don't like to be surprised, and being approached and touched from behind can cause a dog to become fearful and reactive.

Always pay close attention to body language.

Keep a close eye on your dog's body language. Fear and tension have subtle indicators. Pay attention to them. These are all signs that the dog isn't having fun with the interaction. "So many conflicts between our species are caused by humans misinterpreting what dogs are trying to say. It's all in their facial expressions. Backing up, walking away, turning their head, licking their lips, and giving you a few licks before walking away are all indicators that they are uncomfortable and are requesting that you stop "Novack explains. Learn more about identifying and understanding canine body language at iSpeakDog.

Wait and ask for permission.

When they desire our attention, dogs prefer to approach us. Wait for your dog to approach you and ask for pets on their own. Then, pause between pets is a good idea. Pet for a few moments before stopping. During those intervals, a dog who wants more attention will remain by your side. Be aware of and respectful of your own dog's preferences.

When in Doubt, Show Them Love in Other Ways

Some dogs are simply not fond of being hugged. That's OK! Every dog has varied needs, including the need for affection, which a decent dog owner would realize.

Instead of embracing your dog (or any dog), express affection by giving them goodies and toys, playing with them, taking them on pleasant walks and hikes, speaking to them in a gentle, happy tone of voice, and touching them if they like it.

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