Hugging Dogs


Really? Well, that’s the headline…but you know us, we like to get behind the headlines.


Researchers studied 250 photographs of dogs being hugged and concluded that 80% of them showed signs of being unhappy which has lead to hysterical headlines in the papers, online, on TV and radio, yet every post we’ve seen has pet owners fighting back, “but my dog loves cuddles”!

Most dogs do enjoy physical contact with humans. Many come to us for stroking and tummy rubs, push their heads under our hands, and try to climb up on our laps for cuddles. Stroking or grooming a dog can have positive effects on both parties, with both getting a hit of oxytocin – a hormone normally associated with bonding between mums and babies, or between lovers. The problem comes when a dog is restrained for cuddles against his wishes. A dog who has come to his owner for affection will be feeling quite different from one who has been unwillingly grabbed for a dog hug selfie! In this circumstance the dog may feel afraid and trapped and may show signs of distress. The same can happen if a dog is approached by strangers or children who try to stroke or cuddle. Dogs are not so different to humans…think how good a hug from a friend makes you feel, then think about how uncomfortable a hug from a total stranger in the street might feel!

How can you tell if your dog is comfortable with a hug? Your dogs has many subtle ways of telling you how he feels but they can be quite subtle. If he’s struggling and trying to get away that’s a pretty clear sign he doesn’t want a cuddle! If he is licking his lips, you can see the whites of his eyes, his mouth is closed with tight lips, and he seems to be looking away from you, he also doesn’t want a cuddle. Ignore these signs as your dog might feel he has to warn you with a growl, and if he’s still ignored he might snap at you. He won’t mean to bite first time, but humans are so slow…. Be especially careful to watch for these warning signs when children or friends are petting your dog, and never be afraid to step in and protect him from unwanted physical attention.

We don’t often post links tat take you away from our page, but this one has a nice slideshow about dog body language:


The ‘take home’ message is don’t stop touching your dog! But do learn to ‘listen’ to his body language and respect him when he doesn’t want a cuddle.

One Response to Hugging Dogs

  • Celia Haddon says:

    Dogs don’t hug each other. They sniff bottoms instead. So that close face contact is very stressful for them. Never let a young child hug a dog: the child might get nipped. Set a good example to children by respecting a dog’s personal space.

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