Do Dogs Hate Hugs? How to Show Affection Without Giving Dogs the Creeps

Do Dogs Hate Hugs?

In news that will chill the hearts of dog owners everywhere, a new report indicates that dogs may not be as excited about your giant bear hugs as you think they are. In a study published by Psychology Today, canine behavior expert Stanley Cohen from the University of British Columbia concludes that human hugs stress dogs out. One of Cohen’s data sets involved looking at a large database of dog photographs on the social media site Flickr, where he found 250 photos of humans hugging their dogs. He and colleagues then rated each photo for signs of dog anxiety. Almost 82 percent of dogs demonstrated stress in their body language, indicating that dogs do not enjoy hugs.


A dog’s most common sign of anxiety is turning her head away from the object or person that is stressing them out. This is often accompanied by closing the eyes, at least partially. When a dog is worried or anxious, he also smooths out his ears or lowers them against the side of his head. Lip licking or licking a person’s face may also be an anxious response. This is the sign of a stressed out dog. When a dog can’t run away has his first flight or fight response, he gets extremely stressed out.

But why does man’s best friend worry about hugs from his pals? The answer lies in dog biology and evolution. Dogs are cursorial animals, which means they were made to swiftly run away when times get tough. This means that unlike other animals, who may bare their teeth or growl to communicate “stay away,” a dog’s first response to stress is flight. Canine behaviorists believe that if a hug closes off the dog’s line of escape, it increases their anxieties. When a dog is very concerned, he may even begin to nip or bite.


So how should humans interact with their dogs to let them know they care?

First of all, don’t teach children to hug the dog. This will help reduce dog bites among children. Respecting your dog’s space gives him the security he needs.

Dogs do enjoy gentle pets and strokes on the head, particularly if accompanied by gentle and soothing words.

Dogs like nuzzling. You may have noticed them nuzzling each other’s necks. Humans can simulate this with gentle pets.

Don’t lift up your little dogs. They have the same canine instincts as a big dog, which means they absolutely hate being picked up because they feel like they can’t get away.

Also remember dogs don’t like having anyone tug on their collar. Not only is this dangerous, it can be threatening and provoke a violent response.

Dogs are social animals, so they love going with humans on walks, trips, or basically anywhere. To show affection to your dog, bring her along with you.

Dogs also love one-on-one time. They like your time and attention more than just your hugs and kisses. Playing fetch, taking a walk or just having peaceful quiet time all show the dog how much you care.

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