Vet Warns: Hugging Your Dog Can Cause Them Harm

We all adore our dogs for the happiness, company, and unconditional love they bring us. Many of us show our affection by hugging them, thinking they enjoy it as much as we do. However, experts warn that hugging our canine friends may not always be the best idea. In fact, it could cause them stress and pose potential risks. Let's explore why hugging might not be the best way to show love to our dogs.

The Science Behind Hugging Your Dog

Dr. Stanley Coren, a psychology professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia, conducted a study to investigate the effects of hugging dogs. He analyzed 250 pictures of people hugging dogs from Google Image Search and Flickr, and the results were eye-opening. In about 81.6 percent of the pictures, the dogs showed signs of distress, such as turning their heads away, partially closing their eyes, lowering their ears, licking their lips, yawning, or raising a paw. These behaviors indicate anxiety in dogs.

Dogs' Evolutionary History

To understand why dogs may not appreciate hugs, we need to consider their evolutionary history. Dogs are technically built for swift running as cursorial animals. In stressful or threatening situations, their natural instinct is to flee rather than fight. When we hug them, they might feel trapped and unable to escape, causing stress and anxiety.

Potential Dangers For Children

Hugging dogs, especially by young children, can be risky in certain situations. Facial bites, for example, often occur after a child has hugged the dog. While some dogs may tolerate hugs from familiar people, they might not react well to those from strangers or young children. Therefore, it's crucial to educate children on safe ways to interact with dogs to prevent accidents and promote a positive relationship between children and dogs.

Expert Opinions

Although some people may believe that dogs enjoy hugs, it's important to listen to expert opinions. Dr. Marc Bekoff, a professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, acknowledges that dogs' preferences for hugs can vary. Just like humans, dogs have individual personalities, and while some may enjoy hugs, others may not. Respecting their preferences and comfort levels is essential. If you're uncertain about hugging your dog, it's safer to find other ways to show affection.

Reading Your Dog's Cues

Understanding your dog's body language is crucial to know if they enjoy hugs or find them distressing. Signs of discomfort or stress in dogs can include stiffness, turning their head away, showing half-moon eyes (where the whites of their eyes are visible), lowered ears, tucked tail, yawning, lip licking, nose licks, and raised paw. By observing these cues, you can better understand your dog's emotional state and adjust your interactions accordingly.

Alternatives To Hugging Your Dog

Fortunately, there are many alternative ways to express love and affection to your dog without relying on hugs. Dr. Coren suggests using gentle pats, kind words, and treats. Dogs often enjoy belly rubs, ear or back scratches, and interactive play like fetch or hide-and-seek. Positive reinforcement training sessions can also be a fun and mentally stimulating bonding activity with your dog. By discovering what your dog enjoys, you can tailor your interactions to their preferences, creating a stronger and stress-free bond.

In conclusion, while hugging your dog may seem like a natural way to show affection, it's essential to consider their perspective and emotional well-being. Studies and expert opinions suggest that hugs may cause stress for dogs and can even pose potential risks, especially for young children. By paying attention to your dog's cues and exploring alternative ways to express love, you can ensure a positive and harmonious relationship with your furry companion. Remember, there are countless dog-friendly ways to show love and care, so let's find the gestures that truly make our dogs feel loved and appreciated.