Most humans recognise a hug as a sign of affection and close friendship. That is exactly why we feel this strong urge to hug dogs out of love. After all, they are the best type of best friends. As pet parents, we love greeting our pawsome pals with dog hugs. However, do dogs like hugs? In an IAMS™ survey*, 83% of dog parents say their dog likes hugs too. Is this true? We’re going to try and get an answer to this question.
Do dogs like hugs?
The short answer is no. Dogs do not like hugs. Now, let’s look at a bit of an explanation to this.
Some dogs enjoy canine cuddles, but usually only with their owner or household members. Otherwise, they don’t care about it. “Hugging is too much and overwhelming for many dogs and should be discouraged if the dog doesn’t know the individual very well”, advises James Serpell, B.Sc., Ph.D., Professor of Humane Ethics & Animal Welfare at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.
So, why don’t dogs like hugs? To understand this, we may need to look at what a dog really feels when you try to hug it.
What do dogs feel when you hug them?
Here is what your pooch probably experiences when you try to engulf it in an embrace:
Hugging is human behaviour and not dog behaviour. These animals are just not physically built for that kind of interaction. We stand upright, so we face people. Dogs are on all fours, making hugging an unnatural act for them. Hence, they prefer a friendly sniff.
To dogs, a hug comes off as dominating behaviour; it feels like someone is trying to assert control over them. It can be stressful, especially if done by a stranger.
Lack of freedom
Since ancient times, a canine’s first instinctive defense has been to run away from danger. And hugging makes them feel trapped and confined. As humans, we too feel awkward when a person we barely know gives us a long and tight hug, right? Dogs somewhat feel the same. To some extent, they would also want to escape.
How to know when your dog is uncomfortable?
Sniffing is a dog’s way of expressing love. However, we humans definitely don’t regard sniffing the same way. And no matter how much we love our canine companion, we do feel a little uncomfortable with this gesture. Similarly, your pet might find hugs discomforting. Don’t worry. A dog’s body language will give you all the signs you need to know about their comfort level. But in order to understand these signs, you must learn to read them. So, let us understand some signs that indicate your dog is uneasy.
Your dog will look away
Dogs try to avoid anything that stresses them out. So, if your dog looks away when you enfold them in your arms, they don't like hugs. Your furry friend might also open their eyes wide while looking away and this allows you to notice their whale eyes. Whale eyes are when you see the whites of a dog’s eyes. Now, that is another indication of stress and discomfort.
Your dog stiffens
Dogs are generally flexible when relaxed. If your dog gets stiff when you wrap your hands around them, you should probably set them free. Your dog might also lower or tuck their tail under the belly out of stress. Moreover, you must also pay attention to your pet’s ears. Lowered ears are a sign of a stressed dog.
Your dog yawns
It’s no news that we yawn when exhausted. However, if your pooch yawns during dog hugs, they are getting stressed out. It is their way of conveying that they don’t like something.
Signs that your dog likes hugs
Every dog is unique. While most of them feel uncomfortable with hugs, some might like being embraced. Here’s how you can confirm if your furball doesn’t feel suffocated when you hug them:
Your dog wags their tail
Tail wagging can mean several things. However, you know your dog is happy when they give you a full-body tail wag. Slow, relaxed wags mean that your dog feels composed and at ease.
Your dog puts their paws on you
Placing the paws on the hugger signifies that your dog welcomes this form of attention. A dog’s paws can do more than just walk and dig holes. It is one of the most effective modes of communication for them.
Alternatives to dog hugs
Don’t worry if your dog doesn’t want to hug it out. There are plenty of healthier ways you can show them you are still their best friend:
- Pet them or give them a good, relaxing brush
- Take them on walks or play a game with their favorite toy
- Give them their favourite food or treats
- Tell them they are a “good boy” or a “good girl'. They never get tired of hearing that.
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FAQs on Do Dogs Like Hugs
- Do dogs know hugs are affectionate?
- I like hugging my dog. But do dogs like being hugged?
- Do dogs feel love when you cuddle them?
Dogs do not generally recognise a hug as an affectionate gesture. However, they learn to accept hugs from their owner.
Your dog might not look at hugs the way humans do. For most dogs, hugs are discomforting.
Yes. Dogs like cuddling because they love you. If your dog cuddles you, you are a part of their pack.