You come home from work and your dog just can’t contain his excitement. He starts wiggling his tail and the next thing you know… he’s got his front paws wrapped around your neck as you happily wrap your arms around him. Must be a familiar picture if you’re the lucky owner of such a playful furry friend. That is because, believe it or not, not all dogs love hugs. It has been a heated debate so far, but in the end, it all comes down to your pup’s own body language and habit. Which category does your little furry friend fall into? Let’s find out…
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The Root of the Behavior
You surely have read plenty of articles talking about how dogs absolutely resent the idea of being hugged. What about all those pooches who live for the thrill of giving you a heartfelt hug? Before you run over and smother your pup with affection, take a closer look at his behavior the moment you reach out to grab him in your arms.
One of the most common mistakes that dog owners do is misinterpret their dog’s reactions to hugging as natural and reinforcing. In most cases, people do not realize that to a dog, a hug does not mean affection at all. They will generally grab things between their front legs when they are play-fighting, actually fighting or humping something. Not exactly a sign of affection, but rather a symbol of dominance. As soon as they feel that their personal space is being invaded, they react accordingly.
This can cause them to show signs of distress, such as licking their lips or yawning, whale eye, tension in the ears or mouth, and sometimes even biting. Which brings us to our next point and that is… familiarity and close bonds. Depending on how strong the connection with your dog is, their reaction will differ just as much. If you mean the world to them, they will most likely not show any signs of aggression, as opposed to when a complete stranger bends down and wraps his arms around them.
That being said, it is not a bad thing to allow your dog to hug you, as long as he is calm and in a submissive state of mind. It can actually be recomforting for your dog to do so. Whether he is resting a chin on your body, leaning, crawling onto your lap or sleeping next to you, one thing is certain: they are a hundred percent enjoying the close connection they have with you.
Encouraging the Behavior
While giving and receiving hugs from your furry companion is nothing out of the ordinary, you have to keep one thing in mind, which is that many dogs prefer not to be squeezed, while others actively seek out hugs. There is a difference between squeezing tightly and cuddling. If you see signs of struggle, as if they are being in a fight-or-flight mode, it is best you listen to their needs and respect their space.
Your dog may not be a fan of the big bear hugs, where you wrap your arms all around them, but they will enjoy cuddles. Good news, right? Feel free to show affection to your pooch, but at the same time, make sure they do not feel trapped and trust they can go as they please. If they independently seek out to hug you, by all means, enjoy their cuddles, but be careful to approach hugging with a little bit of precaution.
With proper training, you can teach your dog to tolerate a hug and most importantly, not be aggressive towards strangers. If you see they are showing signs of distress when being hugged, explain your worries to the other person, until your dog is completely ready to receive them.
Other Solutions and Considerations
If you still want to enjoy your pup’s cuddly affection, save your hugs for places where they feel safe and relaxed. This way, you can reinforce the idea of hugging where they feel most comfortable to do so. And as most people may try to hug your dog when outside, it is a good idea to get him used to the fact as soon as possible. Proper training is always available if you are unable or unsuccessful to achieve this on your own. You can make them a part of programs related to grooming and handling by veterinarians, so that they will be completely comfortable with receiving hugs, especially from small children.
Pay attention to your dog’s body language if you want to find out exactly how he feels about hugging. Whether he freely offers or absolutely rejects them, there is always a solution for you to enjoy their friendly cuddles, without being overbearing. Reach out to your vet for more information on this subject and any training advice you may need along the way.