The whole night you’ve been watching a movie with a friend, who you’re hoping will take you out of the friend zone and make you more than a friend. You chose the cheesy movie, had all the best snacks, and of course, gum for minty fresh breath. Your dog has sat in his bed the whole time, only snoring so quietly it was cute. When the night ends, you get up to wish your friend goodnight and go in for a hug. You’re not sure if this will be more than a hug, but a friendly hug is a place to start when you’re in the friend zone. After only a second of embrace, your dog is barking and jumping at you two, begging for your attention. Your human friend pets your four-legged friend, waves goodbye, and walks out the door. Your dog just kept you in the friend zone.
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The Root of the Behavior
Hugging is a human behavior that is not normal to a dog. We wrap our arms around each other and squeeze tightly. Hugs can have a calming effect on humans and it is a way we show affection. Dogs tend to show their affection differently than humans. They will put a paw on your knee or rest their head on your lap. Hugging to a dog can be a very peculiar thing and they interpret it as such. And dogs do not like to be hugged. Even though many of us humans hug dogs like they are our children, they do not really like it. It is not a natural sign of affection for a dog, so it can pose problems, which leads to jumping.
One way a dog sees a hug is a threat. You are close to someone and your arms are wrapped around them. Your dog might think, “How on earth will they escape?! This must be a death hold!” and out of love for you, he jumps on you to stop the embrace and help you escape from certain death. Dog breeds who are known for their protectiveness over their owners might lean towards this thought. The German Shepherd, Bullmastiff, Rottweiler, American Staffordshire Terrier, and Doberman Pinscher are dogs who are known to protect. Other dogs who engage in this behavior may not have a lot of socialization or are afraid of unknown people. Another reason a dog could interrupt a hug by jumping is when he wants attention. Your dog might be past the “death hold” thought and realize that hugs are good. He knows this is a positive interaction with affection. As he realizes this, he sits there thinking, “Wait a second! I want some attention!” And there you have it. Your dog is trying to be a part of your hug.
Encouraging the Behavior
If you ever want to move out of the friend zone with your human friend, you need to tame your canine best friend. Not only are you staying just friends, but when your dog jumps on your guests it can make them rather uncomfortable. They might be afraid of dogs, allergic, or your pup might even knock them to the ground. You want to make it so your guests want to come over and your dog is pleasant when they are there. Also, you want to be able to give hugs freely and go about your business. Not everyone enjoys the friend zone. There are a few tactics to reduce or eliminate this behavior. One is to simply ignore it if you can. It might escalate, but if you reward him when he stops jumping, he will begin to make the connection that being calm is the preferred behavior. Also, this could give you a reason to get a few more hugs in. Just tell your friend it is for the dog’s training purposes. With any training, keep it consistent. If you aren’t consistent, you will confuse your pup. When in doubt, visit a trainer. The trainer can give you tips and will be able to work with both of you to get rid of this interference.
Other Solutions and Considerations
If your dog wants attention, make sure you play with him enough throughout the day and regularly take him on walks. He will feel secure knowing he has a promised play time and might not be as attention needy when you try to hug someone. If your dog’s jumping turns into barking, growling, or standing stiffly when you hug, you should definitely see a trainer. This is guarding behavior and can escalate quickly. Your dog might be protecting you, but clearly, you like the person you are hugging and this could be a tough spot for them. Your dog should be trained to socialize properly with humans and reducing a guarding behavior can be tough without a professional.
Once you are in the friend zone, it is tough to get out of so do not let your dog be the thing that is stopping you from advancing. Reward your dog for calm behavior and keep training consistent. It might be ruff at first, but it will definitely be worth it. And if you notice more aggressive behaviors, talk to a trainer.