5 min read

How to Hug Your Dog on National Hug Your Hound Day


Are you planning to hug your pooch on National Hug Your Hound Day on the second day of September? If hugging is already something you and your pup do, our guess is that the holiday will be full of cuddles! If it’s not a regular habit, National Hug Your Hound Day may be a great time to start!

Whether your dog is a hug-pro, or needs a little push in the right direction, we've got you covered. So, call over your furvorite pup and get those arms ready! 

Do dogs like to be hugged?

Dogs in general love just about any contact with their family members, especially scratches and tummy rubs. They will often sink to the floor and turn their bellies up for more. But how do they react to full-on hugs? Do they even recognize a hug as a show of affection?

Most puppers will tolerate hugging, and some even know how to hug back, but others can show signs that frontal contact makes them uncomfortable. They may utter a warning growl or whimper, or try to shy away from the hug. When this happens, take a step back and try another day. 

Let's take a look at how you can tell if your dog is not into hugging.

Woman hugging a brownish-red dog - How to Hug Your Dog on National Hug Your Hound Day

Dog body language that says “stop”

For most of us, it's easy to know when our dogs are excited to do something with us. Their wiggly bodies, wagging tails, licks and sometimes barks and whines tell us they are ready for attention. Hugging seems like a natural thing for humans, but not all dogs are accustomed to the feeling of being hugged. Your fur baby may not always be in the mood for hugging and may exhibit body language that will tell you to stop, such as:

  • Pulling away from you
  • Licking their lips
  • Whale eye, or when your pup moves their eyes either down or to the side so you can see the white part
  • Ears back or down
  • Showing teeth
  • Growling, fearful whining or aggressive barking
  • Body stiffening
  • Shaking off, like after a bath
  • Turning their head away from you
  • Holding their tail down or curled between their back legs.

If you notice any of these signs, better hold the hug for another day. In many cases, these dogs can learn to be hugged through some basic training methods, and for others, they may need more time to feel safe in their environment and with affection. Until then, there are so many other ways you can share your love, such as with pats, kind words, games and treats!

However, if your dog is not showing any signs of anxiety and seems excited by the extra attention and contact with you, hugging may be their new furvorite thing!

Woman hugging a white Chihuahua

How to hug your dog

Ready to get hugging? You may think you can just wrap your arms around your precious pooch and give a light squeeze. But some dogs may need a little coaxing, especially if you don't normally hug them. Hugging can be taught like any new skill. You may be halfway there if your pup leans into you, allowing you to put your arm around their back. As your dog feels more comfortable, wrap the other arm across their chest and see how they react- likely, you'll be subject to some tail wagging and licking, sure signs that the hug is a success!

What about your dog hugging you back? Dog hugging can be just a head on your shoulder, both legs on your shoulders, or just leaning in for cuddles. Large dogs like Great Danes may naturally greet you by standing on their hind legs and resting their front legs on your shoulders. Small dogs can be taught to hug if they start on a raised surface such as a bed or couch with you kneeling in front of them. Dogs in hug training should fur-st be proficient in basic commands like sit, give a paw, and stay.

It’s impawtant to note that a few breeds aren’t physically built for hugs because of how their skeleton is arranged. These include Basset Hounds, Bulldogs, and some giant dog breeds. It’s also best to avoid hugging any dog who suffers from hip dysplasia, arthritis, or other conditions affecting their back, hips, bones, muscles, and joints.

If hugging your pooch is proving challenging, we have a few tips for you to try.

Man hugging a yellow Labrador Retriever with a ball in its mouth

Training methods for hugs

Some pooches seem to take to hugging naturally. For the others, a couple of established training methods can help get them tolerating and even enjoying the hugs.


This widely used method gradually introduces a hug. To start, touch and pet your fur baby in their furvorite places, such as their cheeks, neck, chest, back, chest and base of the tail while giving them treats. When they relax, it’s time to level up by asking them to sit in front of you while holding a treat behind your head. As they reach for the treat, they’ll likely put their head on your shoulder and wrap around your neck. Reward, praise, and repeat! Eventually, you can wrap an arm around them, then give them another treat. Then another arm, and voila! You are hugging! 

Remember to go slow, and if at any point your dog gets anxious, simply stop the training and start again another day while remaining positive. 

Counter conditioning 

This training method also uses rewards, but instead of offering them as pre-motivation, they replace negative feelings like anxiety or fear of the activity with positive vibes. This is the pawfect way to help a dog who is already known to be nervous or uncomfortable getting a hug to change their bark. It’s important to find out what the pup loves, be it a ball, a game, or a toy. Once you know their heart’s desire, use it to get them having some fun. 

You can initiate the training above for desensitization, and at each stage, offer their furvorite object, treat or game to help them associate what you’re asking them to do with fun. This may entail touching or scratching them in their favorite places between throwing their favorite ball for them to fetch or giving them treats they love. Then, have them sit in front of you calmly for a short time between throws or treats. When they are comfortable, wrap an arm around them while giving them a treat or their ball. With each step, make it exciting for them so they begin to see that a hug means fun, games and yummies! 

With each successive hug, lengthen the hug time and give lots of praise and treats or toys, regardless of how anxious they may seem during the hug. After a time, they'll start to see that a hug means a reward and will begin to look forward to it. 

Giving your pup a hug can be a rewarding experience, so make sure it is for them too! Make this National Hug Your Hound Day great by giving your canine bestie lots of love and affection. Hug on!

Got a doggo who loves to hug? Drop your favorite hug story into the comments below, or take a pawdorable pic and tag #wagwalking or @wag on Instagram for a chance to be featured!

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