Study: Hugging Your Dog Stresses Him Out
According to this data, giving your dog a big ol’ hug may be doing more harm than good. Here are some of the warning signs you need to watch out for.
I’ll be the first to admit that I hug my dog – not frequently (I’m not much of a hugger in general) – but enough to be troubled by the news that hugging your dog actually stresses him out. According to a recent report, hugging your dog may cause your his stress level to increase, and even though you might feel better, your dog certainly doesn’t.
The idea of hugging your dog is widespread, with books such as “Smooch Your Pooch” gracing many a bookshelf. The book talks about how kids should hug and kiss their dog anytime they please. The book was so popular, while being so incorrect, that the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) released a statement explaining that they strongly advise parents to avoid purchasing the book, as the information it contained could cause children to be bitten by dogs.
Related: Preventing Dog Bites with Children
So the first question to ask is why would a dog feel stressed in this kind of situation? Human children love to be kissed and hugged, as it’s a sign of affection – so why shouldn’t you pooch feel the same way? According to the study, it explains that dogs are cursorial animals, which means they are designed for swift running. This means their first line of defense is not to bite, but to run. When you’re hugging them, that first cursorial instinct is taken away from them, which can increase their stress level. If they are significantly stressed because they cannot run away, it can cause the dog to bite.
Now that we understand why dogs dislike being hugged, observing for signs of stress can determine if the dog is tolerating your touchy-feelyness or not. Here are some things to look for:
- Raising one paw
- Licking their lips or your face
- Looking away or closing their eyes
- Ears lowered or pressing against their head
- Half moon eye: When you can see a portion of the whites of their eyes
According to the research, 81.6 percent of the dog photos chosen from the Internet for this study indicate that the dogs showed at least one sign of distress. A mere 7.6 percent of the photographs rated as the dogs being comfortable with being hugged, and the remaining 10.8 percent showed neutral or ambiguous responses to being hugged by their humans. According to another study, which looks at how children are at greater risk for dog bites, says that four out of five dogs find this form of affection to be unpleasant and anxiety arousing.
While your dog may be one of the few that is okay with being hugged, most of our furry canines are not. Be aware of how your dog acts when you’re showing them affection and if you see any of these signs, it means you’re the only one enjoying this hug and you should stick to petting or playing with your dog to show them how much you love them.