Friday, April 10th is National Hug Your Dog Day. This holiday is a fun time to bond with your pet! But if your dog doesn’t like to be hugged, he or she isn’t alone.
Hugging is something humans do to express affection — the gesture doesn’t always translate to dogs. Read below to learn some helpful tips to better recognize if your dog is uncomfortable receiving a hug and some suggestions on alternate ways to bond with your dog instead.
Dogs are very different from humans. Most humans enjoy receiving hugs; for children, hugs and physical touch are necessary for proper development. But for dogs, this may not be the case. Your own dog might tolerate the occasional embrace, but that doesn’t mean he enjoys it. And it can be especially dangerous for you to hug strange dogs — you never know how they might react.
What kind of body language signals stress? If you hug your dog and he begins turning away, panting, widening his eyes, yawning, or avoiding eye contact, this might be a signal that he’s not enjoying the hug as much as you are.
One reason dogs may be uncomfortable when being hugged is because you’re restraining them. Their instinct is to run away from danger, but when your arms are caging them in, they may feel out of control and unable to get away.
It’s also important to consider your environment and situation. Your dog might tolerate a hug in the peace and quiet of your own home. But if the two of you are out in public, with unfamiliar people and smells all around, your dog might be on edge — and he may react differently if you go in for a hug.
So, should you hug your dogs? In most cases, the answer might be no. The good news is, there are plenty of other activities you can enjoy with your dog to make your bond grow even stronger.
Your dog may not enjoy hugs, but chances are, he or she will welcome other types of physical affection!
Many dogs love belly rubs and appreciate a good scratch behind the ears. Most dogs are also comfortable being petted on their chest and shoulders. Avoid touching your dog’s muzzle, legs, paws, tail, or ears unless you know for certain that he’s okay with it, and don’t reach your hand over the top of his head to pet his back. Pet your dog gently, moving your hand in the same direction as the fur. If your dog leans into your hand, you’re doing great! If he tries to back away or begins to seem uncomfortable, don’t force anything — let him go.
Make a point to prioritize time with your dog throughout the day. Sneak in some cuddle time before leaving for work or rub his ears when you walk in the door. Take any opportunity to give your pet praise — “Good dog!”, “Yes!”, and other positive phrases in a happy tone of voice. This can make your furry friends tail wag with joy (and reinforce good behavior down the road).
You can also bond with your dog by going for a walk or a drive. Dogs are always appreciative of a chance to explore the world; chances are, your pet is never happier than when he’s taking in new scents with you by his side. If you bring along a ball or Frisbee to play a game of catch, even better!
Finally, consider making your dog a meal such as chicken and rice or some homemade dog treats. Dogs love us unconditionally… but a little peanut butter never hurts your case!