Do Dogs Like Hugs And Why You Shouldn’t Force It

Written by: Bojana Radulovic
Hugs are fantastic, right? Nothing like hugging your best friend in times of need. Your human friend, not your best furry friend. You may think twice before hugging your dog. Read on to learn why hugging your dog isn't the best idea ever.

When you love someone, you want him or her to show that, right? Sharing matters. As humans, we will often hug parents, friends, and other family members.

This is our way of showing them that we love them. That’s a clear sign that we care about someone. When you are a pet owner, or you are just a huge animal lover, you want to share that love with animals also.

After all, they desire to receive love, right?

However, no matter how much your Chow-Chow may seem fluffy and huggable you should think twice before you shake him as an adorable kid.

Moreover, picking up Chihuahua from the ground to your hug is also something that you should matter.

You see, it’s not about the dog’s size, breed, or fluffiness. No, it’s about how dogs communicate with us and among each other. Therefore, you should bear in mind that what works with humans might not work with dogs.

An everyday move from the human world may consider as a threat. So… Do dogs like hugs? Let’s discover and learn how to show dogs your love.

Do Dogs Like Hugs?

This may surprise you, especially if you were born to hug, but dogs are not fans of human hugs. Dogs do not like hugs. Some dogs are trained well to tolerate hugs, such as therapy dogs. However, it’s not in their DNA to love hugs.

Dogs are beings of nonverbal communication. Their brains changed so much since they started living with humans, that are rules are strict, or bendable in the best-case scenario.

Canines will always rely on body language.

You can see that by carefully watching two dogs when they meet for the first time. They will walk carefully, sniff, and be extremely calm during the entire introduction.

They are observing, watching the body moves, and communicate using their body language. Moreover, they will use the identical method both with humans and dogs.

Why they don’t like hugs? Putting a limb over another dog is a way of exerting dominance. This can be intimidating and confusing.

If you hug your dog, or any dog (hugging other peoples dogs should be an ultimate no-no), you will notice a dog becoming still and kind of stiff. This is a clear indicator that your dog is not having a great time.

This doesn’t mean that they are not fond of love affection from their humans. No, this just means that they love affection under their terms. They are crazy about cuddles, belly rub, and a back scratch to a squeeze. This is something that every dog owner should know. If you have children, educate them on this topic.

Signs of Dog Hug Distress

If you want to master the dog’s behavior, you must observe his body. It’s common, especially in viral videos, to see children hugging dogs. Although this may seem cute, in reality, it’s a background for real danger.

This is especially important for children. Unless you educate your children or children around your dog, they may not know what’s OK to do in dogs’ presence, and what’s a major no-no. That being said, make sure that you look for signs of dog hug distress.

Think back when you personally, or someone hugged a dog. Did you notice any of the following reactions in the dog?

  • Sudden yawning
  • Ears down
  • Pulling their body away from you
  • Repetitive lip licking
  • Shaking off after you let go
  • Turning their head
  • Avoiding eye contact

These are the clear signs of massive distress in dogs. Also, if a dog shows a famous ‘whale eye,’ or the whites of the eye, this means that the dog is stressed, or nervous at least. If they are unhappy with a big hug, they will wriggle a lot, push their paws into you, or even nip at you.

So, to you hugging a dog is a way of showing your love. The stronger the hug, the stronger the love, right. However, for canines, this move is something completely different.

Hugs are not frequent in dogs’ world. Moreover, there isn’t an equivalent to a human hug in the dogs’ world. They will interpret your hug as a way of love.

They see it more as a restraint or confinement. A quick and unexpected hug can even result in a fatal outcome; it can trigger a fight or fight response. Dogs won’t ask first what’s wrong and then attack. It doesn’t work like that. So, for everyone’s sake follow their rules.

Is There A Safe Way To Hug A Dog?

If you want to show your canine your love and support, do it right. Make sure that you show your canine love on his terms. This means that you will have to be flexible when it comes to the definition of a hug.

Don’t force the human version of a hug. Instead of a human hug, pet your dog where he wants, and pay attention to the reaction. The same should be with puppies.

Yes, the truth is that puppies will come and roll in your lap. However, they will never ask for hugs. They will jump into your lap for a petting session, and leave once their session is done. For dogs, it’s essential to have an option to go when they want.

So, the escape route is mandatory. If your dog starts feeling as if he is trapped, trouble can occur. Long story short, give your cuddly dog moments but make sure that he can leave whenever he feels like it.

Can You Train Dogs to Tolerate Hugs?

In general, it’s not mandatory for your dog to love hugs, nor must you train him to enjoy this human activity. However, if you are worried that your dog might not react well if someone goes in for a hug, you might think about training your dog to be more dog-tolerant.

Bear in mind that you can make dog tolerant to hugs, but never a fan of hugs. So, use treats. As you probably know already, treats are your best weapon when it comes to luring a dog your way.

In general, dogs don’t love to be touched by strangers much, so you will have to start slow and at a superficial level of contact. This way, you will teach your dog to tolerate hugs better.

Have often breaks. Never spend more than a maximum of 2 minutes in a dog’s personal space. Practice this until the dog remains wholly relaxed at the current level. If you start refusing treats, or he tenses up, slow down.

What If Your Dog Dislikes Being Touched By Strangers

Some dogs are not strangers. They are satisfied with their people. This doesn’t mean that you can train your dog to be more approachable. So, if you want to make your dog more approachable to strangers, you can do the following:

  • Invite to your home/walk someone your dog is not familiar with
  • Make sure that the person has experience with dogs
  • Let your dog stand near the ‘stranger’
  • While standing still, give your dog treats
  • Do this for about 5-10 repetitions
  • Let the ‘stranger’ extend arm while feeding the pooch
  • Every time arm should be extended closer, with more treats

Once again, if you know that your canine is not a hugged lover, you have two options.

  • The first option is to respect your dog’s desire and not force any type of hug. Your dog just might love more a massage or a belly rub?
  • The second option is to try to make hugs more tolerable, by connecting hugs with something positive, such as treats.

If your canine is uncomfortable with hugs, start at first with just having your hand on him. Don’t make the pressure too strong. Then, move your body closer to him and build it up over time.

This should be practiced until your dog starts feeling OK with having your arms around his body. However, if he still shows signs of stress or discomfort, don’t force it.

What If Your Dog Love Hugs?

Just like humans, every dog is unique. Therefore, what one loves, others won’t, and so on. Just like that, some dogs don’t like human hugs; there are those who adore.

So, even if your dog love hugs, this is something that you shouldn’t overuse. Why? Well, your dog might love YOUR hugs only.

Only yours and not from anybody else. In a way, this is similar to humans, right? Long story short, don’t let strangers touch or hug your dog.

Even if your dog doesn’t mind much, you shouldn’t encourage this type of behavior.

Moreover, your dog might not want hugs from you al,l the time. Respect dogs personal space and need to rest, sleep, and be alone. If he jumps into your lap and demands a petting season, make sure that you only provide that. Never force hugs.

The Bottom Line

No dog should be forced into doing something that they don’t want to. Therefore, no dog should be forced to experience human hugs. If you know that your canine doesn’t like to be pet beside the belly rub, don’t force it.

However, since not everyone is dog-wise, you should always advise people not to hug your dog. It would be smart to advise them not to make sudden moves as well.

If your dog loves hugs, don’t force it every time. Let your dog come to you. Otherwise, make sure that you know your dog and what are his behavioral preferences. If you notice any stress in your dog, make sure that your back immediately, and if needed, take your canine to your veterinarian.