The first thing you usually do when your dog does something wonderful is to give them a huge loving hug. You would think this is the best way to express your undying love for your furbaby, but I urge you to find an alternative.
While most dogs will patiently let you finish your hug, counting down the seconds until they’re free from your grasp, while others will let their discomfort show immediately. A dog’s reaction differs depending who is giving the hug. They may be more tolerant if it comes from you rather than if a stranger obviously.
The reason for this antipathy to hugs is very interesting. Humans and dogs have evolved with different ways of greeting and showing their affection; meanwhile humans often start an interaction with a hug, dogs sniff each other, smile, and wag their tails. These different methods of greeting have been hardwired into dog and human biology, proving this makes it difficult to change.
The closest thing dogs do to hugging is a behavior called “standing over,” in which they put one or both legs over the shoulder of another. In dog terms, this behavior relates to a show of social status or competition for resources and the dog doing it is trying to gain more control.
So you can understand why some dogs may be uncomfortable with your exciting big bare hug, for them it’s a sign of dominance or assertiveness. Depending on your relationship with the dog, a hug can be seen as a potential threat.
If you do give your dog a hug, their body language will let you know whether or not they’re enjoying it. The most obvious sign they are not thrilled with your hug is a visible display of aggression, such as bared teeth or growling. There are more subtle signs you should look for as well.
Dogs that are feeling uneasy with the hug will go stiff, close their mouth, or start licking their lips. This behavior is a tell-tail sign that they are feeling anxious, maybe wondering what they did wrong or if they should just sit still and wait for it to be done.
If you’re not sure whether your dog enjoys being hugged, try having someone take a picture of your pup’s face during it. Since you can’t see their face, it can be hard to tell exactly how they’re feeling. You may think your dog is enjoying your warm embrace, but their face may be showing they are stoically putting up with it for your sake.
If your dog has an obvious dislike for hugs, it’s not a bad idea to train them to tolerate an occasional embrace. This may come in handy if they need to be restrained while at the vet or if they are going to be around small children who may hug them without innocently and naturally. To make your pup more comfortable with the occasional hug, slowly work your way to sitting shoulder to shoulder, one arm around, then both arms. During each stage, provide lots of positive reinforcements such as hugs, pets, or playtime with their favorite toy.
When it comes to hugging, it’s important to keep in mind that every dog is unique; some dogs enjoy hugs where as others can barely tolerate them. At times, dogs tend to lean more towards simply tolerating or visibly disliking them.
Remember alot of their response depends on who is giving the hug. It may be okay if you do it, but not if a stranger does it naturally. I don’t believe you wouldn’t be to accepting ff someone you’ve never met came up and gave you a hug, would you? It takes time to build to that level of comfort. Just be patient, give positive reinforcement, and your dog will come around to your loving embrace.
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