The Hullabaloo Over Hugging your Dog

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You may have seen a series of article recently regarding the advisability of hugging your dog. In the initial article titled “The Data Says “Don’t Hug the Dog!”, Dr. Stanley Coren, a renowned animal psychologist undertook his own, informal study to investigate dogs reactions to hugging. His findings (of a random sample of photos of 250 dogs with their humans found on the internet) showed that 81% of the dogs showed some sign of distress when being hugged. They pointed to typical fearful or anxious behaviors such as “whale eye”, lip licking, yawning or a head turn in the subject animals to support his findings.

While I usually agree with Dr. Coren’s opinions and learn a lot from his books and articles, this particular theory got a lot of push back from dog people with photos of a perfectly content dog being hugged.
Dr. Coren himself stated this was NOT a peer-reviewed study, it was a “set of casual observations” and as usual, the internet did it’s thing of over-exaggerating and sensationalizing a story.
There are any number of follow-ups to Dr. Coren’s piece that bring a little more sanity to the topic:

The bottomline is, as with anything, you do what is right for the individual dog. Some dog’s like it and some don’t – just like some people are very touchy-feely and some are not. Jack LOVES to be pet and hugged and snuggled. Maggie hates it. I hug Jack all the time and never hug Maggie. I’d like to, because I love her to pieces, but I know that she doesn’t like it, so her feelings are more important.
Take your cues from your dog – not the internet.

steve & Jack


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  1. I love hugs. I love to give hugs. I get hugs every day and numerous times a day.

  2. I think most dogs don’t really mind when their family members hug them. My dogs for instance, don’t mind it when I hug them and they are used to it. The problem that most dogs have is that they do not like it when strangers or strange kids try to do it to them. Hugging is also generally considered rude between dogs. A dog jumping into the face of one of my dogs or trying to mount would get corrected very swiftly.

    I think it’s important that we are talking about these things and educated people and kids. It’s so important that kids learn not to just randomly go up to a dog they don’t know and hug them.. That’s one way we can reduce dog bites.

  3. Brown dawgs are not huggers. They do not really care for it so I don’t do it. We have had kids at shows try to hug them. We never had a bad reaction, but I am fine with the message of not doing it. Perhaps parents can educate their kids.
    2 Brown Dawgs recently posted…Practicing Marking With The Y DrillMy Profile

  4. Unfortunately, the people who never noticed before that their dogs looked uncomfortable being squeezed probably still don’t notice.

    As you point out, it’s about paying attention to your dog.

  5. My Daisy loved to be touched and hugged anytime of the day. Cocoa loves it. On HER time!!
    Julie recently posted…Party at the VetMy Profile

  6. I give a ton of hugs and it makes me feel better so that brushes off on them. They come looking for a hug to I believe.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Wags And Waves For ForrestMy Profile

  7. Callie was my hugger, my sweet independent-minded, girl who knew instinctively when I needed a hug – just like her older sister Kissy – and always sat patiently while I gave her one, giving me “puppy kisses” at the same time. Shadow never used to like it; but I think Callie must have told her to let me hug her at times because now she will let me when she senses I need to. And Ducky? Sweet Ducky! She loves Mommy hugs and kisses and gives them right back. 🙂
    Callie, Shadow, and Ducky’s Mom recently posted…Taking A BreakMy Profile

  8. PS. I still only hug Shadow when I’m sure she’ll be okay with it…which is when she comes to me, or doesn’t flinch when I wrap an arm around her neck.
    Callie, Shadow, and Ducky’s Mom recently posted…Taking A BreakMy Profile

  9. There is no way I could exist in this house with these two fluff balls and not give and get hugs. Jaxson is such a cuddle bug – he climbs up on me demanding hugs. Harley still low crawls on the sofa to me for a snuggle with Doodle Mom. Like everything else in life – moderation and only when received willingly. That’s what I believe….
    Groovy Goldendoodles recently posted…BEST CITY FOR PET TRAVELERSMy Profile

  10. Exactly! Bailie and I hug humans on our own and love it, Katie never liked hugs. Every dog is different, so are people!
    Emma recently posted…Enjoy The Taste Of Ancient Grains With TRU harvest®My Profile

  11. 3 bum swings! 3 more!
    Wooftastic post!
    We agree with you wholeheartedly.
    When I first came to live with my huMom I didn’t like her hugging me & I let her know. Instead, I preferred to lean on her to show affection. However, it wasn’t long before I knew I loved her, could trust her & hugs were pawsome.
    <3 nose nudges <3

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