Hugging dogs

Elsa loves hugs.  Do the hug test, start with just one arm and see if your dog pulls away.  It is typically extremely subtle so you have to pay close attention. 

Psychology Today - Data says Don't hug the dog.  By Stanley Coren Ph.D. F. R .S. C. 

Since this article came out on April 16th, my Facebook news feed has been inundated with people freaking out over it.  Other behaviorists have stepped up to ask "should we hug our dogs."  I've written several comments when people offered up images of dogs being hugged; that received a barrage of nasty replies.

So, I thought it was time for me to say something about this.  First let me say AGAIN, each and every dog is an individual.  That is a very important part of hugging dogs.   A hug is not a natural behavior for a dog to enjoy.  The only behavior equivalent for dogs is the dominance related behavior of mounting.  They may lie down beside each other but they don't grasp and wrap around like we humans do in a hug.  Okay, next.

Being that all dogs are very different; some will tolerate a hug, some hate them, some love them but then again, it depends on who is doing the hugging.  

Elsa loves hugs; she is the most touchy, feely girl I've ever met.  She very much enjoys hugs from her family.  If a non family member tries to hug her; I can clearly see her pull away and I typically step in to help her out.  Elsa is a human loving fiend.  She ADORES people and she seemingly cannot get close enough to her family; but family is family and everyone else is not.  She adores people, even strangers; but she doesn't want strangers or non family members wrapping their body around hers.  She likes to get close and snuggle up; she even gives kisses.    

When I talk about a hug I mean an arm around, wrapping the body type hug.  Our Tilley was not a hugger.  She loved to have her whole body across our lap or chest but hug her and you could feel the pull away.  Unless a dog is leaning into a hug; like my Luke use to do then you should take heed.  No, it doesn't mean that your dog is going to bite you; but it does mean that they are not so much a fan of hugging as you are.

Some dogs simply don't like hugs; even from their loved ones in the pack circle.  We as guardians need to respect that.  But many people cannot wrap their human brains around the fact that their dog does not want to be hugged.  "What, you don't love me?"  Wrongo.  Your dog could be closer to you than any other dog or human but still not enjoy a hug.  It is truly up to them.

I do believe in working with all dogs to get them "use" to some sort of hug for the "incase" moments.  Dogs can learn to love hugs from the inner circle members most definitely.  But just to assume your dog loves hugs just because you do is wrong.   

You should never, ever hug a dog that is not your own dog.  That is a rule that should be cast in stone.  There are so many videos on the internet these days showing children hugging dogs; that also clearly show an anxious or stressed dog.  Dogs should not have to tolerate being hugged or climbed on by children.  

Getting all upset at the idea of not hugging dogs is a silly human hang up.  In case you forgot, we are not the same species and that means that we do things differently.  Dogs in general do an amazing job at adjusting to living in our human world.  We put so many demands on them as far as our human emotions go.  

Dogs are dogs and they can love us, follow us, protect us and be by our side without being hugged.  We humans needs to understand what a hug means to a dog.  I am not saying by any means that you should never hug your dog.  I constantly hug Elsa and she adores it.  In fact last night she shimmied her almost 50lb body into the smallest little spot beside me in a chair that I had to laugh.  We were actually entwined with each other; just the way she likes it.  But that is Elsa, Miss Touchy Feely herself.  

We need to stop thinking about our dogs as furry people and realize that they are an amazing species that allows us to live with them in harmony.  Even with all of our hang ups.  :)