Researcher's Study Finds That Dogs Feel Uncomfortable When Hugged by Humans

Researcher’s Study Finds That Dogs Feel Uncomfortable When Hugged by Humans

Four out of five dogs do not like hugs and actually feel anxious and stressed out, new surprising research study shows. So how can you tell if your dog is one of those four dogs that actually hates when you hug him?


The rather surprising research study about dogs who do not like hugs was recently published by Psychology Today and is describing the work of psychology professor and neuropsychological researcher Stanley Coren.

Coren used 250 photos shared on the Internet of people hugging their dogs. By closely analyzing the images, the researcher could see that in 82 percent of the pictures, the canines were actually stressed out by the rather un-canine human behavior.

Here are the signs that your dog is feeling anxious and stressed out when getting a hug:

1. Sound: Your dog growls.
2. Teeth: Your canine friend shows his or her teeth.
3. Head: If your pet turns his or head away from you when getting a hug, he or she is under stress.
4. Eyes: If your dog closes his or her eyes completely or partially and the white portion of the eyes at the corner of the rim is visible (commonly called a “half-moon eye” or “whale eye”), the animal is not enjoying what you are doing.
5. Ears: If your dog’s ears are lowered or slicked against the side of his head, his is visibly stressed out and experiencing anxiety.
6. Lips: Licking his or her face or licking a person’s face can be a sign of anxiety.
7. Mouth: Yawning while getting a hug or other uncomfortable affection can be a sign of anxiety.
8. Paws: If your dog raises his or her paw, he or she might be telling you “get away from me.”

Many of the above signs that a dog does not like a hug or is under stress are easily misunderstood by dog owners because of the projection of humans on animals. Anyone living with animals other than dogs, (for example horses, goats, or even cats), knows all too well that the above signs can be a sign of experiencing unwanted dominance, annoyance, and result in stress.

It all depends on who is in control.

If a dog is given a hug that he did not initiate (being controlled by someone), he or she will react with flight or fight. Fight would include growling, showing of the teeth, and in severe cases even biting. Flight includes the above passive signs visible by the turning away of the head, the change in visible eye color, and the position of the ears.

On the other hand, if a dog comes up to you and licks you, jumps on your lap, or raises his paw to get your attention, he or she is in control and the canine’s behavior is a completely different story – and your canine friend might be controlling you.

Researcher Stanley Coren used Internet photos for his analysis and images of people hugging their dogs. Looking at some of those images can help in training one’s eyes to be aware when dogs feel stressed out.

A Google Image search for hug dogs actually shows many canines turning their heads and showing their tongues while being hugged. Just remembering that canines have an acute sense of smell might explain why dogs don’t like hugs.

About Alexis Sostre

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