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Do Dogs Like Hugs?

Happy dogs being hugged by its owner

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There is no doubt that a hug can make us feel better. If we’re feeling upset or demoralized over something, a tight hug from a loved one can instantly make us feel more positive. Humans crave love and attention.

We are social creatures that need interaction with family and friends. But, what about dogs? Can the same be said of our furry friends?

While most domesticated dogs also crave love and attention, hugging does not give them the same security and warmth that humans get. Some trained therapy dogs can tolerate a hug from their owner but, overall, the average pup will not enjoy this close interaction. 

As primates, we are wired to express our affection toward one another through hugging. Even chimpanzees like a hug! But dogs show their emotions and affection in other ways.

Our pooches tend to rely on body language as a form of communication with other dogs and humans. As soon as you hug a dog, they believe you are showing dominance over them.

Therefore, it can confuse and intimidate them. Ever noticed your dog become very still and rigid when you hug them? This is a classic sign that they are not enjoying your arms wrapped around them.

Nonetheless, dogs still love affection from their owners. And some dogs love cuddles! But, on the whole, the majority of our furry friends prefer a good old-fashioned belly rub or back scratch.

Today, we are going to discuss hugging and how your dog may feel about it. We will find out how to read their body language better so you can know whether to give them a cuddle or a simple pat on the head in the future.

To hug or not to hug?

We all love a hug. Even if you’re not the biggest fan of close contact with people, a reassuring hug from a loved one can give you the support needed in a time of conflict or sadness. As we mentioned, humans and other primates tend to adore hugs.

We even have a National Hug Day on the 21st of January every year. But, before you throw your arms around your pooch to celebrate this momentous occasion, you should stop and think about whether they actually want a hug.

Over the years, experts have found that, in general, dogs are not the biggest fans when being embraced. However, just like humans, each dog has a unique personality. One dog may abhor a hug while another may adore one.

Unlike us, a dog’s legs aren’t exactly made to wrap around another dog or human. As soon as you wrap your hand around your pooch, they are probably wondering why you’re doing it. That’s right. Us hugging each other or our dogs are just as strange to our pets as seeing them chase their tails.

While humans and canines have been connected for generations, some primal instincts and forms of communication have remained with dogs. One instinct that we don’t share is hugging.

You may have seen a dog place their leg over another dog’s back or shoulder. This is the closest thing to a hug for them and is known as a “standing over.” While this is not aggressive behavior, it is believed to show a form of control or competitiveness. Don’t see this as an opportunity to join in, however. 

Before you get too close to your pooch, there are some signs to look out for to see how your dog feels about a tight squeeze from you.

A dog’s body language 

Do dogs like hugs? Girl and dog lying on a blanket hugging.

The best way to see how your dog feels when you hug them is to observe their body language. But, just as dogs have their own unique personalities, they also have distinctive behaviors. 

If your dog isn’t the biggest fan of close contact, we recommend not attempting a hug. This has been shown to cause stress and anxiety in dogs. They can become irritable which can lead to a higher risk of biting. When your face is so close to your dog, this can become very dangerous.

Have someone take a picture of you and your dog as you hug. This is the best way to gauge how they feel. If a dog is uncomfortable, it may keep its mouth closed with a tense expression on its face throughout the whole embrace. A dog may also hold its ears back or try to wiggle out of the hug.

On the other hand, a more relaxed pup may simply pant calmly with a slack mouth and tongue. Your dog may even lean in and lick your face if they are enjoying the hug.

Some other body language behaviors to look out for are:

  • Placing a paw on you
  • Wagging their tail with their entire back end

If your pooch puts a paw on your arm or lap when you hug or scratch them, it could mean that they are enjoying the attention and want more.

Paws are a major communicative body part for dogs. Placing their paws on your lap as you sit quietly usually means they want your attention and need water or food. Or, they just want cuddles.

If your dog wags its tail with its whole back, in a loose and relaxed way, it’s a pretty clear indication that they love the attention and want more of it.

Dogs can communicate happiness, fear, and tension through their tails as well as other emotions. If the whole back end is moving as well, it usually means your furry chum is very happy.

In Summary 

While we may communicate our affections and emotions in different ways to dogs, we are still similar in many ways. Although we are two completely different species, it’s quite remarkable how close humans and dogs have become over millennia. 

The majority of dogs may not be the biggest fans of a hug but most still crave love and attention. There are other ways, such as back-scratching and belly rubs, that can make your dog the happiest pup on mother Earth.