Should You Still Hug Your Dog?

Have you read the recent controversy about hugging your dog? Sarah Hodgson, author of the forthcoming Modern Dog Parenting, weighs in with how to tell if your dog loves or hates hugs.

Sarah Hodgson, Writing for
5-minute read

We as people are well-practiced in the art of hugging. From the moment we exit the womb, parents and loved ones hold us tight for a variety of reasons. Ask any kid and they’ll tell you—hugs are love. So how better to show affection than to hug everyone, pets included?

Hug guru Paul Zak, claims the minimum number of hugs we need per day is eight, but the truth is that the more we hug, the happier we are. Why? The groovy little love hormone Oxytocin, which we—and, as it turns out, all other mammals—produce when expressing affection.

You may have missed the latest canine controversy on dog hugging. It began with an article by my friend and colleague Stanley Coren, PhD, titled “The Data Says Don’t Hug the Dog.” In his well-intentioned piece, falling on the eve of Dog Bite Prevention month, he points out that dogs don’t process hugs the way people do. Canine moms lick their pups and puppies snuggle instead of hug. We do mimic these interactions when we pet and sit with our dogs.  In his piece, however, Stanley illustrates a few Google images to show a dog’s signs of stress, which included:

·         Mouth: lip licking, closed, pursed or growling

·         Ears: Pinned back or lowered, deflected

·         Eyes: Strained, white edges showing, blinking or partially closed

·         Posture: Rigid or leaning away

·         Tail: Lowered or tucked under the bodyDogs don’t articulate feeling with words, so it’s up to us to watch their postures to know how they are feeling.  Check out Stanley's article; you’ll learn a lot.

Unintentionally, however, Stanley’s piece incited a riot. Dog hugging enthusiasts flooded the Internet with images and videos proving that their dog was comfortable and happy in a human embrace.

So what gives? Since 81% of us dog lovers call dogs family and 77% consider them like children, people deserve to know: Should we or should we not be hugging our dogs?

Well here’s the quick and dirty truth: Maybe. You need to ask your dog, and listen not with your ears (he can’t tell you) but with your eyes. Think body talk.

Keep reading for tips on how you can stack the hugging cards in your favor ...

For more tips from Sarah Hodgson, check out Modern Dog Parenting, available for preorder on AmazonBarnes & NobleIndieBound, and Booksamillion.