Most dogs don't like being immobilized in an embrace.
Dogs hate to be hugged. That’s what a new study by psychology professor and neuropsychological researcher Stanley Coren is saying after his analysis of 250 photos on the internet showing people hugging man’s best friend.
Coren, of the University of British Columbia, says most dogs have the instinct to run away from danger, instead of trying to fight, and the process of hugging the animal temporarily immobilizes it. This leaves to poor pet no opportunity of escape, no matter how well-intended the hug may have been.
Coren writes, “more than four out of five dogs find this human expression of affection to be unpleasant and/or anxiety arousing,” according to an article in Psychology Today. But, he added, the data clearly shows a few dogs may like being hugged.
His article says overall, 81.6 percent of the photos the researchers scored for the study showed dogs who were presenting at least one sign of distress, discomfort or anxiety. His photos were selected randomly with certain criteria, such as the dog’s face had to be clearly visible, and he eliminated photos that may have shown the dog being stressed for a different reason, as in being lifted off the ground.
The scoring was based on three possible outcomes of the hugs. One, the dog was clearly showing signs of stress or anxiety, two, the dog appeared to be relaxed and comfortable, and three, the dog seemed to be ambiguous to the contact.
The signs of stress and anxiety in dogs are well established, continued Coren. Indicators run from the obvious baring of the teeth, to more subtle signs, as in the turning of the head away from the contact, and closing the eyes and a lowering of the ears. Coren says even the licking of the person’s face can be a sign of anxiety, along with yawning and raising one its paws.
Coren adds the recommendation that he took from the research was to save your hugging for your family and friends, instead of your dogs. Show your affection for your fur-covered family members by giving them a pat, a kind word, or rewarding them with a treat.