Even though hugging your dog may be one of your favourite things to do – they are so soft and fluffy after all – you may have noticed they don’t always share the enjoyment.
This is for a number of different reasons. One is a feeling of lack of control, when they are lifted, their paws are hanging off the ground and they are unable to find purchase on anything. Your dog by doing the following behaviours suggests they are stressed out or uncomfortable and don’t want to be doing what they’re doing i.e. licking their lips, yawning, pinning their ears back, showing the whites of their eyes and turning their head to avoid eye contact. After the hug, the dog may shake themselves as though to shake off the experience.
Another reason dogs do not like hugging is the lack of escape – dogs innate behaviour is to run away from risky situations, by hugging them, you’re taking away that opportunity, and may cause them to become anxious and feel unsafe. In response to this, they may turn to biting as a way to escape, especially if you are hugging them hard. So, it is a good idea to stop children from hugging, as your dog is just responding in a way that they think is keeping them safe and may not consider the harm done to you or others.
There are many other ways of showing your affection to your dog, most of which your dog will love! Just being around them, where they can keep an eye on you, keeps them very content and taking them for a walk and playing fetch may make them the happiest dog on earth! An alternative to hugging is just to pet your dogs, so that they have their freedom to get away if need be and feel more comfortable. Under the chin, scratching their chest or stroking their lower back seem to be the peak spots and gets those happy hormones going.
Not only is petting good for the dog, but also good for us. It increases the dopamine hormone in our brain, which is related to feelings of pleasure, while also causing our body to release oxytocin which relates to feelings of love, connection, and well-being.