For every article out there that tells you that dogs like hugs, there’s another one that says they don’t. You may have a dog who leaps into your arms every chance they get, or one who prefers having their bubble to themselves – and neither is unusual. So which is it? Do dogs like hugs or don’t they?
The answer is: we may be asking the wrong question. As humans, we recognize that we’re all different, with different experiences and different preferences. We shouldn’t forget that our dogs are individuals too. A better question to ask might be, “Why do some dogs like hugs, but not others?”
The argument against hugging your dog:
There are several reasons that your dog may not want your hugs. Some dogs may associate that much physical contact with something negative. If your dog had a bad experience with an affectionate child who squeezed too hard, or if you only hug him when he’s at the vet and about to get stuck with a needle, his experiences may have left a bad impression on him.
Some studies say that hugs can be confusing for dogs because it’s not body language that is affectionate between dogs. If a dog were to put his paw or limb on another dog’s shoulder or back, it would probably be taken as a sign of dominance. We never see dogs put their limbs around each other as a sign of affection. Others say that dogs feel restrained when held, and the feeling is contrary to their “fight or flight” instinct. Should a predator come prowling in your living room, your dog wants to be ready to either protect you or get out of there.
These claims are frequently argued amongst behaviorists, trainers, experts, and everyday dog owners. So many of us come home to dogs who can’t wait to jump into our arms, we just cannot believe that dogs don’t like hugs. If that were true, how do you explain THIS?
Does your dog like hugs?
Many dogs love to be as close as possible to their humans. Some dogs, regardless of size, will lean against your leg, climb into your lap, or just knock you over, eager to love you. When they nudge their way under our arms while relaxing on the couch, we see that they’re not just tolerating our weird human affection.
So it’s not about whether dogs like hugs – it’s whether YOUR dog likes hugs! How can you tell? Their body language is often very straight forward about physical contact. If your dog walks away when you try to put your arms around him – or if he immediately tries to wiggle out of your arms and risk a drop to the floor, he’s not a fan of hugs. Being familiar with your dog’s body language can help you spot other more subtle signs.
If your dog likes hugs, he may initiate them himself! Many will jump up or otherwise indicate that he want to be held or hugged. If your dog is like mine, she likes to sit all seventy-five pounds in your lap and rest her head on your shoulder – and it’s absolute heaven.
If your dog used to enjoy being hugged, pet and picked up, but is suddenly avoiding you or becoming aggressive when you approach him, it may be a sign that he’s in pain. See 8 Subtle Signs Your Dog Is In Pain.