Dogs don’t like hugs? This may surprise you, but dogs evidently don’t like your embracing hugs, at least according to one study. If you are in the habit of wrapping your arms around your best friend’s neck, you may want to think twice about smothering your canine pal with affection. They hate hugs, says a rather unscientific study grounded in a Google Image search.
Reports US News and World Report on April 26: “The study analyzed 250 Internet photos of people hugging their dogs, scanning for known signs of anxiety in the dog, including turning their head away, showing the whites of the eyes and slicked back ears.”
The study was reported on by Stanley Coren, who authors Canine Corner at PsychologyToday.com. Coren, who owns a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, relates a story where a woman hugged his puppy during a “Doggy De-Stress Day” at a local college campus. Kids facing finals evidently find peace of mind and see their anxiety levels deflate when they are surrounded by the domesticated Canis lupus.
And here we thought that two RedBulls were the furtive tonic to success.
But Coren reports that dogs are technically cursorial animals – meaning they are adapted specifically for running. “That implies that in times of stress or threat the first line of defense that a dog uses is not his teeth, but rather his ability to run away. Behaviorists believe that depriving a dog of that course of action by immobilizing him with a hug can increase his stress level and, if the dog’s anxiety becomes significantly intense, he may bite,” Coren writes.
Humans, on the other hand, are fossorial – meaning that we have adapted to burrowing. We find our niche in the well-depressed corner of our sectional, with snacks at the helm as afternoon court shows amuse the tiny part of our brains that remain cognitive. And if our diminutive Chinese Crested pal wants to mount up and lick the Doritos residue from our chin, then that’s ok too.
In reviewing the photos, Coren determined that over 80 percent of the dogs that were hugged were “giving off at least one sign of discomfort, stress, or anxiety.” Close to eight percent of the dogs reviewed seemed like they enjoyed the hug, while the remaining ten percent or so “were showing neutral or ambiguous responses to this form of physical contact.”
I believe if we were to study human hug interaction, we might find the same. When an out-of-town aunt wants to wrap her perfumed-up stuffy self around us and plant a smoocher on our cheeks, well, we also show signs of distress. Even Jerry decided that he just couldn’t do the kiss and hug hello thing anymore, and we applaud his staunch position.
So no hugging. Coren suggests it’s “better from the dog’s point of view if you express your fondness for your pet with a pat, a kind word, and maybe a treat.”
Your thoughts on this data: Do you agree that your dog doesn’t like to be hugged?