Do you regularly hug your dog? Have you broken up with your significant other and called Fido over for a reassuring hug? Seems it may make you feel better, but a recent article from Psychology Today reveals a different feeling for dogs.
According to author, Stanley Coren, a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia, dogs innately have been conditioned to run away quickly from a threat or to chase prey. In other words, hugging your best friend could be detrimental to his survival:
“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 stated in his article.
So for all those dogs brought onto college grounds to help de-stress students during exam time, might be fine for the collegians, but not so good for 80 percent of the dogs. So here’s a question to ponder? Do we raise our dogs from puppies with hugs as we do our children? Babies brought up without hugs and kisses can be emotionally stunted. Dogs, however are not humans and are classified as cursorial animals; meaning they have been genetically programmed for running and chasing. In times of stress, dogs run away before they use their teeth as a defense. Coren says depriving a dog of this instinct can stress him out, thus prompting your best friend to bite. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) encourages parents not to let their children hug the family dog.
The common signs of stressed dogs are:
- When the dog turns his head away from whatever is bothering him and half closes his eyes
- When the dog displays a “half-moon eye” or “whale eye” which is where you can see the white portion of the eyes at the corners
- When the dog’s ears are lowered or slicked back
- Lip licking or licking a person’s face or yawning or raising a paw.
Coren examined 250 random photos of dogs and humans hugging where the dogs’ faces were completely visible. His results were:
“In all, 81.6% of the photographs researchers scored showed dogs who were giving off at least one sign of discomfort, stress, or anxiety. Only 7.6% of the photographs could rate as showing dogs that were comfortable with being hugged. The remaining 10.8% of the dogs either were showing neutral or ambiguous responses to this form of physical contact.”
For sure, these findings from Coren will meet with considerable disagreement, but from the dog’s point of view, maybe some more thought to hugging humans might be more appreciated? Perhaps a “good boy,” a treat or a car ride might be more pleasing to our canine companions?
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