Well, here’s the most depressing thing you’ll read all week: Your dog probably hates it when you hug him. Hates it, from the tip of his ears to the base of his tail.
We KNOW, but that’s the word from canine behaviorist Dr. Stanley Coren. In an article for Psychology Today, Coren says that dogs do not enjoy being hugged and it actually stresses them out. When dogs are stressed, Coren writes, they display a number of visible signs of their discomfort, including lowering their ears to their heads, turning their heads away or even licking their lips or yawning.
“Dogs are technically cursorial animals, which is a term that indicates that they are designed for swift running,” Coren writes. “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.”
To test his theory, Coren examined 250 pictures of people hugging their dogs (and yes, he pretty much just searched Google and Flickr for those photos) and determined that in 81.6 percent of the pics, the dogs displayed at least one indicator of “discomfort, stress, or anxiety.” In 10.8 percent of the photos, dogs displayed a neutral reaction to being hugged, while only 7.6 percent of the dogs looked OK with being hugged.
So what are dog lovers supposed to do? Coren suggests skipping the hug in favor of a pat, praise or a treat. Fine, but we’re not going to hug you either, Stanley.