Petlife logo

Your dog despises your hugs, so please don't give them to him

by Monica Stefan 2 months ago in dog
Report Story

So, if a kind stranger tries to embrace your dog, watch for symptoms of discomfort and interfere

Your dog despises your hugs, so please don't give them to him
Photo by Richard Brutyo on Unsplash

There's no doubting that dogs are adored by their owners. We make tiny sweaters for them, feed them gourmet snacks, kiss their wet noses, and even put them in our bubble baths (I so wish that was not a personal reference). While embracing your dog makes you feel wonderful by releasing the hormone oxytocin, your dog has a very different reaction.

Your dog despises your hugs, so please don't give them to him.

Oh no. Through my computer, I can feel the internet's daggers. It's not that your dog dislikes being stroked. It's your method of assaulting your pet that needs to change.

The rationale is evolutionary, according to Dr. Stanley Coren, a canine behavior expert at the University of British Columbia. Dogs, according to Dr. Coren, are cursorial animals that have evolved expressly to sprint like gazelles. Horses, wolves, kangaroos, ostriches, and even some spider species are among the cursorial animals.

When a cursorial animal is stressed, its first line of defense is to flee rather than attack. As a result, that evolutionary mechanism is hindered when you hug your dog in a restrictive embrace. As a result, your dog's cortisol levels rise, the stress hormone secreted by the adrenal glands.

Unfortunately, many dog attacks occur when the dog is backed into a corner with no way out.

You're thinking: "My puppy loves my hugs," maybe. But please do me a favor... Go embrace your dog and then have a buddy take a picture of you two together to capture that lovely moment of affection. This is what Dr. Coren investigated in a non-peer reviewed study on how dogs react to hugs.

While you're cuddling your dog, look for the following symptoms of misery (Note: I was able to locate these signs in practically every creative commons image search for "hugging dog").

Licking lips

If you don't have bacon in your pocket, dogs will lick their lips as a stress warning. Yawning and lifting one paw are two other stress cues. Researchers at Tufts University discovered that when a dog licked their lips or yawned, more salivary cortisol was secreted.

The turn of the head

Remember when your obnoxious uncle or aunt would move in for a full-on smooch when you were a kid? To avoid the drool, you probably turned your head to the side. Your dog, on the other hand, is politely doing the same.

To ease into a greeting, most dogs move their heads away from other dogs as well. A direct look is aggressive and intense to canines. Your dog's head turn could be a signal to you to slow down, hussy. At the very least, give me some foreplay before you suffocate me.

Ears pinned down

To gauge a dog's level of attention, most dog trainers look at their ears. A dog's ears pushed forward indicates that it is paying attention.

Because dogs lower their ears when they are unhappy, afraid, or nervous, this one is more difficult to assess. The longer the dog's ears are pulled back, the more nervous and afraid it is. Keep an eye on your dog's ears the next time you leave. You'll undoubtedly notice that his ears are drooping.

According to Coren's research, while being hugged, 81.6 percent of dogs had at least one distress indication, with many displaying multiple signs.

Of course, I'm referring to dogs who were coerced into participating in a photo shoot they didn't want to be a part of. I'm guessing the models in the above images aren't the dog's owners. Would you like to be hugged by an unknown stranger while bright lights flash in your face? Dogs use nonverbal signs to express their discontent, just like we do. A dog may warm up to its owner's cuddles yet become frigid when embraced by a stranger.

To be clear, I am not advising that you cease showing your dog affection. You might want to loosen your death hold a little. Dogs enjoy being touched, but they also enjoy being touched in a way that permits them to flee if necessary.

So, if a kind stranger tries to embrace your dog, watch for symptoms of discomfort and interfere. You may need to explain that your dog, like many humans, is not a hugger.


About the author

Monica Stefan

Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

Top insights

  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  2. Expert insights and opinions

    Arguments were carefully researched and presented

Add your insights

Comments (12)

Sign in to comment
  • Jonaewrites2 months ago

    thanks for the info!

  • Trevor Quigley2 months ago

    Nice and interesting! I had heard this elsewhere before, but was nontheless a good read!

  • Shelby Larsen2 months ago

    Great article! As some of the other commenters mentioned, all dogs are different. I think being able to read your dog's reactions is the most important part!

  • Carol Townend2 months ago

    I had a dog in my childhood who was badly hurt. He did not like hugs at all, and you had to be mindful not to stroke his head. I think sometimes, people tend to treat dogs like humans. They become attached to them; while there is nothing wrong with this, when we purchase a dog, we need to remember they have very different needs to ourselves.

  • As a dog owner, I see where you are coming from. I know my Chocolate Lab likes being petted more than he likes hugs. When you can, check out my writing.

  • Monica Stefan2 months ago


  • Gina Chiriac2 months ago

    Omg. Lovely article!!!

  • Rebecca Fry2 months ago

    I love dogs. I have a Red Heeler. Keep up the great writing!

  • NO1 TIME2 months ago


  • Felix Martinez2 months ago

    Great article, though, I'm not sure all dogs apply. When my Maltipoo needs affection, he'll reach up until I lift him up. He then rests his head against mine for an apparently much-needed hug.

  • Josey Pickering2 months ago

    I have a chocolate lab who was rescued from some pretty traumatic stuff. She loves hugs. Like, seeks them out. She will come up to me on the couch and wait for me to acknowledge her and then put her paws on my shoulders until I embrace her. I have many photos hugging her or embracing her in many ways where she is blissed out and content. Perhaps she’s the only exception, but my girl Juno loves hugs and knowing she’s loved.

Find us on social media

Miscellaneous links

  • Explore
  • Contact
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use
  • Support

© 2022 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.