As “man’s best friend”, it’s only natural that you’d want to shower your dog(s) with affection. But even as a member of your family, hugging your dog could actually be stressing him or her out, sometimes enough to cause real anxiety.
Dr. Stanley Coren, a professor emeritus in psychology at the University of British Columbia, writes in a Psychology Today blog post that hugging a dog actually increases the dog’s stress level, according to NPR.
Dr. Coren came to this conclusion after studying more than 250 images of humans hugging dogs. He analyzed all of the photos, looking for tell-tale signs of stress in the dogs, including the dog turning away from you, baring teeth, snarling, yawning, licking its lips, pressing its ears down flat against its head, and closed or half closed eyes.
In his blog post, Dr. Coren wrote that the dogs in the photos he analyzed showed at least one of these signs of distress in 81.6 percent of the pictures–that’s a lot of stressed out pups!
It’s theorized that dogs are so anxious about being hugged because they are restrained. Their ability to run away from danger–their evolutionary advantage–is threatened, and some dogs are more affected by hugs than others.
To keep from accidentally getting bitten or causing a dog discomfort, it’s best practice to simply not hug your dog–or anyone else’s, for that matter! To show love and affection, stick with gentle petting, patting, or giving treats when the owner says it’s alright. We promise–they’ll still feel the love!