A woman giving a hug to her dog while outside.

Do Dogs Like Hugs?

4 mins |

Dogs are loving companions that connect with their human owners, in part, by understanding their expressions. We as owners always try to express our love to our furry friends by offering treats, petting, and even hugging. However, the question is do dogs like hugs, and should you give them any? In this article, we will answer this query.

Dogs don’t like hugs. It makes them uncomfortable and stressed, which can lead to aggressive and negative behavioral changes in dogs. Some trained dogs do tolerate hugs to some degree though.

Why Don’t Dogs Like Hugs?

An owner laying on their couch and giving a hug to their dog.
As much as it’s tempting to do so, don’t do this with your dog.

Dogs don’t like hugs because they feel confused, trapped, and feel like they can’t escape. Generally, when dogs interact with each other they do so by sniffing or licking each other.

They don’t share our way of embracing each other through hugs. Dogs don’t understand hugs; for them, the closest thing to hugging is pinning other dogs during play fights or real fights.

How Do Dogs Feel When Hugged?

A dog is uncomfortable with hugs. A dog may get anxious and stressed by the constant pressure and being trapped in your arms. A person directly staring into a dog’s eyes during a hug and leaving no space for the dog to escape may prompt aggressive behavior from the dog.

Also, a dog confused about the true intention of the person engaged in a hug may perceive it as an act of aggression and get defensive. This defensive stance can be linked to the instinctive adaptation of an alert dog in the wild. Therefore, it is quite likely a dog may perceive your surprise hug as an attack.

How To Tell If A Hug Is Stressing Your Dog Out?

A dog that is stressed due to hugs may display signs of anxiety such as trying to slip away, sliding its head away from the person, putting its tail between its legs, licking its lips, yawning, barking, etc. Some of the other signs include stiffness, ears moving backward, or lowering them.

A trained dog that tolerates hugs won’t display such body language changes and will remain calm. But most dogs don’t tolerate hugs, and their body language displays signs of discomfort and fear.

Can A Dog Bite When Hugged Closely?

The likelihood of getting bitten during hugs is much more with a dog that doesn’t tolerate hugs or doesn’t know you. Hugging puts yourself in close contact with the dog’s face and jaws. This can result in a bite, whether it’s a child or an adult doing the hugging. 

How To Train Dogs To Tolerate Hugs?

Dogs may tolerate hugs from their owners to some degree. However, they need lots of training to stay calm when hugged by strangers or children (which you should avoid letting them do anyway). 

For the purpose of safety and preventing stress in dogs, we need to train dogs using counter-conditioning (changing a dog’s emotional response to a stimulus or action) with the help of positive reinforcement using rewards or treats when touching or hugging dogs. 

In this way, over time, the dog will learn to associate hugs with rewards, and the fear factor of getting trapped will be out of the equation.

What Are The Other Canine-Friendly Ways Of Expression Affection For Your Dog?

Dogs don’t like hugs, but we do have other ways of showing love to our furry friends. Following are the canine-friendly ways of expressing affection to your dog: 

  • Scratching or rubbing their head
  • Gentle pats
  • Belly rubs (dogs love it)
  • Playing games like with fetch toys
  • Offering treats and going for a walk

Conclusion: Do Dogs Like Hugs?

In a nutshell, the answer to the question, “Do dogs like hugs?” is most dogs do not tolerate hugs. Hugs make them feel uncomfortable and stressed, which can manifest in the form of negative emotions like aggression. Therefore, train your dogs to accept an embrace or replace it with something more dog-friendly.

So, what do you think about hugging and dogs? Is it something you already do and are now willing to stop? Let us know your thoughts and why in the comments below!

Shahzaib is a qualified veterinarian and professional writer. He is from Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. He did his DVM from the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad. Being a Veterinarian, Shahzaib has technically sound knowledge of pet health, nutrition, breeding, and housing. He has more than two years of experience in small animal medicine and surgery. Currently, he is working as an Associate Veterinarian in a renowned pet hospital in Islamabad, Pakistan.