Should You Hug Your Dog? Reading Dog and Human Body Language. Do Dogs Like it When You Hug Them?

Dog and Human Body Language. Do Dogs Like it When You Hug Them?

If you can view this sideways photo, you will find me on the floor with m dog Bo. It was taken of us several years ago when Bo was one of two. This photo really shows how much I love my dog. I love him so much I have my one arm wrapped around his neck and may I am holding his hindquarters with my other hand and arm. I also have my head tilted towards him in love and my heart is pressed up against him. Bo is cradling up against me. However, I notice his tail is down. He is big frightened of the photographer and the flashes from the camera. His body is toward me and his head is relaxed into me so it is clear he is seeking comfort from me and is not trying to get away. However, reading my dog's body language, I bet the combination of a too human like hug that to a dog feels too confining and the big ole camera and crowd in my kitchen is not helping. Dogs don't typically like to be hugged. I know, if you have a wonderful dog like my dog Bo you really want to hug on him. Don’t take it personally, if your dog tries to escape your loving embrace. Most dogs don’t like the restriction as it keeps them from “fleeing” mode that is a dogs normal response to stress. Think about it in human terms. You wouldn’t like it if someone came a held your feet when you were stressed, would you? I am a big hugger and I am so blessed that over the years Bo has not only adapted to my hugs but seeks them. Most dogs don’t mind a pat or a very brief full hug but you need to know your dog and watch them closely to understand if they are hug tolerant. Dogs can fear or love hugs.

I enjoy watching TV shows that play videos of kids and babies and dogs. It is cute when dogs allow babies and kids to hug them. However, there is that part of me that wants to teach everyone you don't hug dogs you don’t know. Hugs are not the accepted greeting ritual. Instead, approach strange dogs by putting out your hand so they can sniff it. If the dog feels safe and friendly he will let you know by staying in place to say, “Your OK!” but not freezing in place in fear which says in dog body language, “I am too scared to move.” In another show of the acceptance may be presenting the side of his body to say, “I won’t be aggressive by coming at you head on I will give you my side so you can pet me now.”

As the national spokesperson for Pup-Peroni, I am studying the similarities and differences between human body language and dog behavior.

Patti Wood, MA, Certified Speaking Professional
The Body Language Expert
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