Why does my dog not like to be hugged?
Hugging is NOT natural for Dogs
Hugging is a primate type of action that expresses emotions like love, joy and happiness. Unfortunately, dogs are not primates and they did not evolve to understand hugging.
Hugging can be misunderstood as exerting dominance
First of all, canines do not have arms so it is unnatural for them to extend their "arms" (read foreleg) and wrap it around you. In the dog world, whenever a dog places its foreleg or paws on another dog, it means an act of dominance or assertiveness to them. So, the act of hugging could be translated or misunderstood as you exerting your dominance on your dog whenever you try to hug him/her. Most dogs will be able to withstand it with good behavior however some dogs may feel nervous or in worse situations, be resentful about this as they feel threatened.
Your Dog Still LOVES You Very Much!
Although dogs don't like to hugged, it is important to get one thing clear: just because your dog might not like your hugs does not mean he doesn't love you with all his heart. They are just like little children who expresses their emotions & feelings in a different way.
5 Signs to see if your dog likes to be hugged:
- Does he/she avoid eye contact with you when you hug them?
- Does he/she lean away from you when being hugged?
- Does he/she keep licking their lips? This shows that they are nervous & are being submissive.
- Does he/she try to pry itself away from you and once you let go, they run away?
- Does he/she try to bite you or growl at you?
Photo Credit: Humane Society of Greater Rochester/flickr
How to teach your dog to tolerate hugs
GOOD News! Much like potty training your dog, you can train your dog to tolerate hugs. By associating the act of hugging with something that your dog adores such as his/her favorite treats, belly rubs or a nice back scratch, you can train him/her to start to like hugging.
Step by Step Guide:
First, sit next to your dog, shoulder to shoulder and rest your hand on top of their back. Next, reward & praise them as you continue to repeat the steps over for a few times.
After your dog has gotten used to this act, gradually and slowly move your arm around your dog a bit more. Increase the amount of reward and frequency of it as you inch your arm over your dog.
Lastly, do not progress to a full hug which includes a hugging squeeze until your dog is fully happy and used to this behavior. Squeezing your dog as you hug may increase the anxiety level to your dog and you will only want to progress to this step after they are okay with the act of hugging.
The purpose is to associate the act of your arm over their shoulder as something positive.
Some dogs take a while to learn, while others may take longer to learn this behavior. The most important thing is to have patience when you train your dog, after all, we're asking them to do something that is against their social instinct as a canine.
Photo Credit: Diana Mulvihill/The Image Bank/Getty Images