It's Sadly Official, Dogs Hate Being Hugged By Their Humans, It Causes Them Stress And Anxiety

You might think hugging your hound is a way to show it love and affection, but in an article in Psychology Today by dog behavior expert Stanley Coren he proposes that hugging your dog actually causes it stress and anxiety.

Although we might love wrapping our arms around and cuddling our canines Coren argues that the physical contact makes them anxious because they're unable to run away. "Behaviorists believe that depriving a dog of that course of action by immobilizing him with a hug can increase his stress level and, if the dog's anxiety becomes significantly intense, he may bite." writes Coren.

Coren does then go on to say that he could find little "experimental evidence" to support that argument so he decides to gather some data himself.

He does this by looking at pictures of people hugging their dogs, typing in "hug dog" or "love dog" as search terms in Google Image Search or Flickr. He then looked for signs of stress and anxiety. Dogs turning their heads away, closed eyes, lowered ears, lip licking, yawning, raising a paw.

He then scored each picture with a 1, 2, or 3 which would note whether the dog was relaxed, stressed, or neither (neutral).

And then he reaches his conclusion:

I can summarize the data quite simply by saying that the results indicated that the Internet contains many pictures of happy people hugging what appear to be unhappy dogs. In all, 81.6% of the photographs researchers scored showed dogs who were giving off at least one sign of discomfort, stress, or anxiety. Only 7.6% of the photographs could rate as showing dogs that were comfortable with being hugged. The remaining 10.8% of the dogs either were showing neutral or ambiguous responses to this form of physical contact.

Much more relevant for the current question is the fact that this data clearly shows that while a few dogs may like being hugged, more than four out of five dogs find this human expression of affection to be unpleasant and/or anxiety arousing.

The clear recommendation to come out of this research is to save your hugs for your two-footed family members and lovers. It is clearly better from the dog's point of view if you express your fondness for your pet with a pat, a kind word, and maybe a treat.

Not exactly the news dog owners probably want to hear, but there you go. You can read the full article here and below are two annotated pictures which Coren uses as examples of dogs hating being hugged.

Try not to take the news too personally.

Hug scoring 2 Humane Society of Greater Rochester
Hug scoring 1 Peter Kemmer