Your Dog Doesn’t Like Hugs, and That’s Okay

May 31, 2016

You may have seen in the news recently that dogs don’t like hugs. If you’re like me, you had a flash of all the dogs you’ve ever cuddled and feared you’d caused irreparable damage to their psyche. The struggle was real. But calm down! I’m here to help you through this dark time.

Don’t Panic

There’s no way a dog doesn’t like hugs, right? I’m sure you’ve wrapped your arms around your furry friend and felt that deep connection. You may be asking yourself what that’s all about.
I know we all wish we were dogs (…right? Or is that just me…) but we ain’t. Humans interact by touching, holding, and generally being very physical. When we greet each other, it’s with arms wide open! Oxycotin is the love-hormone, and it’s released when we get close. That helps form bonds, release stress, and…you know…bring people together. That forms a strong emotional bond between us, and therefore is our instinct.
Being close like that gives us those warm-feelings. Even when we go hugging non-human things (tree huggers, you know.)

So, when we hear our dogs don’t like hugs, how do we process that? Our way of forming bonds doesn’t translate. But don’t worry!


A dog still loves you, even if you hug her all the time. The thing is: when dogs introduce themselves to each other, there is a lot of scent-identification, sizing each other up, and play. Some animal behaviorists say that, when dogs put their arms around each other, they are testing boundaries in a playful way. That’s why you will see dogs “grab” each other while wrestling. Yes, they are playing together and forming a bond, but by testing boundaries they are sizing each other up! Who’s top dog?
That’s one reason why dogs aren’t too keen about hugs. To them, it’s about who’s in control. At least, that’s an idea.
Hugs are also stressful for your dog! Think about it: a dog is designed to move, and at quick paces. When it comes to the instinctual “fight or flight,” dogs are more likely to choose running away before fighting.
Giving your pooch a nice big hug may feel good for you, but to her, those kind arms are restricting. You’re cutting off her escape plan.
And that, in a nutshell, is why dogs aren’t crazy about hugs.


You can still form an everlasting relationship with your pup without hugging her. Studies have shown that when two people do fun things together they form bonds–even without touching, really. It’s the experience of having a good time and forming those memories. That releases feel-good-hormones like being close does.

Non-Hug Touches

If you’re not constricting your dog, it’s okay to give some physical love. Just because your pup gets anxious with hugging, doesn’t mean petting, grooming, or scratching isn’t fair game. When you first bring a dog into your home, it’s recommended that you spend time associating him with touch. Taking time to rub his feet, touch the hair on his tail (etc.) is a good way to prepare him for vet visits. But it is also a good way to encourage comfort and relaxation.



A great way of having fun with your dog is as simple as taking your walk. Mix it up a little and bring out a toy. Play time can be used as a reward for good behavior, or just a way to spoil your pup a little! It keeps the body and the brain working. Dogs love quick, exciting activity. This can be a quick training session, or rambunctious play in the park. It’s been proven that when parents play with their kids (or their pups,) they are making close relationships.


Put At Least 15 Minutes Aside

…for personal time with your pup. Every night. As mentioned above, you can use training as a way to connect. You don’t need to teach new tricks, or even try. Just practicing sit, stay, come, or shake is enough to keep bonds strong. It also helps when your dog is feeling restless.

See? There are so many ways to show and create affection between you and your pup. You don’t need to wrap your arms around them (though we want to). While we interact with our pup, it’s always important to pay attention to his stress signs: He may turn his head away away from the problem. His eyes may grow wide, so you see the whites. Stiff posture. If you see some of these, back off. And put more effort into showing love in other ways!



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