The love your dog gives you when you come back home after a busy day is worth its weight in gold. But however much you want to show your love back to them, there is one thing you should never do because experts have proven it may harm your pooches.
The action you're warned not to do is hugging your dog. Believe us, it's truly that big of a deal. And everyone needs to know this news, given that nearly half of American homes have dogs, according to the 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey. There is another fact that seems unbelievable but is true.
The survey also finds that millennials are most likely to own dogs and drop much more money on their dogs than anyone else. Nearly 25% of millennial dog owners throw parties for their pets, and plenty of them take their furry friends on vacation or even have them enjoy five-star service. Rationally, your dog appreciates these more than your hug.
Then, what on earth is the problem with hugging a dog? It seems to make no sense. We humans enjoy being embraced by a loved one. And many dog lovers confess that they can't be happier when cuddling with their furry buddy. But be aware, dogs are not human beings.
Even though lots of you consider your puppy a furbaby, they're not humans and shouldn't be treated like a human baby, including shouldn't be embraced like an actual baby. Now you may be wondering why you're advised not to hug your dog; look at what experts say.
Caroline Kisko of The Kennel Club, the world's oldest kennel club in the UK, has reminded us to avoid hugging our dogs. She told The Daily Telegraph, "Dogs are often considered part of the family. However, they are not human and may therefore react differently to certain interactions such as hugging." That's reasonable.
Claire Matthews, a senior canine behaviorist at the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in the UK agreed with Caroline's opinion. She explained to The Daily Telegraph, "A hug might be a normal social greeting for humans, but it isn't for a dog. Subtle stress signals can be missed when you're hugging your pet, and this could lead to a negative reaction."
So, how do you know if your dog feels uncomfortable while being embraced? Well, Dr. Stanley Coren, a canine behavior expert and a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia, could probably tell you. He conducted some studies and found that dogs show several distinctive signs of stress when their owners hug them.
The expert drew his conclusions from 250 photos of dogs being embraced. And we're sorry to break the bad news to you, but yes, most of the dogs exhibited signs of stress. They either flatten or press back their ears, or show the whites of their eyes, or lick or yawn excessively. These behaviors may signal that your dog dislikes your hug.
Through his research, professor Coren found that a remarkable 81.6% of the studied dogs displayed at least one sign of stress, while a mere 7.6% of them seemed at ease. The professor couldn't determine how the remaining 10.8% felt in a hug, but one thing seemed sure and that was that they weren't at their happiest.
So, why does hugging lead dogs to show signs of stress? Dr. Coren explained to Psychology Today, "Dogs are technically cursorial animals, which is a term that indicates that they are designed for swift running. That implies that in times of stress or threat the first line of defense that a dog uses is not his teeth, but rather his ability to run away."
So, if your pooch has ever tried to wriggle out of your arms, now you know the reason. Plus, it may not be a good idea to prevent your dog from escaping. Dr. Coren continued, "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."
Dr. Coren then advised to "save your hugs for your two-footed family members and lovers." And instead of showing your love by embracing them, opt for more dog-friendly ways. The professor added, "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." Yikes!
The truth is disappointing and may make you feel guilty. Fortunately, there is still a small silver lining. Dr. Coren himself has admitted that his decisions were based solely on "casual observations" and haven't been peer-reviewed. Therefore, other experts may find flaws in his study.
Additionally, the dog images that Dr. Coren has studied were chosen randomly online, and he had little context to draw his conclusions upon. That means the expert didn't observe how the dogs had behaved before being embraced. So, they may have been displaying signs of stress due to other causes other than hugging.
We're sorry again to tell you that don't raise your hopes too much. Dr. Evan MacLean of The Duke Canine Cognition Center, which is dedicated to the study of dog psychology, speaks highly of Dr. Coren's findings. He told The Washington Post, "This is interesting preliminary data which might serve as a good starting point for a formal study."
Now you may ask, "Can I embrace my dog or not, then?" Well, the answer is probably not. Dr. MacLean said, "I would advise against hugging dogs – at least in the conventional human form of hugging. This is essentially primate behavior. For example, we see similar embraces in nonhuman apes, but [it's] not something that dogs do with one another naturally."
But don't be sad as there is at least one way back for all dog owners: snuggling up to your furry friends. Dr. MacLean added, "There are lots of ways to have close body contact with dogs that don't require wrapping your arms around them in a confining manner." You can pet your buddy as much as you like, but steer clear of the hugs.