Tags: dogs | hugs | stressful

Dogs Don't Like Hugs? Nope, Says Prof, Actually It's Stressful

Image: Dogs Don't Like Hugs? Nope, Says Prof, Actually It's Stressful
 (Reuters/Eddie Keogh)

By    |   Wednesday, 27 Apr 2016 08:49 AM

Dogs don't like hugs, which are more likely to raise their stress levels than show them affection or bonding the way humans interpret it, according to findings in Psychology Today.

Stanley Coren, professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia who has been recognized for his books on dogs, in an article said that much to the likely surprise of many dog owners, the animals find human hugs one of their least favorite things.

"Dogs are technically cursorial animals, which is a term that indicates that they are designed for swift running," Coren said. "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."

"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." 

Coren analyzed 250 random pictures of dogs being hugged, using a standard set of criteria to make his observation and found known signs of anxiety consistency – such as turning their heads away from the owner or holding their ears down, according to Psychology Today.

"In all, 81.6 percent of the photographs researchers scored showed dogs who were giving off at least one sign of discomfort, stress, or anxiety," Coren said. "Only 7.6 percent of the photographs could rate as showing dogs that were comfortable with being hugged. The remaining 10.8 percent of the dogs either were showing neutral or ambiguous responses to this form of physical contact."

Coren suggested that humans are better off showing their affection to dogs by patting, a kind word or giving treats.

Claire Matthews, a senior canine behaviorist at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home in London, told The Telegraph that she agreed with Coren's findings.

"Subtle stress signals can be missed when you're hugging your pet and this could lead to a negative reaction, so it’s about recognizing when your dog is uncomfortable," Matthews said. "Some people think that giving their dog a hug is a nice thing to do, but the reality is that a family pet will often tolerate a hug but doesn't like it."

Others, though, are taking a wait-and-see attitude toward Coren's doggy research.

"To be clear, these are preliminary results and Cohen and his team are yet to write them up and have them peer-reviewed, so we have to take them with a grain of salt for now," said the Science Alert website on Wednesday. "But there's certainly no harm in paying closer attention to the body language of your dog based on what they found."

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Dogs don't like hugs, which are more likely to raise their stress levels than show them affection or bonding the way humans interpret it.
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Wednesday, 27 Apr 2016 08:49 AM
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