Everyone knows that every January 21st of every year since 1986 is National Hugging Day. The holiday encourages everyone to give their family members, loved ones, and friends a big warm hug. But does this also apply to man’s best friend? Don’t fret, your dog has a national holiday of its own, too. Every second Sunday of September every year is the National Hug Your Hound Day. But the real question that pet parents have is, “Do dogs like hugs?” Here are some dog-hug-things you ought to know.
Why Do Dogs Like to Cuddle?
Contrary to what many pet parents want to believe, not all dogs like to cuddle. As a matter of fact, only 8 percent of dogs are very willing to cuddle with their human owners. There is also a very intriguing observation regarding pictures of pet owners hugging their respective dogs. In 81 percent of these pictures, the dog presented with at least one sign of distress. Eleven percent of these dogs showed no reaction whatsoever. In short, majority of dogs do not like to cuddle.
The reason for this may shock you. There are a number of theories that dog behaviorists are looking at to explain this peculiar behavior. While it is true that there are dog breeds that like to cuddle, there is a greater number of them that don’t.
One of the most surprising theories as to why majority of dogs do not see hugging as a necessary form of affection has something to do with canine dominance. The dog behavior that can come close to the act of hugging is when a dog places its paw or foreleg on another dog’s back. Dogs see this “act” as exerting one’s dominance over the other. Hence, if a person hugs a dog, there is a slim chance that the pet will feel like it is being dominated by the human. Some will feel threatened while others will loathe the feeling.
Some folks interpret the “act” as the answer to their question of how dogs hug. Unfortunately, hugging is not in the dog’s list of “how to show your affection to your human companion.”
There is another theory that is somewhat far-fetched, but is still plausible. Canine behaviorists believe that the very nature of dogs as pack animals allow them to “huddle” up when there’s a threat. In huddling, their bodies get pressed against each other. This further heightens their fight-or-flight instincts. As such, when a human hugs a dog, he presses his arms against the dog’s body. This triggers the fight-or-flight instinct which, to the dog, means the presence of an impending danger.
Breeds of Dog That Love to Cuddle
We mentioned that only about 8 percent of dogs will seek cuddle time from their human owners. And if you happen to have any of these hounds, then good for you. The following are examples of dog breeds that like to cuddle.
- Golden Retriever
- Labrador Retriever
- Great Dane
- Bichon Frise
- Italian Greyhound
- American Pit Bull Terrier
It may come as a surprise to you why the American Pit Bull Terrier is in this list of the dog breeds that love hugs and cuddles. After all, this is the same breed of dog that’s often depicted in the media as a very vicious and aggressive dog. However, in the hands of a true pet parent, the APBT is a real darling.
What this implies is that it is very possible for dogs to learn to appreciate how humans show their affection. In other words, we can train our dogs to learn to like being hugged or cuddled.
Teaching Your Dog to Like Hugs
It is not impossible to introduce the idea of hugging as a sign of affection to our pet dogs. With perseverance, patience, and the correct technique, you can help your pet hound learn to like cuddles and hugs. So, the next time somebody asks you how dogs hug, you don’t have to explain anything. Just show them.
First, it is important to get your dog accustomed to your touch. You may want to start with body parts that dogs do not consider as a threat. Keep in mind that dogs, in general, do not like being touched in the face or the head. So, stroking their back is always a good way to start. Praise your dog and reward it with a yummy treat. What you want your dog to learn is to associate the touch experience with positive things.
While you are stroking your dog’s back, be very mindful of signs of distress from your dog. It may avoid eye contact or turn its head away. It may show the whites of its eyes or lick its lips. Some dogs also flatten or lower their ears if they are under stress. Other dogs may become stiff. Be mindful of these cues. If you see any of these signs, stop what you’re doing and go on ahead with praising and rewarding your pet. Remember, don’t push it. If your dog is showing signs of distress, it often means you went too fast.
Second, as your dog gets used to your stroking its back, you can start extending your touches to include its hind leg. If it allows you, then praise your pet and reward it with a delicious treat. Always keep an eye for the signs of distress in dogs.
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Third, over time, your dog should already get used to having most of its body touched. It should already be ready for a nice hug. Start with a gentle and brief hug. A light hug is better for the dog as it experiences a different kind of “touch”. Resist the temptation to give your dog a passionate hug or a tight embrace. Don’t push your luck.
It is important to remember that not all dogs like hugs. And while there are dog breeds that are known to love cuddles and hugs, not all members of that breed may share the same passion. But there are ways by which you can help your pet learn to appreciate hugs.
- Should we hug our dogs? – Dogs for Good
- Do Dogs Like Hugs? – AKC