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Dogs don’t dig hugs

Almost every dog owner out there loves to give their best furry friend a big hug and we all assume that our dog’s love a hug too. However, with ‘Hug your Hound’ day on 13th September we look at why your hugging you hound isn’t something your dog enjoys. It’s important to remember, they will still love other signs of affection (we explore this too!).

Hugging stresses dogs out

If you lift a dog to hug them, their paws are dangling off the ground and they have no control. They’re likely to feel a lack of control – and could feel uncomfortably squashed too.

Look at Insta pics of people hugging their pups and you’ll probably spot dogs showing signs of being ill at ease, such as:

  • Licking their lips
  • Yawning
  • Pinning their ears back
  • Showing the whites of their eyes
  • Turning their head to avoid eye contact

After they’ve been hugged, you might also see dogs shake themselves as though they’ve just had a bath. This is another clear sign that lets you know they didn’t enjoy the experience.

A hug could count as risky behavior

When they’re stressed, dogs often like to run away from the situation. By hugging your pup close, you could be causing them anxiety and, at the same time, depriving them of the option to escape. And if they can’t get away, they might bite.

That’s why it’s really not a good idea to let children hug a hound. What’s more, children often squeeze dogs too tightly or put their face too close to the dog’s face – which could cause your pup to react sharply.

How to show your affection

Retriever next to owner's legs

You don’t need to hug or squeeze your canine best friend to make them feel good. There are so many other ways you can show your dog that you love them.

Most dogs are delighted just to be lying near your feet, wonderfully cushioned on their dog bed, with one eye open to make sure you’re not going anywhere.

Give them their special toy and they’ll be thrilled. Take them for a walk and they’ll be ecstatic. Play a game of fetch with them and they’ll be in heaven.

Pet, your pet

You can also show your dog affection by stroking them, rather than giving them a full-body bear hug. This feels good for you and your pup, while allowing your dog more space and therefore a greater feeling of autonomy.

Most dogs dislike being stroked on the head or muzzle, and the belly is a no-go area for some. Instead, try tickling them under the chin, scratching their chest or stroking their lower back.

Hormones create the feel-good factor

Stroking your dog encourages your body to release oxytocin and dopamine – which both have a profound feel-good factor.

Dopamine, the happy hormone, is closely related to our feelings of satisfaction, achievement and pleasure. When we stroke our dog, dopamine lifts us up on a little cloud of euphoria.

Meanwhile, oxytocin is a hormone that promotes feelings of love, bonding and wellbeing. When you pet your dog, it makes you feel more connected to your four-pawed friend, eases stress and helps you relax.

The calming effect of stroking a Labrador

Stroking a retriever

As well as promoting bonding and feelings of wellbeing, stroking your dog can also decrease your levels of cortisol, which is often described as your body’s alarm system. Research from Sweden showed that people’s cortisol levels were significantly reduced after stroking their Labrador for between 15-30 minutes.

Lockdown love-in

During lockdown, many of us have spent more time apart from the people we love, and may well have missed out on hugs from some of our favorite humans. So can stroking your hound fill the gap?

Absolutely, according to Tiffany Field of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami. In an article in Wired magazine, she talks about the concept of ‘skin hunger’, which is the biological need for human touch. She says that touch makes us feel calmer, happier and saner, and that petting a dog can give us the same feel-good effect.

Social breeds keep in touch

Interestingly, working dogs may be particularly good at satisfying our hunger for touch. Meg Olmert, author of a book called ‘Made for Each Other: the biology of the human-animal bond’, says that breeds such as Labradors and Golden Retrievers may be more likely to seek out physical contact with us. This is because they’re highly sociable animals who are trained to focus on their owners.

What’s your pup’s preference?

How about your hound? Does it like to be hugged or would it rather be tickled under the chin? If you’d like to share your thoughts on the wisdom of hugging a hound, please get in touch with us on Facebook or Instagram.

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