Dogs really hate being hugged, and this simple act of kindness makes them anxious and stressed, new research finds. Dogs are made for swift running, and the act of immobilizing them can be very scary.
According to a study in Psychology Today by Stanley Coren, dogs express their discontent in a variety of ways. In addition to baring their teeth, they may turn their heads away from whatever is bothering them or close their eyes. Other signs of anxiety are lowering of the ears, lip licking or licking a person’s face.
Coren and his colleagues randomly collected 250 photos from Google and Flickr featuring people hugging their dogs. The team analyzed the canines’ body language for stress and anxiety and found that nearly 82 percent of dogs showed some sign of discomfort.
Coren explained, “Only 7.6% of the photographs could rate as showing dogs that were comfortable with being hugged. The remaining 10.8% of the dogs either were showing neutral or ambiguous responses to this form of physical contact.”
He added, “I suppose that one aspect of the data that struck me as interesting comes from the fact that the photographs that I used were obviously posts by individuals who wanted to show how much they cared for and shared a bond with their pet. This means that the people who were doing the Internet posting probably chose photos in which they felt that both the person and the dog looked happiest.
“Nonetheless, around 82% of the photographs show unhappy dogs receiving hugs from their owners or children. This seems consistent with other research which suggests that people, especially children, seem to have difficulty reading signs of stress and anxiety based upon their dogs’ facial expressions.”
Coren recommends pet owners show their love for their dogs by petting them or giving them treats instead of hugging them.