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Hug it Out… or Don’t

Author: Nicole Stewart | Date: June 13, 2012

Here are a couple facts:

  1. Humans hug to show affection and love.
  2. Dogs don’t.  (Let’s be honest, they smell each other’s butts!)

If you’ve ever seen two dogs who are playing, it usually starts out with chasing each other, alternating who’s on their back, maybe even a show of teeth bumping each other, but at some point, it has the potential to “go vertical”.  This is when two dogs get up on their back legs and find themselves chest to chest.  Have you seen this?

What often happens after this is an altercation.  It doesn’t have to be a fight or a bad outcome, just something that needs to be broken up.  (It’s kind of like when two kids are wrestling for fun, it has a pretty good chance of ending up escalating to someone getting hurt, crying and/or a fight.)  It’s just an arousal or amped up level that has gotten too high and it’s gone beyond the fun mark.

For dogs, a chest-to-chest meeting or one dog putting a paw over another, amongst many other kinds of body language, is very confrontational.  Therefore, dogs aren’t big huggers. (Read our post on dog Calming Signals for more information.)

That said, I hug my dog all the time.  Does he like it?  Well, check out the picture to the left and see what you think.

His eyes seem to say it all.  If I were to caption this photo, it would be something like, “It’s a good thing I love her…”  

What would your caption be? Post it here.

Here’s the deal:  I have a long standing relationship with my dog, as you would with yours, of feeding him, training him, letting him out and walking him, which encourages him to tolerate me doing this.  I certainly would not encourage someone he doesn’t know or trust, to hug him.  Some dogs who are pushed to engage in confrontational behaviors with a stranger may misunderstand enough that they feel the need to warn the person in the only way they know that humans really listen:  A growl, an air snap, or a bite.

Now, I’m not asking you to smell my dog’s butt, or any other dog you meet on the street, but doing the following:

  • Turning so you aren’t directly facing him
  • Averting your eyes away
  • Maybe squatting down (depends on the size of the dog), so you aren’t leaning over him
  • Letting him come to you
  • Petting him under the chin

says to any dog:  “Hey!  Let’s hug it out… doggie style.”




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