Do Dogs Like Hugs?

by | Jun 28, 2024 | Animal Wisdom

Most dogs love affection. Some like curling up in your lap, on your feet, or beside you on the couch. Some will come to you “asking” for pets and snuggles, or expose their belly for tummy rubs. And some are really happy to get a simple ear or face scrub whenever you pass by.

But what about hugs? It can be so tempting to get right in there, wrap your arms around your animal, and gently squeeze. And we’ve all seen those pictures of little kids snuggling the family pet…

For humans, a hug can be the ultimate comfort. It helps increase the release of oxytocin, and can be the perfect antidote to a bad day, or an uplifting sign of affection. But what about our canine companions? Do dogs like hugs? Is surrounding your dog with loving arms the best way into their heart, or is it perhaps something they’re not so fond of?

Do Dogs Like Hugs?

Our Indi is not an affectionate pup. She’s loyal to a T, and wants to be near us all the time, but try to snuggle and she’s not interested. And forget giving her a hug – that’s something she absolutely wants nothing to do with.

And experts agree, she’s not in the minority. Instead of seeing a hug as friendly, loving, or affectionate, most dogs consider it constricting.

In fact, back in 2016, seeking to answer the question, “do dogs like hugs,” Dr. Stanley Coren did an investigative study of 250 photographs of dogs being hugged. And the results spoke volumes: 82% showed at least one sign of stress. Those signs of stress included things like baring their teeth, turning their head away, breaking eye contact, closing or partially closing their eyes, lowering their ears or slicking them against the side of the head, lip licking, half-moon eye, and more. 

These are all commonly established signs of canine stress. 

And it’s easy to see. Just Google dog hug (or anything similar) and the vast majority of photos show a dog who seems less than impressed with the embrace.

Even more recently, a study on human-dog communication in Applied Animal Behaviour Science found the same issue. After reviewing 80 videos where people were hugging their dogs, it was clear that hugs are not a popular form of affection: 

  • 68.25% of dogs avoided eye contact with the human and turned their head away from the hugger
  • 43.75% licked their lips or nose 
  • 81.25% were observed blinking
  • 60% had ears flattened
  • 42.5% were panting

While these may be subtle signs, they’re clear. Do dogs like hugs? As a whole, no. For most, it causes stress. And more than that, it can actually be detrimental to the human-dog bond you share!

[RELATED] Stop Cuddling Your Dog? Are You Worried About Bacteria in Dog Poop?

The Best Way to Show Love?

Is there a “best way to show your pet love”? We don’t think so. There are so many different ways that we can demonstrate to our adored beasts just how much we love them. From playing outside or going for a hike to feeding them the best food and providing them with toys to simply spending time with them. The ultimate way to show your dog love is to listen to them (and their body language) and do things they like – not things that bring them stress. 

One thing is clear, however, and that’s hugs are not the best way (not even a good way, in fact) to show love. 

We know that Indi doesn’t like hugs – and we fully respect that. Instead, we do things that she loves to show her how much we love her. And sure, maybe some dogs do enjoy hugs – but the research makes it clear it’s a much smaller number than we might think. We have to observe and pay attention. So next time you consider going in for a squeeze, think about whether you both enjoy it, or if one of you just tolerates it for the other’s sake. 

The Adored Beast Team

Bringing you decades of animal health experience. They are product gurus, nutrition specialists, industry experts and researchers, but most importantly, pet owners, pet parents and animal lovers. The Adored Beast team is made up of people who care about the health and wellbeing of your animal family. Their fundamental goal is to provide information, advice, and experienced support you can use, each and every day, to help your pet live the longest, healthiest, happiest life possible.

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