Karen Belz
April 26, 2016 2:01 pm
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If you’ve ever owned a dog, you’ve probably given him or her a loving squeeze every once in awhile. I mean, not only do we hug each other to show affection, but we’ve seen it done in movies and pretty much every dog-related stock image on the internet— so, it’s an appropriate reaction, right? Well, think again.

Psychology Today just reported new findings that prove that hugging your pup can actually increase their stress and anxiety. Since hugs typically don’t last too long, we’ve probably ignored a dog’s very clear signs that this type of action doesn’t bode well for them.

It’s all in the ears, the eye contact, and the stress yawns (which don’t get me wrong, are adorable, but an obvious sign that something is bothering your pooch.) Dogs who are highly stressed will bare their teeth, which is the sign that you should keep your distance, while dogs who are feeling a little anxious will likely avoid looking you in the eye, or even give a bit of a nervous side-eye. Licking their lips is also a sign that they’re feeling a bit under pressure.

Stanley Coren Ph.D., F.R.S.C. explained the reason why in his article on Psychology Today. As dogs are cursorial animals, being allowed to run is quite important to them. By hugging them and restraining them from motion, they often get a little stressed out over their best plan of action in case a predator comes by, so their anxiety levels rise and they’re more likely to bite or react poorly during the embrace. A dog’s instinct to run comes first, while biting comes second — and by removing one of these from the equation, a dog might end up striking an innocent target.

For those out there with super amazing dogs (many of you, we assume) you might be hesitant to think that your dog will react in such a way. But, no matter how well your dog is trained, their natural instincts and desires will likely come first, so it’s best to be on the safe side and avoid causing any unnecessary stress.

Obviously there are many other ways to show your dog that you love him — for one, we don’t think there’s a pup in the world who’d turn down a belly rub. In general, anything that allows dogs a sense of freedom works. Scratching him or her on the back is a little more comforting, because it’s an act that won’t restrict your dog’s movement.

While this is solid information for anyone who’s had contact with a familiar pooch, it’s especially good for children to know, as well. Since they learn that hugs are a nice way of feeling connected early on, they may fail to realize that while humans understand and reciprocate this type of contact, a dog will likely misinterpret it.

In general, it’s always great to learn more about how dogs communicate — not only will it help us all stay safe, but it’ll help us increase our bond with our favorite furry companions!

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