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Worst News Of The Day: Dogs Hate Hugs


Like most dog owners, you probably hug your dog every now and then. Whether you’re having a stressful week at work, don’t feel like studying for your exams or getting over a heartbreak, you know that your faithful pooch is always there to comfort you and give you that much-needed hug.

We hate to break it to you, but research has come to the conclusion that your beloved pet doesn’t enjoy hugs one bit. They love you but don’t really want to be that close, according to a saddening article in Psychology Today.

Article author Stanley Coren actually has a pretty logical explanation for his conclusion, despite the fact that you probably don’t want to believe his findings. As he points out, dogs are cursorial animals, which means that it’s in their nature to run away quickly, either to catch prey or to escape a threatening situation.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – your dog is not like other dogs. They enjoy hugging and gladly take part in the activity whenever you feel like embracing them. Unfortunately, Coren, who studies canine behavior at the University of British Columbia, provides a good reason why humans shouldn’t be so quick to show affection to their dogs via hugs.

While we take great pleasure in physical contact with dogs, it seems that hugs stress pooches out. For those of you who are still skeptical, Coren explains that you can easily notice that your dog is irritated if you know what signs to pay attention to.

For example, Coren says that you can know if a dog is stressed out based on the position of his head. So, your dog is anxious or stressed if they turn their head away from you (or whatever is making them feel anxious or stressed). If they close their eyes, they feel completely miserable.

Coren adds that we should also take into consideration the position of the dog’s ears. If your dog’s ears are ‘lowered or slicked against the side of the head,’ they are definitely not enjoying themselves.

Finally, if you happen to see your dog’s eye whites, you should know that it’s a definite sign that they are stressed.

In the Psychology Today article, Coren writes about one of the exercises he performed while researching the impact hugs have on dogs. He decided to collect data in a random, pretty unusual way, browsing through Flickr and Google images to find pictures of people hugging their canine pets.

He found 250 photos of people hugging their dogs and analyzed them with a group of colleagues, focusing on the dog’s body language. In other words, he was looking for the signs of anxiety and stress in those pooches.

Though this may not seem like the case to an inexperienced eye, the researchers found that almost 82 percent of the dogs demonstrated at least one sign of stress or anxiety, meaning that dogs really, really hate hugs.

Coren reports that 7.6 percent of the dogs seemed comfortable with receiving hugs from their humans whereas the remaining 10.8 percent were completely indifferent to what was going on.

For humans, hugs represent a token of affection and intimacy whereas dogs perceive them as something scary or even annoying. This obviously happens because dogs are not programmed like humans. Coren says that humans falsely believe that dogs use their strong teeth to protect themselves from harm. Instead, they rely on their ability to run away if they are frightened, irritated or stressed. So, not only do hugs further stress them out, they also stop them from following their natural instinct.

The bottom line is that if you want to show your dog that you care about them, it would be best to rub his belly, pat his head or give them a nice treat. Just no hugs – unless your dog is in those 7.6 percent of pooches that have learned to recognize the value of hugs.

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