No not at all, hate is an emotion attributed to humans, not animals. We can’t possibly know that they ‘hate’ hugs. Despite this it is true that many dogs find hugs aversive, or threatening.The recent ‘study’ published by Psychology today last week (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/canine-corner/201604/the-data-says-dont-hug-the-dog) had the dog community in total confusion, some were happy with the research, other not so much. Myself well here’s the thing, I’m personally not a fan of poor science and the over use of anthropomorphism in general. When the two are mixed together it makes me cringe. I wont go into too many details about the poor science here.
What irritates me most is the state that dogs ‘hate’ hugs, even when putting the anthropomorphism aside, there are so many things wrong with this statement, hate no, dislike maybe, many also enjoy and actively seek out hugs. Dogs like people cannot be grouped together in such a general way. Their ability to like or dislike something depends on a variety of factors including:
- The situation or circumstance
- Previous learning about the person doing the hugging
- Early life experiences and social developmentPrevious learning experience
- Individual temperament
- Genetic factors
- Medical factors
- And many more
If we take the picture to my right for example. I think the caption expresses the dogs ‘awkwardness’ fairly well. It’s ears are back,
it’s face is tight and you can see the whites of the dogs eyes, known as whale eye, which are all signs of anxiety and uncertainty in dogs. So it would be fair to say that in this situation the dog isn’t enjoy the hug, at this exact moment the picture was taken.
However, what we don’t know is;
- How long the dog has been in this situation for?
- Has this picture been taken several times to get the right shot?
- How does the dog respond to camera?
- Does the dog know this child?
- Among others which demonstrates some of the flaws with this ‘study’.
Whereas the picture to the left, featuring myself and my 5 year old Labrador Holly, you see a more relaxed expression, ears forward, no whale eye. However, her face looks slightly tight and her tongue is not as relaxed and floppy as a ‘relaxed dog should be’.
However, what we do know in this circumstance, as I was there and remember, is:
- It was a warm sunny day and she is tired after a walk in the woods,
- Her tongue was caught after a nose lick to help cool herself down,
- She enjoys hug, though she isnt a fan of the camera and having her ‘selfie’ taken.
Rather than asking the question do dogs hate hugs, what we should be focusing on is should we be hugging our dogs at all?
This is one of the many problems with multi species households, miscommunication. As primates at our core, we display our affection through
touch. We hug, we kiss, we touch to display affection to our loved ones, which is common amongst primates. However, dogs are not primates, they’re canines. Have you seen dogs hugging? (Except those videos where they have be trained to). Close contact between canines is often aversive in nature, not always but often.
Therefore, unless they have had the necessary early experiences and / or learning, to allow them to understand that hugs are our way of showing affection, many will see it as a threat and as such they will display stress and defensive behaviours.
This can be very disheartening for owners and it can feel like our dogs don’t ‘like’ us, which often isn’t the case, it’s just that such close proximity can be threatening and aversive to our dogs. Despite this many dogs will ‘tolerate’ our close and often annoying interactions. This level of toleration can be a ticking time bomb in some dogs, who get too much inappropriate interactions from both adults and children, until one day they snap, seemingly ‘out of the blue’ when in fact, they have been warning you that they don’t like this interaction for weeks, months, maybe even years.
If you want to find out if your dog likes or dislikes hugs, try the 5 second contact rule….. Interact for 5 seconds then stop and move slightly away. If your dog was enjoying the interaction, they will move into you, paw you or nudge you etc. to ask you to keep going. If they stay still or move away, especially if they shake, chances are they didn’t like that interaction and you should try alternative interactions 🙂
To see what I’m talking about check out my video and see my dogs reactions for yourself, can you tell which one tolerates hugs and which one really, really enjoys them?