Hug Your Dog…or Not?

An increasing number of dog blogs and posts on lists advise against hugging dogs. The argument is that dogs don’t hug each other, hugging is a human thing, hugging shows a lack of respect for dogs, and sometimes hugging can be dangerous. I saw a few posts on lists today advising against hugging dogs.

I’m growing weary of “all or never” advice that looks at canine behavior as always black or white with no qualifications or shades of gray.

You can probably guess where this is going. Do I hug Wyn? You bet I do. I raised him from a puppy, he was handled every single day, and I feel confident that I can trust him. When I come home and give Wyn a hug, he appears to like it, completely unaware of the current trend that says he shouldn’t.  He wags his tail, wiggles his body, and leans into me. If I stop hugging, he doesn’t leave.

It could be that I have conditioned hugging to be a positive experience for my dog. I usually rub his chest or scratch under his chin at the same time. It’s not prolonged, just a quick greeting during which I get to hug the dog I love.

Should we be going around the world hugging all dogs?  Absolutely not. The television reporter who leaned into a dog she never met before to give him a hug and a kiss will confirm this. She nearly lost her upper lip on camera.

There may be breeds that are not as huggable as my mild-mannered spaniel. And there may be individual dogs with a temperament or learning history (e.g., rescue or adopted dogs) that would make hugging not the smartest thing to do.

But as for the across-the-board-no-exceptions advice, “Never hug a dog,” I’m just not buying it. I raised my dog from a puppy, he was handled every day, he is a biddable breed, and he’s had advanced training in several areas.

What do you think about this? Do you hug your dog?

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AKC Canine Good Citizen Director, Author of the AKC's official CGC book, "CITIZEN CANINE"
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32 Responses to Hug Your Dog…or Not?

  1. Amy says:

    Of course I hug my dog. I wouldn’t necessarily hug a friend’s dog or a strange dog – just as I wouldn’t necessarily hug a friend or stranger. I’m not talking about a huge bear hug, but my dog has no issue with a quick embrace.

  2. I absolutely agree. While I regularly hug and kiss many dogs I know- and who I know to enjoy that kind of physical attention- I wouldn’t think of doing it to a dog I didn’t know, trust and have confidence would enjoy/reciprocate that kind of interaction.

  3. I absolutely do! My Corgi, Ron, thinks he deserves it:)

  4. Clay Bunyard says:

    I agree with what you said above, it’s not an all or nothing thing. We don’t have to take such extreme positions or go all into the primate versus canine discussion.. If your dog likes it great, if it doesn’t, don’t. But I think AKC could have chosen better wording on their wall regarding responsible dog ownership. “LIKE this if you’ve hugged your dog today. One of the most important aspects of being a responsible dog owner! :)” That is what irked me. The could have used “praised” or “rewarded” or “given a good back scratch”. I’m more concerned about sending the wrong message to children or adults who may not appreciate that not all dogs like such intimate contact.

  5. Dog hugger says:

    I agree on the hugging, but please change your “pitbull bit reporter” comment- the dog was a Dogo Argentino, a member of the molosser/mastiff breeds.

    • 3 similar incidents on camera…Dogo Argentino was the one that was months ago…the reporter was giving the dog a Valentine’s Day kiss, more recent was an attempted hug/kiss of pitbull (another reporter), and back further was male reporter (kneeling) leaning into police K9. I changed the word to ‘dog’ since the point is what the human did.

  6. I hug mine and like your dog they seem to enjoy it. They don’t hate it and they don’t pull away but they are not very fond of others hugging them-they tolerate it. I am sure I have conditioned them to like it too by my voice or a head scratch, etc. I do try to avoid having others hug them because I know they don’t really care for it and I would not hug someone else’s dog unless I knew the dog well. I do think that many people are not able to read a dogs body language and a blanket statement like “don’t hug dogs” may be intended to get across the point that dogs communicate to us and we miss their signals sometimes. I think the dog that bit the news anchor gave several signals before he bit her but she never recognized them.

  7. Lisa says:

    Though I agree it is not all or nothing, I also disagree with AKC’s statement that doing so is “One of the most important aspects of being a responsible dog owner!” What message does that send to owners of dogs that do not like to be hugged? Are they irresponsible dog owners?

    Hug your dog if they enjoy it but if they don’t it doesn’t mean you are failure as a dog owner. Interact with your dog every day and build your relationship that is an important aspect of being a responsible dog owner.

  8. sarah moyer says:

    it was a dogo aregentine that bit the television reporter not a pitbull.

    • 3 similar incidents on camera…Dogo Argentino was the one that was months ago…the reporter was giving the dog a Valentine’s Day kiss, more recent was an attempted hug/kiss of pitbull (another reporter), and back further was male reporter (kneeling) leaning into police K9. I changed the word to ‘dog’ since the point is what the human did.

  9. Paul says:

    Hugging your own Dog happens. I rescued one of my Dogs, Siberian Huskies, (Tucker) and didn’t hug he right away it would be rude, like a cover, but after many months he would start using a muzzle nudge and I would lean my head in towards him in return. Now after years I can get down when he is sitting and the hug is mutual. Now my other Sibe Summer was raised from a pup by me and she gives me hugs, she knows not to jump up on me, but every once in a while she’ll sit in front of me, give me this look and I’ll know whats coming she rises up slowly and wraps her fore legs around my waist and presses her neck against my chest.
    Anything is possible once a relation ship is established with a Dog, but sure hugging some Dog you don’t know or barely know isn’t such a good idea and in the language of Dogs it’s pretty much rude. It can be very insulting to the Dog and it might communicate that they didn’t like you just taking their space without asking politely.

  10. I do hug my dog, she does not like it very much but I do it for her own good She is given some of her dog food during and after the hug- to help condition her to being hugged. I try to keep people from giving her hugs, however some people especially children are very quick about hugging – so I am working to get her to accept the hugs wothout being afraid.

  11. Andrea says:

    Like others, my objection was about sending the wrong message. Not everyone knows or understands that not all dogs like to be hugged, and even more common many people, especially children, don’t know how to tell the difference between just tolerating it and enjoyment. Statistically most bites occur with children, are to the face or hand and are received from the family dog. Not good! Reading canine body language is learned – most people don’t “get it” if no one teaches them. Hopefully with the word getting out there more people will start to learn to read their dogs and recognize if their dog is not a hugger without it taking a bite to make the point.

    But if your dog loves hugs – lucky you! Hug away!

  12. I hug my dog all the time! I would say he doesn’t appear to dislike it :)

    He usually comes right up and plops himself in my arms. He also comes up sits against me and looks up until I give him a hug. Wesley is a hug monster! :)

  13. Sue M. says:

    Of course I hug my dog! I’ve had him since he was 8 weeks old. He’s been lavished with affection ever since then. He will come lay down beside me if I’m sitting on the floor and loves to be invited up onto the couch or bed. He’s a body-contact, love sponge! If he were not, I wouldn’t force it. He’s also trained and well mannered. I wouldn’t invite a stranger to hug him, nor would I hug a dog I didn’t know extremely well.

  14. Tery says:

    Yes, I hug my dog too. Once a fearful rescue of mixed stock breeds, he’s learned to trust after six years of our living and working (medical-alerting) together. Now, at 13, he knows a good hug has many uses. Pushing his 103 pound frame against mine, head firmly planted in my chest, how could he not get one! I don’t recommend anyone else try, however.

  15. Vicki Winter says:

    I think the intelligent thing to say is as a human do we like a stranger to come up and give us hugs and kisses? Of course not, so why do we humans expect our animals to tolerate something we ourselves dont. I have 7 german shepherds, no kennels for them I raise them as a pack. They can be very affectionate to each other just because they dont have arms like we do doesnt mean they dont give hugs in a different way. A strange dog can not come into my pack and get a so called hug they possibly will get hurt just like that tv reporter. Stupid people is what gives man’s best friend a bad name. I’ve met so many people that want to get in my dogs face and grab their cute cheeks and give them kisses. It’s a german shepherd for pete’s sakes! Can you imagine how scared that poor dog was in the tv show. I think he handled himself pretty awesome. Hugs, kisses whatever species it is affection is affection well deserves by the ones that love each other. Not strangers……

  16. Kathryn Smith says:

    My personal dogs – depends on the dog – one is definately a ‘Hugger’ – two are not so much; tolerant, – and I certainly trust then to not take off my face – but do they ‘Huggle’ back? no.
    The world is full of dumb people – and if I could attach a picture — I’ll send to Mary under separate cover —
    actually, dogs generally do so much less damage than they really could – if only owners and strangers would show some COMMON SENSE!

  17. Bob says:

    Dogs don’t throw a stick for others to fetch either. That’s not a natural thing. Does that mean we should quit doing that too? I don’t think so.

  18. Carol says:

    Of course I hug my dogs, and a couple of my BC’s jump up and hug me! Part of passing the Delta Society testing is giving a dog a restrained hug! We smile and laugh at our dogs, showing teeth, but they accept that also!

  19. Do they really enjoy it or are they just tolerating it? Just because they heve been conditioned from puppyhood to put up with our behavior does not mean they truly seek out the hugging. If you were being totally honest about it you might find they’d rather have their tailhead scratched or their tummy rubbed. It makes more sense to me to treat them how they want to be treated and not what makes me feel good. By the way I’m a hugger just not to my dogs.

    • After reading your comment, I realize that my “hugs” are actually scratches behind the ears and rubbing his tummy! I may snuggle next to him when he sits next to me; but, in essence, my hugging really isn’t human hugging! So, yes I do hug…but “doggy hugs!”

  20. Jill says:

    Yes I hug my springer spaniel! He loves it and so do I!

  21. Cynthia Krohn says:

    I not only hug my dogs, they hug back. My GSP will come up to me and lean into my face looking to be hugged. She likes to put a paw on either side of my head and snuggle up to my ear. It could be the sweet nothings that I say to her, but she clearly loves it. My EC is not quite as demonstrative, but definitely wants a hug after we’ve been away for a few days or when she is returning from the groomer.

  22. Colleen says:

    I teach my dogs to accept “hugging” b/c it very similar to how they might be restrained in a veternarian setting which makes it safer and easier for the technicians that work on my dogs. I also teach them to lay on their sides nicely for the same reason. My boys get compliments every time they go on what easy dogs they are to handle.

  23. Jen says:

    I hug and cuddle my dogs all the time! Mine are pitbull and I also a mastiff/ boxer mix. Do I go around the neighborhood hugging other animals..of course not! But my dogs are just that, mine! I hugged them as puppies, and will continue to. My kids hug and kiss them too! I have absolute faith in my dogs. They are being raised to love and protect, not fight and be mean! I have had bully breeds all of my life and the stereotypes about certain breeds really ticks me off!

  24. Nicole says:

    I have an albino pit that I’ve raised since he was a puppy and he gives me hugs all the time at which point he licks me a sniffs my hat or hair. He use tograb my hat off my head and run around the house with it but he doesn’t anymore. I love him he acts just like a little person and hates to be treated otherwise.
    P.S. He also acts a lot like my cat. We had her before him and for awhile he did everything she did and even plays with her still today (mostly chasing her around the yard or house)

  25. I actually hug my dog quite often and for extended periods of time. She is an Australian Shepard who we have raised from a puppy and my children were only 1 and 2. I have anxiety and bipolar and with our dog Anubis she recognizes when I need a hug and comfort and will come over sit next to me and let me hug her for however long I need to and seems to enjoy it with her tail wagging, ears perked up and putting her head on mine or on my shoulder. I think its just like with people it depends on the dogs personality and upbringings. I love hugging my pooch and she loves it too.

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