Happy National Hug Your Dog Day! On second thought maybe just celebrate by giving your dog some scratches.
Unlike humans (well, not all humans), most dogs do not enjoy being hugged. It can make them feel very uncomfortable.
Here are some reasons to not hug your dog:
Dogs don’t understand what is going on. Since unlike humans they are not taught that hugs are a sign of affection, they might feel like you are constraining them.
Tolerating affection is a learned behavior. Dogs who are not taught from a young age that hugging is a sign of affection can shut down when being hugged. They begin to show signs of stress like panting, widening the eyes, and turning their head away from the person hugging them.
It’s not in a dog’s nature to be confined. Hugging a dog limits their mobility and prevents them from exhibiting their natural behavior of escaping from uncomfortable situations.
Dogs are more sensitive to their environment than humans. Dogs in public can be in sensory overload which can heighten their stress levels. Hugging them would only add to that stress. A dog that is comfortable being hugged at home may not be okay with it in public.
There are many other ways that you can show affection that your dog likes better. Belly rubs for example.
Signs that your dog doesn’t like being hugged:
Moon eyes: When your dog’s eyes are wide and you can see the whites, they are telling you to back off
Ears down or back: If your dog’s ears are down or back they uneasy and on the defense.
Stiff body: If your dog’s posture or breathing changes while you are hugging, they are showing signs of discomfort.
Rigid back hair: I like to consider this their alert strip that is letting you know that they are frightened.
This corgi does not look like he is enjoying this hug. Look at his eyes and ears.
Ways to show your dog love that don’t involve hugging:
Petting: Dogs love getting pets and it allows them to walk away if they have had enough.
Play: Play with their favorite toy
High-Quality Treats: Buy or make a special treat. Freeze some pureed pumpkin, make them a fruit plate or roast some sweet potato to add to their meal (let it cool first).
Always be mindful of your dog’s feelings. Just because giving them a hug makes you feel good doesn’t mean that they feel the same. Everyone deserves to consent to how they interact. You want to make your dog happy and not cause them additional stress.
If you have taught your dog to hug from a young age, then if they're in the mood go ahead and celebrate Hug Your Dog Day. If your dog isn’t keen on hugs, you can still celebrate how much you love them.