There are few things in life as pleasant and de-stressing as hugging a dog. But a canine expert has shattered that joy with this news: dogs don’t like hugs.
If you’re a dog owner, you’re probably in full denial mode right now and convinced that despite the science, your pooch is the exception. Unfortunately, the stats are not on your side.
According to CTV News, dog psychologist and Emeritus Professor with the University of British Columbia, Stanley Coren, spent hours combing through pictures of people squeezing their pets on the internet and found that the vast majority of them don’t like it.
In 82 percent of these pictures, Coren spotted signs of stress in the canines being hugged by their well-meaning owners. Barely 8 percent seemed to enjoy the hugs, and about 11 percent didn’t care either way, he wrote in Psychology Today.
“(On) the Internet you will find literally thousands of photos of very happy people with very stressed dogs.”
And because dogs are awesome, most of the time they put up with it and let us squeeze them half to death with love. But sometimes, it’s so annoying and stressful that they respond by biting. The potential of this violent reaction is a good reason to be careful.
Coren began this earth-shattering study after visiting a local college for a “Doggy De-Stress Day.” These events are becoming pretty common during midterm and final exams to help students chill out.
The professor brought his puppy to the event — a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. A woman came over and gave the pup a squeeze, and the psychologist saw the signs that he wasn’t happy: lack of eye contact, slicked down ears, a stress yawn. He even told the woman to stop. She cited psychology research regarding the positive effects of mothers hugging their children.
But the professor refuted her arguments.
“Dogs are not human children.”
The reason they don’t like hugs is pretty simple. Pooches are cursorial animals, which means they are meant for swift running. When such animals are stressed or threatened, their first defense is to run away. Dogs don’t like hugs because the act deprives them of that option — they’re immobilized. And that causes anxiety.
To establish, once and for all in a scientific study, that dogs don’t like hugs, Stanley examined 250 pictures online of people embracing their pooches. He only used pics in which the pet’s face was clearly visible and the only stressful thing going on was the forced hug.
He spotted signs of stress in most of the pets: the lowered ears, yawning, raising of one paw, lip licking or licking their owner’s face, a head turned away, and eyes closed halfway. Another sign is the “whale eye,” in which the white part of the eye can be seen at the corner or rim.
So what are people to do if dogs don’t like hugs? After all, we absolutely love it, it’s calming, and it’s a very human way of expressing our love. The professor isn’t saying that we all have to stop, but we should figure out other ways to show we love man’s best friend.
The website Doggone Safe suggests neck, ear, and chest scratches; letting him put his head in your lap or lean on you (the dog’s version of a hug); playing and walks. Coren added pats, kind words in a “sing-song” voice, and treats.
Most importantly, make sure your pooch wants to be touched. If he leaves mid-pat, respect his wishes; if he begs for more petting, that’s a sign he’s in the mood.
[Image via Annette Shaff/Shutterstock]