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Bottom line: does hugging make our pooches uncomfortable?

I recently read several articles, including this one, pointing out that while humans (and other closely related primates) greet and express affection with hugs, canines don't share that cue. In fact (oh, please, without getting into whether "dominance" is a thing), a hug may signal something less comforting to a dog:
In primates, we wrap our arms around another's shoulders as a sign of affection. But in canids, a leg over the shoulder is a sign of dominance or assertiveness.
This leads me to wonder whether some biting incidents in the home, especially those involving children, may have something to do with a misread hug:
If a dog barely tolerates hugs, then the wrong hug at the wrong time could mean the dog snaps at the hugger.
As the article suggests, I've been trying to read my new pooch's body language when I hug her. She doesn't react or pull away, but she's not overjoyed by it either. I always make sure I keep it short and positive, followed by something else she likes (like maybe a belly rub).

What are your thoughts on this? How do your dogs react when you hug them? Have you seen times when other (non-family folks, say) hug them and your dogs don't react as favorably as when you do it?
 

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Some dogs like hugs, others don't. All dogs should tolerate being manhandled(dog handled?) since that's necessary for health reasons.

If your dog doesn't like hugs, instead of trying to make her like them, why not show your affection in a way she does like.
 

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The minpin doesn't like being hugged or overwhelmed with affection - that's part of the breed. If we're in the park, so many times kids run up to me "oh he's so cute, can I pet him". Sure, the pin is great with kids - but I take every opportunity to teach a child how to approach any strange dog. Don't try to hug him, don't try to pick him up - respect the dog and the dogs space.

Adults tend to be the worst with dogs, many have the expectation that every dog is wonderful and loves affection. That is so wrong. I can't resist pitbulls in public - but engage the owner - "how's she with people". If the owner isn't sure, I'll change the way I approach.


There's times I'm hanging around with a family, kids are hugging the dog - and you can clearly see the dog is tolerating it, feels overwhelmed. I wouldn't expect the dog to bite - but it can happen.
 

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I know (quite well) a dog who bit a young child (2 or 3) for either hugging her or trying to pick her up. Don't know for sure which because the adult "supervising" the interaction wasn't actually looking at them when it happened, but I had previously told the child they couldn't pick my dogs up (Bus is fine with anything, Annie at the time wasn't tolerant of manhandling), and also had to tell her to not kick my dogs, so I would suspect she may have done something similar to provoke the bite the other dog gave. The dog was otherwise fine with kids before, and still seems fine with kids, though it's not allowed around young kids anymore for obvious reasons- low pain/fright threshold and willingness to use her teeth to tell someone to back off= not a good match for unpredictable young children.

I know lots of dogs who seem indifferent to hugging.... they don't really seem to "enjoy" it, but they tolerate it with good nature, like baths, dressing up, and all the other weird stuff people do to them. Then there are dogs that even the owners can't hug, because for whatever reason the dog freaks out. At the other end of the spectrum are dogs that really like to be hugged, and some of them even initiate it!

My APBT, Haley, lived to be on people, next to people, under people, basically touching you as much and often as possible, like she was trying to share your skin. She would plop onto a stranger's lap, and scoot up them until she was practically in their arms. Like this:


If I went somewhere in the car as a passenger and had her, she would sometimes climb into the seat, then sit up on her haunches and put her leg (she only had one front) on my shoulder, then rest her head on the other shoulder, literally trying to hug me- I hated it on hot days, and would try to shake her off me (to no avail usually), but it was nice when it was cold out. She'd take a hug from anyone, anytime :)

Funny enough, she frequently did the "paw over the back/leaning" to other dogs to try to pick a fight, except she used the "stump" of her amputated leg. She only ever "stumped" people trying to get their attention (woke me up more than once!), never in a conflict seeking fashion. Similar type of contact, but entirely different contexts and behavior.

Of my current dogs, Bus is indifferent to hugs mostly, they don't bother him, and sometimes he'll "hug" us by climbing up and leaning his head/neck against our neck/face (and putting his cold, wet nose on us!) if he wants our attention/affection. Strangers can hug him (he's a therapy dog, so it's his job to tolerate and even like all the weird stuff people do :) ) and he doesn't mind or appears to like it, but he usually only seeks out hugs from people he knows well. Annie wasn't much on hugs as a young dog, but has become more tolerant as an old fart, though she's so frail I wouldn't let strangers (especially kids) hug her for fear that they might hurt her. There's a good chance she would have bitten a stranger that snatched her up and hugged her as a younger dog- she has the typical aloof dachshund temperament, and was never keen on manhandling by strangers.

I think too that it depends on how you hug a dog- a face to face, two arms around the neck hug is about as direct as it can get, with little "escape route" for the dog to duck out if they feel uncomfortable. One arm slung over the dog while they sit beside you is probably more acceptable to dogs who may have some reservations, and if not, they have a much wider opening to make an exit if they choose.
 

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My previous dog would snap at women and kids if they tried to hug him. I think it was because he had hip dysplaysia. He had surgery to fix the pain but I think he was always sensitive about it. He gradually got better as he got older.

My current dog loves hugs and initiates them.
 

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basically touching you as much and often as possible, like she was trying to share your skin.
Dogs like that are wonderful.

I was called into a business to do some work a few years ago, the owner had 2 Rotties that lived on site - dogs were well taken care of. Male and female, guard dogs. The female presented herself like your pit, kneel on the floor and she tried to become part of you - grunting and groaning, couldn't get enough. The male was aloof, could show affection - but had to be on his terms. Beautiful dogs.

I went out back to do a job, came back and she's laying on the floor - figured round 2 of loving. Knelt down to scratch her behind the ears and all I remember was the growl, flash of teeth and a streak of slobber across my face. I fell backward. Wasn't her, it was the male. One of those times you realize you screwed up - wasn't the dogs fault, brain fart assumption on my behalf. Apologized to the owner and laughed it off.

Sometimes dogs teach us...
 

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Dogs are all over the spectrum of liking hugs. There's dogs that simply hate them, dogs that love them, and everything inbetween.

I had one that loved hugs, she'd come and snuggle her whole head under my arm to be pet and hugged. One that wouldn't sit still for petting much less hugging, and the dog that I have now does not like hugs at all. He'll struggle if I hug him and if someone he does not trust completely tries it he'll growl and snap.

My friends miniature poodle loves hugs, she'll crawl up on your chest and drape her head over your shoulder, loving nothing more then for a person to hold her, hug her, and pet her.

My boy I request people to not hug, I let them know that he hates it, and I do not hug him myself. My friends poodle I'll cuddle as she seems to enjoy it, all other dogs, regardless of how well I think I know them, I only pet and scratch I'm not willing to take the risk of annoying them.
 
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