Be Careful And Gentle When You Are Hugging A Dog


A lot of us, pet parents, as the picture clearly shows, love to hug our dogs, but please make sure that you are doing this properly or your dog, yes your own dog, can bite you.  A hug to us, humans, just means a physical expression of our feelings and we enjoy doing it, but to a dog a hug means invasion of personal space and dominance.  If you enjoy hugging your dog, like most of us do, please be aware of the following:

  • A dog sees a hug as a sign of dominance
  • Hug your dog after your daily walk.  Both of you will be tired and he’ll be less likely to fight back your hug because he is too tired to do it
  • Do not surprise your dog.  Allow him to see where you are coming from so he does not get fearful of your movements
  • Praise him after you hug him.  You could even offer him a treat so he can associate a hug with a treat and as such this would become a pleasant experience

Aside from being careful, and this is very important, please be gentle when hugging your dog.  If you have a pit bull like Kingston, the beautiful boy in the picture, that is very affectionate and craves attention and hugs and weighs around 70lbs. then I’d venture to say, yes hug him.  Do not hug any dog that you know for sure does not like such attention regardless of the breed.  Now, if on the other hand, your dog is a little dog barely weighing 10 lbs., I beg you to please hug him gently.  A 70 lbs. dog and a 10 lbs. dog need to be handled differently.  Yes, dogs are adorable and I do understand your desire to show him affection, but do it carefully and gently.  Cynthia is famous for hugging our dog, Alex, hard.  A few times when she hugged her too hard, Alex whimpered in pain, and let’s not forget that she weighs 45 lbs. therefore she is not a little dog, but she never has attempted to bite her.  Instead she walks away from Cynthia and comes straight to me with a face that I’d venture to say is telling me, “Ouch!  Could you please tell her that it is ok to hug me, but to be a little gentle because I am a skinny girl and her hugs hurt me?”

If you pay attention to the picture, I think Alex is actually relieved that the object of Cynthia’s affection happens to be Kingston and not her.

By the way, I am not advising pet parents not to hug their dogs.  Au contraire, show your dog how much you love him, but please do it nicely, that’s all.

10 responses to “Be Careful And Gentle When You Are Hugging A Dog

  1. Hi, thanks for sharing.

    • I love to write about things I go through with Alex, my dog, and the dogs that stay with me. I also enjoy other pet parent’s stories and suggestions.

  2. Thanks for stopping by my blog! My (scientist) sweetie did an experiment with our anxious dog. He decided to pick him up every time he stood on his back feet and raised his paws without leaning them on my sweetie’s leg (he didn’t enjoy being pawed at). He was not sure if this would be reinforcing or extinguishing, but it turned out Crackers loves to be picked up and asks for it all the time now. (We were unsure because he often grips so hard when off the ground we though he may find it scary.) When he started to feel like a personal puppy elevator we decided we’d have to put the behavior on cue–a little too successful =-) Anyway, it’s all about finding out what the dog wants, and one way to do that is to train them to do something to initiate the interaction. I’ve seen this done very successfully with hugs with a blind blue heeler with terrible hip troubles, and she still liked to hug when it was on her terms and she got to start it by putting her paws on her person’s shoulders–but if she was feeling tired or hurting she could decline and that was still OK.

    With a younger, emotionally healthy dog, hugging can be included in tactile acclimation training along with gentle ear-pulling, tail-pulling, foot-handling, and other behaviors that you want to be safe in case a kid or uneducated adult does something “rude” to the dog. The calmer of my rescues will tolerate most physical rudenesses now that we made it positive with lots of praise for tolerance–I want to turn Harriett into a therapy dog some day. Crackers, on the other hand, will be taking his Prozac and be muzzled if rogue hugging humans are a danger. He needs a lot more practice before he will feel safe enough to take into uneducated company, and a lot of that is just past issues and brain chemistry/personality. But it’s helpful to remind people that dogs naturally enjoy hugging just as much as people enjoy a dog sticking its tongue up their nostrils. It isn’t rude to the giver but it is rather rude and unpleasant to the receiver =-)

    I’ve helped train sharks for underwater hugs–I think they ended up enjoying it more than most dogs I see do!

    • Every dog is different. Some do enjoy being hugged, while others will do a disappering act when they see the pet parent ready to hug them.

      • Do you find that many small dogs enjoy being picked up, or just are tolerating it?

      • I think that small dogs, this is from experience, enjoy it once they are introduce to it in a positive way. I had a westie, beautiful dog, that stays with me every 2 months or so and the pet parent, dad, told me that he only picks her up when she, Maggie, allows him to do so. I was in shock because I kept picking her up and the first time she did not like it, she tried to get back on the floor, and what I did was put one hand on her undercarriage and another around her neck and gently, please gently, held on to her. She stopped and I put her on the floor. Afterwards, she did not seem to mind at all. You, as the pet parent, have to make every experience enjoyable so you are able to do what you need to do with them, even clipping their nails:)

  3. You’re so right about hugs! The trainer/rescue volunteer who was instrumental in helping our dogs join our pack doesn’t hug her dogs at all. I do hug ours, but I’ve taught them the phrase ‘May I have a hug?’ They know what it means and indicate with body language whether a hug is welcome at that point or not, and I always honor their response.

    • Great job. Yes, never go up to any dog, if your own, and hug him. That is just asking for trouble. I do hug my Alex, but I do not squeeze her because she is a skinny girl and I want her to welcome my hugs and not run away from me like she does sometimes with Cynthia. Cynthia is a big hugger and squeezer.

  4. I must say Simba is fortunate enough that not much of people try to hug him. Please do not get me wrong I am not trying to make Simba look bad, it is just I do not trust people here enough. Most of them do not even know how to meet a dog. Being a dog lover doesn’t mean that you know how to greet dogs. And sometimes people do make mistakes with end up being bitten and I would rather look rude than being deemed as a human of dangerous dog (which simba is absolutely not). People are need to be educated about dog psychology.

    Thank you for this article is will help people to understand dogs better.

    • You are so right. I’ve met plenty of pet parents that do not know how to approach a dog and the result is a disaster. When I go for walks and I get asked by children if they can pet my dogs, my answer is always, “no sweetie. We are out for a walk, but thanks for asking”. And I keep walking. Yes, just like you, I prefer that they think that I am rude rather than somebody getting hurt.

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