Karen B. London
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Reactions to Hugs Between Humans
Dogs vary in their responses
Family hug with Buddy

Hugging is very human. Actually, this behavior occurs in our species as well as quite a few other primate species, as we primates seem to seek out and enjoy ventral-ventral contact with one another.

Dogs are quite different, as they typically don’t enjoy hugs, no matter how accommodating they are to the humans in their lives who insist on it. To see a dog look displeased, or even disgusted, giving one a hug is often all that’s required.

Of course, I would not recommend hugging a dog for a very important reason that is related to but extends beyond that fact that dogs typically detest it. Many dogs bite when they are hugged. The bites are sometimes motivated by fear, and sometimes a reaction along the lines of, “Don’t you dare do that to me. Again. Ever.”

It’s pretty straightforward to me. Humans like to give and receive hugs. Dogs don’t. When we hug them, most tolerate it in much the same way that children tolerate having their cheeks pinched by aging relatives—grudgingly and with an understanding that the people doing these dreadful things really can’t help themselves.

What’s far less clear to me is what dogs make of observing humans hug each other. I’ve known dogs with a variety of responses to hugs between the human members of my family or our visitors. Some dogs join the hug by jumping up and leaning into the action. Some leap onto the huggers repeatedly and with increasing vigor. Others place themselves between the huggers, causing them to separate. I’ve seen dogs spin in place or circle around the huggers, and I’ve known dogs who bark and growl when two or more humans hug in their presence. It’s unusual to have a dog who runs away, perhaps out of the room when they observe hugging, but I do know of a couple of dogs who did respond in exactly that way.

What does your dog do when you hug someone?





Karen B. London, PhD, is a Bark columnist and a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist specializing in the evaluation and treatment of serious behavior problems in the domestic dog.

Photo by cobalt123/Flickr

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Submitted by Anonymous | July 25 2012 |

What a surprise. I hug on my dogs often during the day. I learned something new today. I have four dogs. They are my family.

Submitted by LisaH | July 27 2012 |

My 5 year old dog has always wanted to be near but not touched till the past 18 months, which is not too long after we got a 2nd dog (who came to us at 8 weeks of age). Now he wants to be snuggled, and crawls into my lap for full on body hugs. The 2nd dog, now 2 years old, has literally been a hugger from day one - she wraps her paws around your neck & leans in - fully ventral to ventral. One of her nicknames is monkey girl so maybe she thikns she is part primate :).

Submitted by Jacqueline R | July 26 2012 |

Both my dogs loved to be hugged. They wag their tails and lean into me. One even purrs a bit. I think the author of this article might be wrong about "most dogs" just tolerating a hug.

Submitted by BDWOO | July 27 2012 |

I am retired and live with my wife on an acreage. We raise german shepherds as i have in the past. My wife was a city girl and she liked the dogs but they were so big to her. At 120 lbs. My male was only 5 pounds lighter than my wife. I was surprised to hear my wife tell me she wanted to feed the dogs, but,, sounded good to me. She soon took over the dogs. But,, she was out side much longer than necessary; in my opinion. When i asked her what took her so long, she told me i wasnt giving the dogs what they needed most!! When i asked her what that was she replied, "your'e not hugging them!!". I laughed and told her dogs didnt need to be hugged and even disliked being hugged. Well, when she had carpal mtunnel surgery on both wrists and elbows, she was off 6 weeks. After 3 days i noticed the dogs were not eating their food. Then the males started to whine and bark. The biggest sat in his kennel door and just stared at me. I knelt down to check for health issues and he literally laid into my arms. I heard a voice yell, "i told you!!". Make your own conclusions, but i have to leave. Time to hug, er, ah,,, i mean feed my dogs; before my wife does. Not only did they all start eating immediately, but i actually like to hug them, one at a time, in their own kennels. Every day. (I have a folding chair i take with me now. Seriously theraputic. Bdwoo

Submitted by lisa | February 28 2013 |

my question is, why does my border collie jump on me,or the other person when we hug? he has also nipped me a little but not to the point it hurts, but he did bite my husband once for hugging me, but also not very hard,he loves my husband as well, but seems to be more of my dog, he follows me every where even when i go to the bath room or take a bath, he usually lays beside the tub till i am thru.

Submitted by Faith | September 3 2014 |

My border collie does the same thing! He tries fo wedge himself into any sort of hugging situation. Especially if it is between my husband and me. He also hugs us around our necks and our waists. He loves to lick our ears and sometime it feels like he slips in a gentle little nip. I have no clue what it means but he is a very gentle timid lover boy. He follows me EVERYWHERE. No privacy. He is my Velcro dog.
I've never experienced behavior like his before and I've owned many dogs. Our beagle doesn't hug us or try to disrupt hugs nor have any other dogs acted like my BC.
Maybe it's the breed? I'd like to find out more about it though.

Submitted by Tanya Grant | May 24 2013 |

I didn't train my dog to hug me but he does. Every time I leave and come back or in the morning after waking up, he greets the day with me by giving me a hug.He puts his paws around my neck his chest as close to me as he can and he also gives me kisses. It's adorable! I don't need negative feed back but its all true. I even have it on video! My mom didn't believe me but now she does. I do wonder what he is telling me though. Other then he missed me and welcome home or good morning.

Submitted by goosey | August 31 2013 |

My dog does not like people leaning down to hug me while I am sitting, and will bark like crazy and try to break it up (I think he thinks they are attacking me). However, my grandmothers dog is always very unsure of new people until she hugs them, then he wags his tail and is their best friend.

Submitted by Anonymous | October 12 2013 |

When ever my fiancé and my self hug he barks and jumps at my legs and if we ignore him he starts to cry because he wants to be picked up and join in the hug with us. He is a small dog a Yorkie. After I pick him up he puts his head on my shoulder and makes a soothing sound. He gets very jealous but it's because he just wants to be hugged as well. He has done this since a puppy. He is a very affectionate dog to my fiancé and my self.

Submitted by Anonymous | November 3 2013 |

This article is hilarious

Submitted by Miranda | January 9 2014 |

I am really concerned and worried about my Grandma's new dog. One day he was sitting on her lap and I walked over to give her a hug he was watching me the entire time with his ears back. I decided to pet him but he got mad and try to bite both of my wrist. My grandma thought it was because he was tired and cranky. I have been around this dog for 11 months now and he never did that until now. So, grandma and I decided to try it again he was on her lap. So I walked over and wrapped my arm around her and he did the same thing watched me and had his ears back. He didn't bite me but when I was leaving I gave her a hug and he tried to lunge at me and bite me. Why is he doing that? Does he think he owns her? I am getting worried because we have little kids who come over and I don't want him trying to bite them. I hope you can give me some answers on how to get him to stop?

Submitted by Mandy | July 15 2014 |

Our Rottweiler is almost a year old and she initiates hugs. She used to want my husband to pick her up and give her kisses it now that she's bigger she sits at your feet until you say "okay, let's hug" and she gets on her hind feet and puts her front legs around his waist until she gets her hug. It's very weird doggy behavior. Sometimes she will stand there for at least a minute.

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