"Oh, Brutus, come here, you big ol' dog! I love you so much, I could just snuggle with you fore-" Brutus begins to growl when you pull him into your body... is your dog about to bite you? You choose to ignore this clear warning and you snuggle him.
Next, you feel his teeth sink into your shoulder as he continues growling. What just happened? We'll go into that a little further, but first, you should have paid attention to his first growls. Dogs don't like hugs, no matter how much they love us. You'll learn more about why as you continue reading. If you have children who love Brutus, it's even more important that you understand this: Dogs fear hugs. End of story.
What Dogs Love to Do
When dogs were given affectionate hugs from their humans, they displayed several instinctive signs of stress, according to Pet Insurance. Researchers went through a large gallery of hundreds of dogs being hugged. Over 80 percent of these dogs were distressed during the hugs.
While your dog does feel strong love for you, he doesn't want the physical affection you want to display toward him. Researchers have found that, when your dog plays with you and enjoys together time with you, his levels of oxytocin rise. When dogs play alone, their oxytocin (love hormone) level is low, but when they are interacting with you, playing catch, they rise by over 55 percent!
Let's talk about what your dog can do:
º They grieve when human or four-legged friends die
º They laugh
º They comfort strangers who are in emotional distress
º They pick up on each others emotions, then mirror them
º They even get jealous when their owners pay attention to "other" dogs
When Brutus loses a beloved human or animal friend, he loses his appetite and interest in activities he enjoys and he will cling very obviously to you. More than 80 percent of dogs who were in a room with a crying stranger left their owners' sides and consoled the stranger. Yet, more than 60 percent of the same dogs refused to accept a treat from that same stranger. Pretty intelligent, huh?
Have you heard this sound with your dog: "hhuh-hhah-hhuh-hhah?" He's laughing. When puppies heard a sound track of dogs laughing, they began playing with each other, enjoying their play time. Shelters have begun to play dog laugh tracks for dogs waiting for adoption, because the laughter reduces their levels of stress.
Dogs are so intelligent that, when they interact with each other, they are able to interpret the other dog's facial expressions, then mirror the same expression.
Finally, your dog will feel that green-eyed monster when you show affection to another pooch. Researchers studied dogs and their people. They provided fake dogs with the ability to whine, wag its tail and bark. Next, the dog's owner was encouraged to pay attention and show affection to the faux dog. The researchers noted that 86 percent of the dogs being studied pushed against and snapped at the faux dog, trying to separate it from their own person.
Your Dog Isn't a Human Being
As close as you are to Brutus, there is one big, material difference between the two of you. You are human and he is not. He expresses his affection for you in different ways. You may be starting to understand that you need to modify your displays of affection so you don't get bitten, snapped at or growled at.
Your dog is more designed to run. Fast. When you close your arms snugly around him, he can't get loose, so he begins to feel hemmed in (understandably) and even threatened. When he is being threatened or stressed, his first instinct is to get outta there fast. By running, according to Huffington Post. When you try to "love" him by hugging him, his stress level spikes. You're running the risk of some serious injuries if he begins to feel extremely anxious. (Remember that growl and his teeth in your shoulder?)
Now, this isn't to say that every dog will freak out if their owners give them a good embrace. Some dogs do enjoy this type of physical affection. But, before you guess that your dog is one, you need to learn to read his body language and responses. Remember, they respond to stress and threats by running. Your dog may be one of them, or he may be one who has decided he loves having his human's arms around him. Just not all the time.
Signs of Discomfort at Hugging
When you know the signs of discomfort that your dog feels, you'll be able to avoid pooch disaster if you try to hug him and he decides he's having none of it:
º His tail is stiff while wagging
º His head is turned away from your body
º You see a half-moon of white in his eyes
º He licks your face over and over
º When you release him, he shakes his body hard
º He flicks out his tongue or licks his lips
º His body is tense
º He chews at or licks himself
º He wiggles to get out of your arms
º He sneezes, says Clicker Training.
If your dog is enjoying your physical affection, he will relax, lean into you and close his eyes. His body will be relaxed, he'll wag his tail and pant. When you stop hugging him, he may even ask for more affection.
Get very familiar with both sets of body signals. If you detect even one from the first set, let go fast!
What One Dog Did
One owner's autistic son lightly hugged over the back of their pit mix dog. The dog snapped at the little boy and growled. Her mouth came into contact with the little boy's hair, but she didn't bite him, according to the Positively forum site.
The owner and parent of this little boy didn't catch her dog's signals to let her go, so the dog reacted after becoming stressed out. It's fortunate that the little boy wasn't bitten or injured in any other way. But he was frightened and he began crying loudly.
Maybe his mental condition was a factor in the family dog's reaction. Or maybe the family's lack of knowledge about how many dogs view hugs created the situation. If they had been more aware and had used other ways of expressing affection to their dog, this incident may not have happened.