Dr. Stanley Coren of Psychology Today has released findings from a recent study he performed into whether or not dogs like being hugged. He was prompted to conduct such a study when he noticed how his dog reacted to being hugged by a student at a college de-stress event. In human behavior, we are told that it is important to give and receive affection in the form of hugs and kisses.
When it comes to dogs, however, there’s not a lot of evidence to suggest how this impacts them. Dr. Coren examined 250 photographs of people hugging dogs, looking for signs of anxiety and stress such as turning of the head, closing of the eyes, lowering of ears, lip licking, and even yawning.
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Each photo received a score that the dog was definitely showing a sign of stress/anxiety, that the dog was relaxed, or that the dog showed a neutral/ambiguous reaction. Despite the fact that the people involved looked happy, in 81.6% of all photos scored, the dog pictured showed at least one sign of anxiety or stress.
Only 7.6% of the dogs photographed appeared to be relaxed or at ease with what was happening. Dr. Coren’s take home message is that while you may think you are just showing how much you love your dog, that’s not how it’s being perceived. By nature, your dog may feel trapped, thus resulting in their anxious feelings.
So, the next time you want to show how much you care, it might be better to opt for a belly rub, head scratch, or simple pet.