Why You Shouldn’t Hug Your Dog—And What You Can Do Instead

Hugging is a natural way for people to express their affection for the ones they love, but when it comes to canine family members, hugs are not recommended, says researchers.

The question of dog hugs has been a hot topic in the past few years. In 2016, psychology professor and neuropsychological researcher Stanley Coren studied over 250 random photos of dogs being hugged and noticed that, in an overwhelming amount of instances, the pets displayed signs of increased stress and anxiety. He published his findings in Psychology Today, and the news didn’t go over well. They insisted that some dogs do like hugging and fired back with articles like “Science Says Dogs Hate Hugs, But You Should Hug Them Anyway” and “25 Dogs Who Clearly Love Hugs.”

But despite how good it feels for humans to receive hugs, most experts agree with Coren’s analysis that dogs do not like to be hugged because the gesture immobilizes them, causing high levels of stress and anxiety that could lead to aggression or biting. “A lot of dog professionals would agree that hugging a dog is nonideal,” dog-cognition scientist Dr. Alexandra Horowitz told Forbes. “I’ve never seen a dog who—when you hug them—they stand up and wag their tail and they’re so excited. They do something else. They deal with it, you know?”

Just because you shouldn’t embrace your dog, it doesn’t mean you can’t show them love in other ways. Here are some alternative gestures that will let your dog know how much you care!

Give Your Dog A Massage

While dogs don’t like to be smothered with hugs, dogs’ bodies release the “feel-good” hormone oxytocin when they get touched or petted in other ways. So massaging them or giving them a light scratch on their back or chest is a great idea to express your affection. Some dogs also enjoy belly rubs!


Treat Her!

A dog’s stomach is definitely the way to her heart, so giving your dog treats in moderation will make her happy.


Play With Your Pup

What good is a tug toy if there’s no one on the other side to pull? Instead of hugging your dog, spend a few minutes playing a game or giving her some attention.


How do you show your dog that you love them?