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Today I posted a link to a video entitled “Dogs Don’t Like Hugs” on my facebook page.  The first few comments have compelled me to elaborate on my position, and since today is HUG-YOUR-DOG Day, now is as good a time as any.  Dogs don't hug each other. I do admit, if we socialize them early on with our quirky human behaviors, then they can learn what we do and that it means good.  However, far too many dogs are not sufficiently socialized. I have personally worked with many dogs that are constantly stressed by things that make us feel good. HUGS are not understood to mean affection by your average dog. Almost every one of the viral videos I've seen supposedly depicting dogs and kids displaying their love and affection for one another, to ME show dogs that are throwing all kinds of stress signals. These are subtle and most people who don't know what to look for will miss them. But these are warning signals, and if they go unanswered, problems can escalate. IT IS NEVER WORTH IT TO ALLOW A CHILD TO HUG A DOG BECAUSE YOU THINK YOUR DOG UNDERSTANDS THAT IT MEANS LOVE. The consequences are too great. I have worked with many dogs that have bitten, and I have seen too many preventable bites. Kids need to be taught to not hug dogs. Kids need to be taught to not approach any dog, but instead to allow the dog to approach and invite physical touching. Kids need to be taught hands-off, non-threatening ways to interact with dogs (tricks, training games). People need to be taught that dogs do not think like we do, they don't communicate like we do, and they don't love like we do. Their love is deep and unconditional, but it doesn't need to be physical.  Err on the side of caution, please assume your dog doesn’t want to be hugged, let him prove me wrong and ask for it, but don’t invade his space.  Pass it on!  DON’T Hug your dog today! 

Related: National Dog Bite Prevention Week is May 20-26, 2012


I wish now I'd taken a photo last night of the two Pugs I am boarding, snuggled up together, Dave with his foreleg thrown over Chas's shoulders. That looked a lot like a hug to me.

I strongly believe it is EASIER for dog owners to train and habituate our dogs (and for dog trainers to educate owners) to anything our world might throw at them, than it is for non-dog owners to educate their children in how to approach a dog. Humans hug, that's our nature, and we do our puppies a world of good by teaching them to tolerate affection from small humans who have yet to learn inhibitions.

I also believe it's our duty as dog owners to protect our dogs from rampant small children who want to throw arms around our dogs and put their faces up close to big teeth, but you can't put the onus onto parents. If your average dog can't be socialised enough to tolerate this, as you mention, then how do we think we can socialise *children* enough?

Yes, but dog can become used to hugs form YOUR kid (used to doesn't mean that the dog enjoys it!!!) but with another kid it may react or try to move away. It is not NATURAL for a dog to be hugged and we humans should respect that. Not everything in this world should be the way it is OK and good for us. It's time people start learning to respect other beings and behave towards them accordingly.

Animal is always right

Hi Linda,

Yes, there are many dogs who were perfectly socialized and do love physical affection. I am not saying they don't exist...but, my point here is to caution people about the rest of the canines who are suffering, and many of them are proverbial ticking time-bombs, because they are simply misunderstood.  I am simply speaking for them, in an effort to prevent a few of them from escalating their attempts to stop the "trapped" feeling.  

I absolutely, whole-heartedly agree that it IS easier for us to socialize puppies early and often to be around children, and to build positive associations with the things we love, like hugs.  However, my point is that the 'average' dog out there did not receive that early positive socialization in an amount sufficient enough to make it safe for kids to hug them or invade their space; and that it is safer to assume that any random dog you happen to encounter should be treated as such until that dog proves otherwise (by soliciting physical ineractions).

As far as educating the children, my view is that parents are always ultimately responsible to teach their kids about the dangers in life.  Not running up to a dog is one of those things.  However, parents without dogs are also unaware of this danger...heck, even parents WITH dogs are naive in this regard.  That is why I wrote this blog!  A parent cannot teach their kids what they do not know.  Those of us in the pet services industry, and I think educators and pediatricians as well would ideally have this information and get it to parents and kids as much as possible.  

So...what am I doing about it?  I have gone to elementary schools, preschools, libraries, and children's museums to give free presentations to groups of young children about how to be safe around dogs.  I offer classes for parents with dogs to help them teach their dogs how to be with children through local park & rec departments and Yale New Haven Hospital.  I write blogs and articles about these topics.  I encourage kids to participate in my training classes and have even held classes specifically FOR kids and their dogs.  My purpose in all of this is to get the information out there and just make people more aware.

Thanks for your comment, and I would've loved to see the hugging pugs, I bet they're precious!

Michelle Douglas, CPDT-KA, CDBC
West Haven CT
Past President ~ The Association of Pet Dog Trainers

I'm grateful for my hug-loving dogs, but this also gives me the subject I will talk about at my therapy dog visit to a middle school next week. I was asked to do an educational activity with the boys and this will work great. We can practice hugging my dog and I can have the kids watching closely to give me feedback on whether it appears she's happy about it (she happens to adore hugs but every dog has its limit) and then discuss what signs to look for if a dog isn't and to address that you should never hug an unknown dog or even your own, if it appears uncomfortable or you know it does not enjoy hugs.

Thanks for the subject!

I am sure many dogs don't like to be hugged, but I have dogs who like to hug. Yes, my dogs hug me. They start the day by putting their paws on my shoulders, and they rest their heads over my shoulder, and then they touch my nose with theirs - one dog at a time. No, they are not a small breed, but Briards - a breed known as 'hearts wrapped in fur.' They are definitely people dogs. My girls are not alone in their behavior. Other Briard people speak of the same behavior in their own dogs. Besides hugging they also will want their paws held. I find it endearing. In all of these gestures they are very gentle and controlled, not poorly-mannered dogs jumping up. This breed continues to amaze me.  





P F Gibson

I work for a Humane Society and do presentations at elementary schools on dog safety. I focus on approach, petting and eye contact. I've known that dogs don't like hugs for some time but haven't been mentioning it to kids. Duh! I'll be sure to include it from now on. Thanks for reminding me.

I wish now I'd taken a photo last night of the two Pugs I am boarding, snuggled up together, Dave with his foreleg thrown over Chas's shoulders. That looked a lot like a hug to me.

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