Experts: Your dog doesn't like to be hugged

Fight the urge on National Hug Your Dog Day

Your dog would prefer if you did not participate in National Hug Your Dog Day on April 10, according to a study published in Psychology Today.

Posting pictures on social media embracing your dog could actually provide further evidence in support of the study, if you pay attention to your dog’s expression in the photo.

The study

Dr. Stanley Coren, a canine expert and professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, conducted a study analyzing 250 pictures of dogs being hugged and noticed signs of discomfort.

“I used a variety of criteria to try to keep the data as clean and precise as possible. I only used photos where the dog's face was clearly visible,” Coren wrote.


The results

In 81.6% of the photographs analyzed, dogs expressed at least one sign of discomfort, stress or anxiety, according to the study.

"The most common sign of anxiety is when the dog turns his head away from whatever is bothering or worrying him, sometimes also closing his eyes, at least partially,” Coren said. 

Coren said other indicators of stress are ears lowered against the head, lip licking, yawning or raising a paw. A dog opening its eyes wide in a “half-moon” shape is another sign of discomfort.


Only 7.6% of the photographs showed dogs that were comfortable being hugged.

Dogs are pack animals and love to be loved, but hugging raises stress levels because it prevents them from being able to run away. The study said dogs are technically cursorial animals, which means that they are designed for quickly running from danger.Dogs were the first animals to be domesticated for personal and working reasons so they are accustomed to our affection. However, the first line of defense a dog uses when faced with a threat is the ability to run away. So maybe opt for a belly rub or scratch behind the ears to show your dog you love them.

The photos posted below found online using the hashtag #HugYourDogDay seem to show some dogs that are a fan of being embraced. Others -- not so much. 

What do you think? Does your dog like to be hugged?