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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Bottom line: does hugging make our pooches uncomfortable?

I recently read several articles, including this one, pointing out that while humans (and other closely related primates) greet and express affection with hugs, canines don't share that cue. In fact (oh, please, without getting into whether "dominance" is a thing), a hug may signal something less comforting to a dog:
In primates, we wrap our arms around another's shoulders as a sign of affection. But in canids, a leg over the shoulder is a sign of dominance or assertiveness.
This leads me to wonder whether some biting incidents in the home, especially those involving children, may have something to do with a misread hug:
If a dog barely tolerates hugs, then the wrong hug at the wrong time could mean the dog snaps at the hugger.
As the article suggests, I've been trying to read my new pooch's body language when I hug her. She doesn't react or pull away, but she's not overjoyed by it either. I always make sure I keep it short and positive, followed by something else she likes (like maybe a belly rub).

What are your thoughts on this? How do your dogs react when you hug them? Have you seen times when other (non-family folks, say) hug them and your dogs don't react as favorably as when you do it?
 

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What are your thoughts on this? How do your dogs react when you hug them? Have you seen times when other (non-family folks, say) hug them and your dogs don't react as favorably as when you do it?
I think it really depends on the dog. Some dogs I've known barely like to be petted. And then there are dogs like Zephyr, who practically try to crawl inside their owner's skin. He lays on top of me when I'm on the couch and nuzzles his head under my arms whenever I move them away from him. He likes to be held. On the other hand, Titan is okay with physical contact, but doesn't like to have my arms around him when he's laying near me.

Similarly, some dogs are really uncomfortable being face to face with humans, or with extended eye contact. Both Zephyr and Titan often shove their faces directly into mine while maintaining a soft eye contact with me the entire time. Many dogs would find that interaction very threatening.

I think biting incidents are mostly caused by misreading of a dog's body language and/or mismanagement of a dog known to be a bite risk.
 

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Kylie hates anything approaching restraint or close contact with a person that isn't just her sitting on them, unless she's sleepy and then both my arms around her is fine, because she's tucked up under my chin and under the covers. Jack is similar.

Molly and Thud and Bug would live inside your skin if they could. Molly in particular is very prone to lap sitting and sticking her head under your chin and leaning as hard as she can into you. Arms can be around her or not. Thud will take any contact he can get, and call it a good thing. Bug just basically explodes in wiggling licking euphoria so hugging her doesn't really happen, anyway.

To whit, I 'hug' Molly and Thud, and I don't hug the others. But they're on the dog's terms, at the dog's time, nd by the dog's request. Also not really much like I'd hug a person.
 

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Manna loves hugs from everybody and harasses people for hugs.

Vitae only likes hugs from 2/4 the people she lives with, tolerates 1/4 and wiggles away for the last person and refuses any of the people she doesn't live with and will bite if she gets hugged by someone she doesn't know (minus anyone under 4ft for some odd reason, they get all the kisses while wiggling away).

My previous dog Cassy loved hugs from all but never asked for them, just enjoyed what she got.

My moms dog Molly wiggles too much for hugs

and the family dog before them Candy didn't want hugs period and only tolerated them for short times from toddler/young child me and not anyone else.


In my experience most dog don't like hugs but are either shut down or taught to tolerate them. Very few actually want hugs and I just got lucky with most of my dogs.

I could see dogs biting from unwanted hugs
 

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Oh, strangers.

Molly would bite someone, Kylie would bite someone, Thud would threaten to bite someone, Jack would shut down, Bug would just stick her tongue down their throat and bounce off their head.
 

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Luna likes physical contact in general. If she's on the couch, she's on top of you in some way, if not totally sitting or laying on you. In classes she will push her head into my stomach when I'm giving her scritches/pets for a good job, or stand on top of my legs, etc. She often solicits for belly rubs from people she just met.

Dogs at the shelter that I don't know, I use a sort of gradual 'asking permission' approach, if you will. Especially for littles that may need to be picked up due to circumstances. A little scritch here, a pet there, hand on their side, "is it okay if I pick you up? Is that alright?" and gently putting hands around them and slowly lifting if they seem not too bothered. I know they don't understand what I'm saying but if some stranger just came out of nowhere and lifted me off the ground I'd be pretty alarmed, and I feel like the few extra seconds helps us to come to an understanding.
*I do not try and hug them, even if they seem totally friendly and fine. If that dog bites me, that dog is going to die for it. Not worth it.
 

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All 3 of mine LOVE hugs. From me, hubby, sons and close friends.
But from strangers, no. They will go up to strangers and sniff and check them out,
but they stay just out of reach until they deem a safe person. And the only way that
happens is if I shake the persons hand.
I wouldn't dream of hugging a dog that wasn't mine and would find it really odd if
a stranger wanted to hug mine. Pet and ear scratch yes, hug no.
 

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Some. Yes. But only a small fraction.
As others state, some dogs love cuddles, others hate it.
It also depends on the hug and the hugger. Letting a small child come up to a strange dog and put their arms around the dog's neck is asking for trouble; especially if the dog hasn't had a lot of experience with small children. Adults who can read a dog's body language and move in ways that don't crowd the dog are much less likely to get bitten
 

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Oh, strangers.

Molly would bite someone, Kylie would bite someone, Thud would threaten to bite someone, Jack would shut down, Bug would just stick her tongue down their throat and bounce off their head.
Yeah, didn't realize it was hugs from strangers we were talking about...

Well, I'd never let a stranger hug my dogs. But I guess if they did, my dogs would stand there feeling very uncomfortable and look to me for help, or try to get away. And I can guarantee that if they want to get away, they will.
 

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In general, dogs don't like hugs. Obviously, some dogs can be trained otherwise. And therapy/service dogs can be trained not to react. I purposely 'super-socialized' Shep so that he would not eat people who hugged him. We were sitting outside of PetsMart and without introduction, a lady reached down and hugged Shep from behind. He looked back quickly to see who it was, with no ill-intent. When She backed off, I noticed 5 fresh stitches in her lip. She explained that she jumped back, b/c she had just hugged a dog yesterday, and it bit her in the lip, resulting in stitches [Sometimes people Don't get Darwin Awards ;-) ].

Many dogs will show Calming Signals during or after a hug. They may lick their lips or may yawn, possibly with a loud pupsqueak. And, when the hug is over, they may shake it all off in relief. Look for those gestures.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I had in mind primarily hugs by non-strangers (family, close friends, neighbors), and in particular children, who tend to be rough (or unrestrained) about how they hug.

If you've never met a dog, I don't recommend touching him/her without proper introduction. I look for permission from the dog (via body language). AND a hug is several quanta more dangerous than a pat on the head! But sometimes love overwhelms common sense.
 

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My dog (Lomu) begs for hugs from literally anybody. Even a stranger that he met for the first time 1 minut before.

It has to do with the dog but also with the owner and the environment where the dog is raised.

In my country the concept of "personal space" is different. When we meet someone from the opposite sex the "hello" involves 2 kisses and a (kind of) hug, not a shake of hands.
With dogs is somehow similar as it is very common to pet other people´s dogs and even to hug them (unless the owner says not to).
So dogs get used to being petted and hugged by strangers. That is normal in their day to day.

It would be totally different of course if a dog that is not used to be petted by a stranger (for instance because the owner does not allow it) is suddendly hugged by that stranger. Of course the reaction could not be good.
 

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Annabel definitely tolerates stranger hugs really well. I don't want to go so far as to say she likes them, but she has soft eyes and an open mouth and relaxed body language, so I know she's not going to eat anyone. There have been several times when kids have just sprinted up to her and thrown their arms around her and while she was startled at first, she relaxed pretty easily. Gave them a few sloppy licks. Of course, "sweetness of temperament" is a defining hallmark of her breed!

Beckett... He pulls away and play bows and bounces around if someone other than me tries to hug him. He does that to me a lot, too, in fact, but he seems to intuit when I need some comfort and will jump up and wrap his arms around my neck. And then stick his tongue in my ear...
 

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I think anthropromorphic replies are appropriate here.
It really depends on the individuals involved and the timing and nature of the hug.
I am not a touchy-feely person, so am more hug-averse than many.
Some people's hugs make me uncomfortable and if I were of the biting sort, might make me bite them.
Other people's hugs are most welcome, especially if I'm in a mood where a hug is appropriate.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I've been doing a lot of body language watching, and my Tessa is definitely on the tolerate camp. Yawning and lip-licking are two of her reactions. I'm taking a more side-hug approach, and I don't do the eyeball to eyeball eye contact for long, looking to the side to let her lick me rather than come over her, which easy for me, given my height. From time to time I may even let out a yawn of my own. ;) She seems to be taking well to it.
 
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