Most humans recognize a hug as a sign of affection and friendship. In an IAMS™ survey*, 83% of dog parents say their dog likes hugs too. But how do dogs feel about them? Bring it in! We’re going to try and get our arms around this question.
Dogs don’t like hugs: Spoiler alert
Sure, some dogs enjoy a good canine cuddle, but usually only with their owner or household members. Otherwise, they don’t really care for it. “Hugging is too much and overwhelming for many dogs and should be discouraged if the dog doesn’t know the individual very well,” advises
Opens a new windowJames Serpell, B.S., Ph.D., Professor of Humane Ethics & Animal Welfare at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.
There are a number of reasons for this:
Four legs vs. two
Hugging is a human behavior, not a dog behavior. They’re just not physically built for that kind of interaction. We stand upright, so we face people. Dogs are on all fours, so it’s an unnatural act for them. They much prefer a friendly sniff to greet other dogs.
To dogs, a hug is seen as a very dominant form of behavior; it feels like a stranger is trying to assert control over them. It can be quite stressful, especially if done by someone they’re not familiar with.
Since ancient dog days, canines’ first instinctive line of defense has been to run away from danger. Hugging takes this primal option away and can make them feel trapped and confined. Remember when you were a kid getting hugged by that loud great aunt you’ve never met at your dad’s second cousin’s wedding? That’s kind of what your dog is feeling. Who is this? What are they doing? They want to escape too.
Signs your dog does not like hugs
You can usually tell by their body language, says
Opens a new windowDr. Jo Gale, BVetMed CertLAS MRCVS, Senior Manager, Global Science Advocacy at Waltham Petcare Science Institute: “Watch for trembling, trying to get away, raised hackles or whites around their eyes. It’s very important to pay attention to this behavior and respect it.”
Alternatives to hugging your dog
Don’t worry if your dog doesn’t want to hug it out. There are plenty of healthier ways you can show them you’re still their best friend:
- Pet them or give them a good, relaxing brush.
- Take them on walks or play a game with their favorite toy.
- Give them their favorite food or treats.
- Give them a verbal hug. Tell them they’re a “good boy” or a “good girl.” They never get tired of that.
*Surveyed U.S. dog owners, age 18+
Sample Size: n=201
Fielded May 8-10, 2020
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Does your mature dog sniff at his bowl and walk away instead of digging in? You may think he’s just being picky, but it’s important to keep an eye on how much he’s eating — especially if he’s a senior. While age-related diminishment of the senses of smell and taste may account for some of his disinterest in food, appetite loss can also indicate a serious medical problem.
“It’s important to give your dog enough calories because weight loss can be debilitating to senior pets,” says Wendy Brooks, D.V.M., who warns that a loss in appetite should be mentioned to your vet. A good rule of thumb: If your pet hasn’t eaten in a day, make a visit to the vet. Here are six ways to entice your canine friend with a nourishing meal.
6 Ways to Encourage Your Senior Dog to Eat More
1. Mix Dry Food with Moist Food
Many animals find canned food more palatable because they like the taste and texture, Brooks says. You can top their favorite dry food with room-temperature wet food.
2. Warm It Up
Dogs like a warm or room-temperature (not hot or cold) meal. Avoid serving him day-old wet food from the refrigerator, and keep his food away from heat. Another reason he might not be eating: It's too hot outside.
3. Try a Change
Dogs prefer consistency when it comes to their food. Don't change every day, but try a new flavor, such as lamb or chicken, and see if he responds (it may trigger his sense of smell). To avoid an upset stomach, introduce a new food by mixing it with his old food in equal increments each day.
4. Stay Close
Common mature-dog health issues, such as arthritis or joint pain, can make it difficult for him to access his bowls. Keep food and water where he spends most of his time. Put a water bowl on all floors of the house, too.
5. Keep the Fresh Water Flowing
Older pets are at a higher risk of dehydration. Provide a clean bowl with fresh water at all times. It will help prevent disease, such as a kidney condition, and aid in digestion.
6. Offer Praise
Dogs are people pleasers. If you see him eating, give him a little verbal reward. He'll know it makes you happy and will repeat the behavior.
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