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 James 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.