Consensual contact: Should You Hug Your Dog?

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Should You Hug Your Dog?

We at Rover-Time have to start this off with some bad news: Dog’s don’t really like hugs. For us, a hug is a lovely and natural way to show affection and love, but to a dog, putting your arms over them can feel like we are exerting dominance. A dog may become stiff or extra still while you are hugging them, and it may be because they are confused or uncomfortable. 

The good news is that there are lots of positive ways to shower your beloved pooch with love. Here are some suggestions for ways to improve how you are showing affection to your dog! 

Consent is key! 

Just like with humans, dogs can give consent. They can’t do it with their words, so it’s really important that you listen to their body language. Are they leaning toward or away from you? Are they stiff or relaxed? If their tail is wagging do they seem happy or nervous? Are their ears flat against their head or neutral? Being in tune with a dog’s body language is a great way to tell if they are happy with how they are being shown affection. It’s important that you pay attention and listen to the cues they are giving you. Every dog is different, so your pup may love to be scratched behind the ears, but that doesn’t mean that Fido next door will like the same touches. 

“Just give me some space! Okay?”

A dog who doesn’t like how they are being touched will normally give you a warning. Some examples could be:

  • Sudden yawning
  • Pulling their body away from you
  • Repetitive lip licking
  • Shaking off after you let go
  • Turning their head
  • Avoiding eye contact 

The dog is trying to let you know how they are feeling, so the best thing for you to do is backup and give them some room. Let the dog come to you for more affection. Just because the dog can’t talk doesn’t mean it’s not trying to communicate and in this case the dog might be telling you “I NEED SPACE”. If you don’t listen to what your dog is telling you with these milder signs, the dog could escalate their message by growling or snapping. 

Why yes, I did get my degree in dog massage…

Try scratching behind the ears, or if they seem into it, some tummy rubs. There’s always booty scratches! However, for some dogs, pets on the face and head can be uncomfortable. If your dog likes to sleep with you in bed, consider some early morning cuddles and snuggles. Some dogs might even enjoy a doggy massage

Non-cuddle love

There are lots of ways to show your dog love that don’t involve snuggles. Just like for a human, a dog’s love language might not be physical cuddles. Try giving them a new toy or spending time with them by teaching them a trick or going on a long walk. There are lots of spots for a Chicago dog owner to take their dog on an adventure! 

Maybe Just ONE Hug

The truth is, sometimes you just want to hug your dog even though you know that they may not love it. You can train your dog to, if not enjoy, at least put up with you hugging them. (Keep in mind that while your dog might put up with you hugging them, you should caution strangers, especially kids, to avoid hugs.) Try hugging your dog for a short period of time while giving them treats so they know that hugs are good. Remember to keep an eye out on body language and to stop if they seem uncomfortable. 

For some info about why dogs give kisses as a sign of love, click here! 

Zoe Sjogerman is the North-East manager for Rover-Time and has been part of the RT team for four years. When she isn’t walking dogs she is the executive director of Avalanche Theatre and an avid book reader. She lives in the north-side of Chicago with her fiance. Although she doesn’t have a pet of her own, she loves getting to walk pups all over the Chicagoland area. 

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