Showing your dog love

Showing your dog love

By Kim Gilliam

Dr. Stanley Coren, psychologist and blogger for Psychology Today, recently shared his research on the observation that dogs, in general, don’t like to be hugged.

He reviewed 250 randomly selected photos from Google Image Search and Flickr of people hugging their dogs for observable signs of stress or anxiety, such as bared teeth, a turned head, closed or half-moon eyes, lowered or slicked back ears, lip licking, yawning or raising a paw.

His findings? 81.6 percent of the photographs showed dogs that were giving off at least one sign of discomfort, stress or anxiety. Only 7.6 percent of the photographs could rate as showing dogs that were comfortable with being hugged.

The remaining 10.8 percent of the dogs either were showing neutral or ambiguous responses to this form of physical contact.The reason he provided?

“Dogs are technically cursorial animals, which is a term that indicates that they are designed for swift running,” he wrote. “In times of stress or threat, the first line of defense that a dog uses is not his teeth, but rather his ability to run away.”

So when you hug the dog, it can feel trapped. Corey Cohen of A New Leash on Life suggests these stress signals might have been triggered by being photographed, that if a dog trusts the human giving the hug, they may be comfortable with or even welcome the gesture. But what is for certain is that dog owners going in for the hug should be aware of the stress cues and treat them as “cutoff signals.”

So what is the best way to show your love? First, with any dog, start with a proper greeting. Invite them to make the first contact by squatting down to their level. A friendly dog will approach you with ears slightly back and a wide tail wag, sniffing you to gather information.

A wiggly body posture and relaxed eyes and mouth invite petting. The best spots to pet are the chest, shoulders, and base of the neck, reaching in from the side, rather than over the top of their head.

You will quickly get to know the dog’s favorite itch spots by how they respond. These may include the base of their tail, belly and more. A good petting session or puppy massage will prove just as rewarding as giving your pup a hug.

How do you know if your dog loves you back? suggests you look for these signs:

Leaning in: If your pup inches closer and nearly collapses at your feet, or knocks you off yours, then it’s love.

Showing their belly: If they give you their underside for a scratch, this is a sign of trust and a desire to bond.

Joining you for a nap: Dogs are very social and choose their sleep mates with care, so take it as a compliment if they curl up next to you.

At your heels: Does your dog follow you from room to room, not willing to let you out of their sight? That’s love!

Peeing near you: It’s a sign of admiration, believe it or not. Your pup is acknowledging you as the alpha.

Bringing you a toy: If your pup deposits their favorite toy (or smelly sock) in your lap, they are your friend for life.

Staring intently: Looking deeply into your eyes is a sign of true love.

By paying close attention to your pup’s behavior and body language, you can better show your love and recognize their signs of affection.

The writer is the co-owner of Frolick Dogs, an indoor dog gym in the Eisenhower Valley.