Recent articles have circulated the internet making a claim that has dog owners perplexed: they propose that dogs hate our human displays of affection, particularly hugs. For the average dog lover, this isn't just bad news; it's also confusing. Many dogs seem to respond positively to displays of affection, even reciprocating with "hugs" and "kisses" of their own. So what does the science say?
To Hug or Not to Hug?
According to veterinarian Dr. Patty Khuly, this recent rash of articles could be completely unfounded. In Dr. Khuly's research, she found that the "scientific proof" that the articles cited was only internet pictures of dogs being hugged with no scientific method involved. What many were heralding as a new "study" on dog behavior was in fact just an opinion piece that gained traction on the web.
Dr. Khuly outlines the problems with the claims made in the article, including:
No scientific basis for the claims, only a "supposedly random sampling" of internet photos
No peer review or scientific method in the research
Assumption that a dog's discomfort can be gauged based on "expression" in a photo
These and other issues mean that the original claims are unfounded at best and downright wrong at worst.
When it comes to showing your dog some physical affection, you're probably already the best judge of whether or not he or she is uncomfortable. A shy dog may be less likely to enjoy sudden or frightening displays of physical affection, but you'll know quickly if your dog is distressed. Look for signs such as shrinking away from you, growling, or baring of teeth to indicate that a dog may feel threatened by your physical affection.
As always, contact us with any questions you have about your dog's health or behavior, and don't forget to schedule your pet's annual checkups.