Why You Should Stop Hugging Your Dog, According to Science

A new study reveals why your dogs aren’t exactly the best cuddle buddies.

While hugging your canine best friend may de-stress you, it does the opposite to your dog. According to neuropsychological researcher Stanley Coren in Psychology Today, dogs are cursorial animals, meaning they are designed for swift running. By hugging a dog, behaviorists say it deprives them of an escape route to run away, which is their first line of defense when encountering a threat.

Dogs feel immobilized and claustrophobic during hugs, which can increase their levels of stress and anxiety. Common indicators that show a dog may be stressed include breaking eye contact, turning their heads away, partially closing their eyes, lowering or slicking their ears along the side of their heads and baring teeth.

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In the study, 250 internet photos of people hugging their dogs were analyzed to see if the dogs showed signs of stress. Of the total, 82% of dogs in the photos exhibited at least one sign of being under stress. Ten percent of the dogs were neutral or expressed ambiguous responses and 8% appeared to be happy with the gesture.

Coren recommends giving dogs soothing words instead of hugs.

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