Hugging

There’s been a lot of hugging lately, from dear friends expressing love and sympathy after Lassie’s death. And oh, a good hug feels so good, doesn’t it? Thinking of it reminds me of how very differently dogs and people express affection and care, and how hugging is so hard-wired in humans, but not natural to dogs. This photo, that I can’t attribute to any source but has been all over the internet, is a perfect example of the primate propensity to hug (and a dog’s typical reaction).

I must have 50 images of people hugging dogs in which the person is beaming with happiness and the dog is looking uncomfortable. Of course, there are plenty of exceptions, but they are more rare than I suspect most people realize. (After all, we can’t see a dog’s face when we hug him, now can we?) I do know lots of dogs, Willie included, that love lots of body contact with people they know and trust, but not with strangers. Which is not that different from us after all — how would you feel if some guy you’d never met threw his arms around you on the street?

But what IS different is that dogs don’t make “ventral/ventral” contact (chest to chest, belly to belly) like primates do when they are nursing, and thus don’t develop a positive association between ventral/ventral contact and feeling nurtured and loved. But we could help that. What if every puppy class included instructions on how to condition your pup to accept or even enjoy hugging, because people ARE going to do it. (Sigh: I JUST finished the new version of Puppy Primer and didn’t think to include that. Ah well, next time.)

I’m curious: How many dogs out there would rather not be hugged? What’s your experience? (And have you gone out of your way to look at your dog’s face when s/he is being hugged?)

Meanwhile, back at the farm: What can I say? We’re still in that raw place in which you feel like you’ve had surgery without an anesthetic. There’s lots I’d like to write about grieving after a dog’s death, but not now, not yet. But I can say thank you from Jim and me for the outpouring of support. Oh my, it means so much. And I have read and cherished every one of the Six Words you have written. Gorgeous.

Willie had a hard time. When Lassie died (unexpectedly, shockingly) I cried so hard that I scared him. It took him 24 hours to stop tongue flicking. Now he is so clingy he hid behind my legs throughout a dog romp Sunday afternoon. However, he also ran like a greyhound with a young BC who he loves just a few minute before, so he’s doing well some of the time. I suspect on the dog romp that it was the pack of dogs, and all the activity, that made him nervous. He’s never been in a group of dogs before without Lassie. The two of them never interacted in any visible way when on dog romps, and so I was surprised that he seemed so different. In hind sight, it makes sense, but then, hind sight is always 20/20. However, he did come out of his shell around the other dogs once I got out a stick, and he now, finally, will again eat food out of his Kong in the morning. Day by day.

Here’s a photo I took this morning of the remaining hay in the hay mow, sunlight streaming through from the east. I love old barns, and am so lucky to have one. This one collapsed right after I bought the farm in 1982, but we brought it back to life (several times actually.)

Comments

  1. Lynn U. says

    Taz the Terv is one of those dogs who seems to like hugging. He often backs himself up to my chair and waits for me to put my arms around him. He also goes out of his way to insert himself in the middle if my spouse and I are hugging, and likes to put as much of himself as will fit into laps. I’ve always included scratching favorite spots as part of the hugging, with the intention of teaching him to like something that I enjoy so much. It’s hard to say whether that’s why he likes the hugs or if it’s genetic — when I visited his breeder after they were all grown up Tazzie’s brother spent the whole visit in my lap. The Belgian Tervuren standard describes them as “reserved with strangers,” but not so for these boys.

  2. says

    My Great Dane Mars requires that I hug him, he’ll solicit it, and lean into me, and just loves it. My other Dane prefers to lay on your lap and bury her face into you, but hugs she does resist to some extent. What is interesting, Mars really only wants me to hug him, but he loves when my husband holds his head buried in his arms. No one else can get anywhere near that close to him though.

    Mars was very upset when we lost his “sister” to bloat at the age of 3. They had been together since about 9 weeks old, and I was very concerned about how he’d take it. Her death was out of the blue and immediate. What was most interesting though, is how he didn’t seem to care or miss her once we stopped crying. My husband and I have a similar grief pattern – cry hard and be very upset for several days, then go back to acting normal with only the occasional tears shed. Once we got past those first days, Mars acted normal, even acting more relaxed and calm than before. I’d always thought he liked Minerva, but once she was gone, he really blossomed into a more relaxed and sociable dog. When we adopted our other Dane, he was horrified at us, especially because she likes snuggling with him and he wanted nothing to do with that. But after a couple of weeks the horror faded, and he is actually rather attached to her. I can see the difference in his relationship, and I understand to some degree why he didn’t miss Minerva. His grief had more to do with our own than any missing of Mini. I dread the day we loose Mars, he’s my heart dog and its not going to be easy.

    I hope Willie comes around soon. I know its hard to watch our furry kids grieve, and to see the effect our own grief has on them. My thoughts are with you and your family.

  3. says

    I just watched a video of an interview with Will Smith. He and his brother were tasked as young men to build a wall. As he said (and we know from our training), you don’t look at how much work that whole wall will be, you place .this. brick as perfectly as you can today. Tomorrow you will place the next brick as perfectly as you can and before you know it your wall will be built.

    One day at a time, taking time to enjoy .this. part of today when you see the sunlight streaming through the barn.

    That is a gorgeous photo with the light and shadow. Speaking as a photographer I’d be in that barn snapping away every day.

  4. Judi says

    Thanks to your books, my dogs now have learned to tolerate my shouting “Ventral-dorsal contact! Eww Gross!” in a happy voice when I hug them. I usually hug them around the ribcage from above, while they still have 4 feet on the ground. My yearling is interesting in her reaction to petting and loving. She’s fine with being hugged or petted as long as her back feet are on the ground (or couch), but will turn off the affection as soon as she no longer feels she has control over her back feet. She goes from licking my face to refusing to look at me under those circumstances.

  5. Ellen Pepin says

    Trisha,

    I am glad to read that Will is doing a little better now. I guess it is going to take time for all of you to heal. It did for me when I lost my once in a lifetime dog, Nikki, almost 2 years ago.

    Of the 3 dogs I’ve had as an adult, Nikki, came the closest to enjoying a hug, but that took several years. At first she would run away if I tried to hug her. Then, once when I was watching TV, she crawled into my lap and stayed there for over an hour. Dakota, who we have had for 6 years, will put up with hugs, but he doesn’t look very happy. Our collie, Tess, who we adopted 8 months ago, still tries to get away when I hug her, but she no longer growls or makes distressed noises.

    I never realized that most dogs don’t like being hugged until I read The Other End of the Leash and looked at the pictures. It was an eye opener, and made me more aware of how the dog is feeling about things.

  6. says

    Funny, my GSD-mix (he’s mixed with Formosan Mt. Dog, a descendant of the Asian Hunting dog), likes to lean or sit on me. Tho neither my sibe nor he are allowed on furniture, if i’m sitting on the ground, he’ll find some body part to put on me or lean his whole body on me. I’m told this is a very GSD trait. so when I hug him, I don’t get the sense he minds it but he definitely goes out of his way to avert his face and eyes.

    both my dogs are conditioned to hugs, tho I don’t make a point of forcing it on them every day. Just when the moment seems right and they seem ok with it.

    I’ve read your books and know WHY they don’t like hugging! (dominance, etc.) Sometimes I think the GSD mix puts up with my hugging simply because my sibe is the alha (female) and he likes to feel a bit higher in rank for a moment or two when getting hugged.

    btw: your books have been invaluable to me in dealing with two fearful dogs. The GSD mix was fear-aggressive. The sibe was fear-shy. NEITHER are fearful anymore. Well, at least with the normal stuff: people, bikes, luggage, etc. Occassionally we’ll come across something that will evoke fear. We did escalator training with our trainer a few weeks ago. My sibe went up and down and did off leash recalls on the escalator. My GSD mix, spazzed over them. Did them once without realizing what he was doing then wouldn’t go near them again. We’ll keep trying them. I love working out their fears. For me, even if they never see another escalator again, the fact that we worked through a fear together bonds our relationship each time.

  7. Em says

    It depends how “hug” is defined. The picture above is not something I would do with a dog….it just seems awkard! My dog is interesting: perfectly happy to lean into me and have my arm draped over her and enjoys a good chest thump..so really almost a hug and, like a hug, not something in dog-dog greeting but as soon as a hug starts (both arms) she squeezes out of it or puts up with it but isn’t amused. She also loves to lay on her with her legs in the air and have me lay down beside her and lay next to her with my arms around her.

    Then again my dog would rather be chasing a ball or getting a treat than be pet and cuddled…in fact, I think one of the only reasons she puts up with affection sometimes is in the hopes that when I am done cuddling she will get to play frisbee/ball/eat

  8. says

    Dahlia is a dog who loves to be touched. Any time, in any way it seems. (She’s also a dog who likes to touch YOU with her paws and will often curl up with her paws and head on your lap or reach out and touch you with a paw while you rub her belly). I don’t usually hug her straight on, but usually from the side or slightly behind.

    Her usual reaction? Look up at me and give me a big ol’ slurp on the face (ala this picture — you can’t see her tongue because it was caught at a moment when it wasn’t out, but she was indeed licking my face).

    I’m still thinking of you and your Lassie. As someone else said, one day at a time. It’s never easy.

  9. Stephanie Boutwell says

    I am so sorry for your loss of Lassie. It’s such a very hard thing.

    My dog does not like to be hugged at all, but the sweetheart that he is will tolerate it for the sake of the hugger. My friend’s children love to hug him( while supervised, of course) and I hug him a lot when I need to. But the look on his face is one of tolerance and a desire for the hug to end as quickly as possible.

  10. Jo says

    Two of my BCs seek out hugging and actively “hug” back (wrapping one or both front legs around my neck and holding on when we sit together), they love snuggling. The other two dogs tolerate hugs but mainly prefer to sit or lay next to me for snuggles, although one will let me hug him for short periods of time and he seems to not mind it too much. :-) I love the hugs so they all have learned from puppyhood that hugs are a fact of life but I also try to respect their comfort zones.

  11. says

    I have a Pomeranian who absolutely intrigues me, as she’ll put her paws on shoulders, tucks her head on your shoulders and mimics a hug as close as any dog can. She initiates this behavior- this was the first thing she did when she met me at 5 months of age. I’ve never seen it before, and it’s not only adorable, but also very comforting when someone is upset. It doesn’t at all seem to be a form of dominance, esp with her submissive head posture, but rather a sign of affection.

    When I asked about this behavior on a Pomeranian mailing list a few people said their Poms also did this, so I’m wondering if through selective breeding, some dogs have been bred to show affection using our mannerisms. Much like how domestic canids instinctively know that a pointed finger means, while wild canids have no clue.

  12. Kerry L. says

    I always hugged Alice as described by Judi, from above and around the ribcage. It always seemed to me that she pushed herself into me when I did that. Walter gets hugs when he’s laying across my lap with his head on my arm (on the arm of the recliner). Sometimes I just have to wrap my other arm around him and give him a squeeze. He puts up with it.

  13. says

    The first time I saw my Bouncer in the adoption cage at PetsMart, he came out of the crate, put his paws on my shoulders, and kissed my face. He won my heart that day, and came home with me.

    However, he does NOT like hugging on human terms. He’ll tolerate it if I put my arms around him lightly, gently, and briefly, but he doesn’t love it. :)

    My Jasper tolerates it a little better, but he’s not crazy about it either. So since I’m a primate, I hug them both, but quickly, gently, lightly, and they let me do it.

  14. Anna says

    Corgis are not the easiest to hug given their closeness to the ground you almost have to pick them up. My male would rather die than have me pick him up and hold him, at 32 trim pounds it is not something I try often. He does love to snuggle next to me but never wants on my lap. My 5 mo old female loves to be held anytime but then I have been holding her since she was 9weeks old and who knows how that will change as she ages.

    What both my dogs like to do is reach out their nose and let me kiss it… 9 times out of 10 they kiss me back. But what warms my heart the most is when they look at me… the eyes are the window to thier soul and they have beautiful souls.

  15. Splash's mom says

    Of my two Labs and one BC, the female Lab adores being hugged and kissed. She’ll solicit hugs facing me, and she loves to be held like a baby. A BIG baby! The two boys, one Lab and the BC, will solicit hugs but the Lab wants to be facing away from me, and the BC will always put a paw on my chest. None of them appreciate hugs from anyone else though — they will always back out of it pretty quickly, even from people they adore.

  16. Alexandra says

    Ever since I read your book the Other End of the Leash several years ago, I have tried to restrain myself from hugging my dogs when they obviously hate it. But I can’t always help it!

    Izzy seems to have accepted my hugging her when I get home from work as part of our greeting ritual, and will lean against my shins while I lean over and hug her. That’s her cue to snuggle her face against mine and give my face one dainty lick while I scratch her chin. She grunts while I do this and gently wags her whole back end, so I think she really likes it. At other times if I outright hug her she will turn her face away or tongue-flick.

    Copper, my social butterfly, hates being petted on top of his head or hugged by strangers. He will take a step back and turn his head, then approach them again as if hoping they learned better manners. I am always amazed how you pretty much have to physically reposition a person’s hands for them to get them to stop trying to pat on the head or hug (kids especially!). He doesn’t really like it if I hug him either; he will tolerate it but quickly gets squirmy or licks my face like crazy. However, he really loves to have body contact with me and always wants to be in physical contact with me, preferably while sitting in my lap. He was from a litter of 10 puppies, so I wonder if all those early life puppy piles contributed to his love of sitting on me. He doesn’t mind if I use him as a pillow or footrest, either.

    Glad to hear Will is doing better. Hope you and Jim are hanging in there too. Thanks to your wonderful stories about your dogs, I feel I almost know them myself.

  17. Sandy says

    When I kneel down my 3 year old lab/border collie cross Sophie comes up to me and pushes her head under my arms and we stay like that for a few minutes – it feels like we are being close in a special way. I do hug her sometimes – my love for her just wells up inside me and I can’t help myself!

    I now have another dog – an 8 month old puppy called TomTom. He was born in a northern community and the litter left to fend for itself so the puppies were feral. The rest of the litter was caught and adopted out in September but my guy was too elusive and wasn’t caught until October. He was in the shelter for 3 months until I brought him home 3 weeks ago. He’s very bonded to Sophie but will he bond with me? I worry that maybe he won’t because he missed that socialization with people in those first weeks and months of life. Will he ever love to be touched like Sophie does? I can touch him now – he ducks his head – but he lets me do it and I don’t have the feeling he hates it. Last night he lay on the couch beside me and I stroked him. He doesn’t like to be reached for though – he will jump away. To put a harness on him for walking is really hard – he just wants to be anywhere but here and his body actually trembles.

    It’s overwhelming sometimes – he’s a devil of a chewer too – actually ate a hole in my deck. I’m committed to giving him a home but I will be heartbroken if the bonding with me never happens as someone suggested might be the case. All I can do is give him my best and hope that with time, love, patience, and training he’ll learn to trust and the love will come. I promise him I will never hug him though!!

  18. says

    My two adult dogs insist on lot’s of physical contact. My 9 year old male lab mix will lay in my arms as long as I will let him. My 4 year old female Border Collie/Aussie loves to be touched anywhere and anytime. The more cuddling the better. And she sleeps with her head on my husbands shoulder and her front paw on his chest. My 6 month old male Border Collie seldom wants to be touched, he would rather be playing ball. Although there are times when he wants to snuggle – but only when HE wants it. Since two of them seem to demand so much touching I am curious now as to what their faces might be saying. I will ask my husband to take pictures so I can see things from another perspective.

  19. Trisha says

    To Sandy: Hang in there, it can take a long, long time for a feral dog to become comfortable living around people and in houses. Most often, the dog becomes comfortable with one or two people, but less often with anyone else. But it’s only been 3 weeks, so if he’s already doing better you’re actually doing great. Don’t force things, and let him come up to you and initiate interaction himself as much as you can. You can speed up the process by paying lots of attention (and giving treats) to Sophie as he watches; dogs are the best social facilitators. Best of luck to you, keep us posted.

  20. says

    My big dog (81 lbs, 27″ tall) is probably the one who most enjoys having my arms wrapped around him and given a big ‘ol squeeze. He gets the “big dog hug” that has been described here, though — Me leaning over him with all four feet on the ground. I’m sure that is a more secure position than when I pick up my 16 lb Alaskan Klee Kai and smoosh him into me as I sway back and forth, going, “Ooooh, you’re my cute weetle baby!” hahaha

    My Border Collie puppy has her own version of a hug. She’ll come throw herself at me when I’m on the couch and cuddle up under my chin. I call that her hug. She tolerates me taking her in my arms, but I don’t think she enjoys it.

    My dad has always enjoyed picking up his (small) dogs for a hug and trained them to lay their head across his shoulder in a hugging motion. In their younger years they obviously only did this because he asked them to, but when they both hit their late senior years, they seemed to actually enjoy it. The 15 year old Westie would actually stay in that position for a very long time. He gave great hugs.

  21. Yvon says

    Hi Trish and the rest of the gang,

    Gun (my guide-dog, a mix of labrador and a bernese mountain dog), needs to feel that he is in control (I might be anthropomorphizing like crazy here) of the amount of physical contact we have. He has two favorite positions, either leaning into me with all his weight (more on this later) or snuggling his head in my lap. What he seems to prefer, above all else (apart from working) is playing with me.

    Trish, this might serve as something to get a new topic going, I’ve been told that dogs who lean heavily into their human are actually exhibiting a form of dominance. I’m curious to read what you think of this.

    Take care Trish and glad to see that you’ve started to add to the blog again.

    Yvon

  22. says

    Miikka, my dachshund-who-knows-what mix seems to like hugs, if he is tired. He is only 10 months old, and I have had him since he was about 2 months old. When he is sleepy, I can pick him up and cuddle him like a baby, or hug him, but if he is fully awake, no way, not because he doesn’t like it, but because he is too wiggly and full of energy. But then, I have been conditioning him since he arrived to be held. Funny – I can’t hold any of my three cats, but I can hold him.

    Smokey, my malamute mix, would tolerate hugs, but I don’t think he every really liked them.

  23. Jen says

    Hi all

    Interesting topic. My parents dog (who they got my senior year of high school) absolutely demands to be picked up and hugged and cuddled when I come home to visit (I’m now several years from high school and only make it home about every month or two). After the initial greeting, he’ll let me hug him when I want but it is not the same happy experience for him that it first is when I arrive. My own dog absolutely did not like to be hugged when we got him (adopted him as a two year old). I worked with him and he now let’s me hug him. He doesn’t necessarily enjoy it all the time, but I’m careful to read his signals and stop before he gets annoyed. Sparks does sometimes like to cuddle on the couch (he’ll let me pull him into my lap, his back along my chest, provided I massage his breastbone), and he absolutely cannot stand to see me hug my husband without being involved (“group hug” is one of his tricks-and favorite activities. Yell out that phrase and he comes running and bouncing up on his hind feet to stand against us and lick and nibble). Sparks will also give me hugs on commands…he’ll bounce up and put his forepaws on my thighs and lick at me…but that is much more of a game than a human hug. However, non-family beware…hugs are definitely a trust issue and Sparks will only let family harass him in this way.

  24. EmEm says

    None of my three dogs like hugging that much. My oldest dog, mastiff, is neutral in her reactions to hugging and my youngest, mudi, thinks it’s one of those things that you just need to put up with if you’re living with humans. There are lots of pictures of us where I’m hugging him and he has a look that’s clearly saying ‘you done yet?’. He will “hug” (or lean on) strangers if they get down to he’s level and I do think it’s a sign of dominance. Middle of the pack is a rescue shepherd-mix. He lets me hug him and pick him up after some training we did when I got him but he will bark and become very suspicious of anyone else trying to get that physical.

  25. says

    My BC will tolerate a hug but really doesn’t enjoy it. She’s not one for really enjoying being close — she just wants to sit by my feet but if I snuggle up to her on the floor she gets up and moves away. Interestlingly she has become more interested in pats and scratches since my baby has come along. She likes to lean her head on me — presses her forehead against my knees. I’ve always been impressed by how she will tolerate being picked up and carried. She once got stuck down a bank and I coaxed her down into my arms and was very trusting. Totally different from a cat for example who will fight being held when rescued.

  26. Stephanie says

    My terrier mix Levi is not a fan of being hugged, he’ll tolerate a short one but otherwise wiggles and squirms to get away. I have never seen his face during a hug but I imagine it’s very similar to the dog in the picture. What he does like is to stand on my thighs (when I’m sitting down) and have me scratch his front legs and chest. Another oddity – he likes to have the top of his head and muzzle scratched and petted and will solicit that kind of petting from me.

  27. Lisa says

    My two-year-old Golden, Noraa, loves to be hugged by me and only me. She looks nervous and uncomfortable when others do it but she slips herself into my arms when I am laying in bed or on the floor. If I am sitting on the floor she sits in my lap (yes, she’s a very big lap-dog) and continues to glance back at me until I wrap my arms around her. I rarely hug her face-to-face with my arms around her back because of my knowlege of dog interaction…it seems a little insulting to do that to her. I don’t want her to think I am trying to dominate or show social status by putting my “paws” around her back, we have a very good understanding of social status in our house without physically showing it.
    My Bernese puppy, Ivy, hates it when I try to hug her face-to-face or if I lean over the top of her. She has a more dominant personality though. She is quite the baby and loves to be held and insists on climbing into my lap every time she sleeps (I can’t say that I hate that). I am curious to see how she will be when she grows up because despite her more outgoing personality and her tendancy to show her status in groups of dogs her own age, she grovels around Noraa. She lets Noraa take her toys and treats and she crawls up to Noraa and tries to lick her face. She wants nothing more than to be close to Noraa but Noraa is very aloof with her unless she is in the mood to play. More and more Ivy is beginning to treat me with the respect that Noraa gives me so it will be interesting to see how they develop together with such different personalities. She still isn’t all about the human hugging though. They are quite the pair to watch, regal Noraa with all of the grace and floppy little Ivy…the tag-along little sister.

  28. says

    My Sheltie loves hugging. I never squeeze him or hug him around the ribcage but at times I’ll invite him to me and he’ll ask to rest his head on my shoulder and press is chest into me. I wrap my arms around him loosley and he does a happy sheltie wiggle the entire time. He also greatly enjoys the bum scratches that follow every “hug”. The dogs I have from puppy-hood always are more comfortable with hugging than the female I got at age 3 but my sheltie is the only who asks for hugs!

    I am very sorry for you loss and hope you, and Willie, are able to make it through each day and it gets easier. I understand as I lost a dog that means more to me than anything, although not in death, it hurst horribly. You are in my thoughts!

  29. Susan Anderson says

    So good to see you on the blog today and to see your photo of the barn. You all remain in my thoughts.

    Our Japanese Akita female, Kitara seems to enjoy hugs from, her pack my husband and I, as well as children she meets on our walks and at the park. I hug her from above and she leans into me, which one of her signals for requesting attention or showing affection. By and large she is a bit aloof not wanting a lot of physical contact, she just likes to know that we are there and that we are together.

    With children her height or smaller she often will gently sniff their faces and then lean her head on their shoulder as they put their arms around her. When she has had enough attention she will turn away and wait for us to finish our conversation and walk on. Its really quite remarkable because we don’t have children so she has not grown up with them. In spite of this she appears to have a real affinity for them so much so that for awhile we did a reading program at the library with her. After the initial greeting with the child that was reading she would often just turn away, lie down and go to sleep.

  30. Kat says

    Ranger tolerates hugs well which is a good thing as people can’t help themselves around him. Sometimes he seems to actually enjoy it but mostly it seems to be something tolerated because it makes the weird humans happy.

    Ranger had been surrendered to the Humane Society due to a death in his family, no details beyond that. He’d been there less than a week when we found him and brought him home so we adopted a grieving dog. A few days after we brought him home and some of the newness and novelty had worn off for him we spent a horrible night with him crying, whining, barking, digging to get out, etc. I went to sit with him just to be there so he wouldn’t be alone. He calmed some but was still clearly stressed and unhappy. I continued to sit quietly and would stroke him when he came close which wasn’t often. After a few hours of this I started dozing where I sat. I had my legs slightly apart and my hands loosely clasped in front of me. Suddenly I was startled awake when this fluffy head pushed itself inside my arms and Ranger pushed himself into a hug. He actually sought chest to chest contact. I held/hugged him for a little while then released him but continued to stroke and pet him and murmur soft nothings. After a bit it seemed like he’d calmed enough and I could go back to bed. While he continued to yearn after white vans for a few more weeks, pulling and whining, after that horrible night we’d established our own bond and he’s a happy well adjusted, calm, confident, canine companion. Shamelessly, anthropomorphizing here, I’ve always thought that the fact that we respected his grieving and did our best to comfort him rather than denying that he would feel grief is part of what made such a sound foundation for our relationship.

    I wouldn’t say that hugs are Ranger’s favorite thing but he does still solicit them on occasion. He’ll sit on the couch next to me with his back to me and lean his head back as far as he can. This is my cue to reach around him and pull him over backwards and hold him like a baby. As you might imagine with a 90 lb. dog this is some trick. This is when I get to hug him and squeeze him and love him like the primate I am. He doesn’t look thrilled about it although he doesn’t look stressed either and if I set him back upright he’ll lean back as if inviting me to do it again. I’ve always suspected that he was carried, cuddled and loved as if he were a human baby when he was a puppy and so the position still has positive associations for him.

    Again with the anthropomorphizing when strange adults are giving him hugs that he didn’t invite he has a look I describe as “tolerating more human weirdness.” But when it is kids hugging him his attitude seems more like “aren’t they cute, no manners yet but they’re so darn cute.”

    As I try to type this a cat is trying to climb into my arms. I wonder why it is that dogs need to learn to tolerate hugs and cats seem to instinctively seek them out.

  31. says

    My young male BC hugs me all the time. He just comes up and puts his paws on either side of my neck and hugs me. He also loves to lie on my lap and is such a cuddlebug. It makes my day. :-)

  32. says

    First, I’m so sorry to hear about Lassie. I know how hard that is.

    Second, my dog generally doesn’t love hugs. When I first come home from work? Then, yes, he’s just happy, but other times of the day, when *I* need a hug? Yeah, he gets that, “Okay, Mom, get it over with” look on his face. Really, he’s just humoring me.

  33. Andrea says

    One of my dogs will graciously allow anyone to hug him, on the principle that any contact with any human being is a good thing. My female Dobe will allow me to hug her, but you can tell she’s just putting up with it because her person does weird things sometimes and anyway when I am done hugging her, I will scratch her butt. My female GSD will freeze in uncertainty and tongue-flick if I hug her, so I refrain and engage in two-handed body scratching, which she adores, instead.

  34. Mary says

    My first corgi, Yankee, loved physical contact. Hugs, scritches, snuggles, grooming. From anyone & everyone. That dog would drop on a dime for a belly rub. She clearly enjoyed it. When we would go camping & hiking, she would insist on sleeping IN the sleeping bag with you. She loved being in contact with “her people” & she had lots of them.

    We got her from the breeder when she was 7mos old. They were keeping her to show her, but she turned out to be under the minimum size for the breed standard. So we were lucky enough to get her & have her for 16 years. She was my once-in-a-lifetime heart dog.

    But Gracie, our current corgi who is now 5, really dislikes most physical contact from people unless she is tired. No hugs; belly rubs are an absolute no-no. And that started before she was spayed – in fact she would go nuts if we tried to check the incision the first week after the surgery.

    She hates to be groomed, as well. We got her when she was about 14weeks old & she’s always been that way. She’s a great dog, very sweet and friendly & loves to be with and play with both people & dogs. We love her dearly. She’s just not a physical dog in that way.

    Unless she’s tired. Then she snuggles next to you on the couch. If she was any closer, she’d be on the other side of you. She sleeps on my husband’s lap while we sit on the couch. And she is a major bed hog. She must be touching at least one of us at all times; many nights we’ll wake up & she’ll be trying to sleep on our heads. She came from a small litter of just 3.

    So interesting how they’re so different…

  35. Liz F. says

    St. Bernards were the dogs of my childhood, throw in the occasional Newfie or Lab. So growing up, I was always surrounded by big, big dogs. To this day, any big dog interaction makes my arms drape uncontrollably around their bodies while the side of my face seeks out their fur. I don’t often have this urge with smaller dogs, and I think my small and mid-sized dogs have appreciated a mostly hug-free home. Because I was a child, I have no idea what my family dogs thought of hugging. I resist the urge to speculate, and just recognize how great the benefit was from feeling comforted and warmed from these huge canine protectors. Just amazing.

    I dream of the day I have space for the big guys, when hopefully I’ll be notorious for countless hugs and plenty of quality dog-pillow time. If I’d only be so lucky as to have a dog enjoy it as much as I do! Agree that this would be be a great topic for puppy classes/literature.

    The barn photo is beautiful; very, very provocative (in an emotional/intellectual way). Looks like a place of deep thoughts and reflection…best wishes to you.

  36. Tracy says

    The things that happen because of the differences in human and canine social behavior are always so fascinating to me. Like everyone else, after I read The Other End of the Leash, I started looking at my (and other silly human’s!) behavior around dogs in a whole new way, not to mention finally learning to pay attention to the dogs’ actual reactions to those behaviors. All this talk of hugging has got me thinking about another phenomenon… the belly rub.

    People often talk of meeting a new dog, and they’ll go on about how great this dog was, because almost immediately the dog flipped onto its back “for a belly rub.” This is seen as proof that the dog is friendly and loved the person on sight. It so delights these people that I never have the heart to say, “You know you were probably completely freaking that dog out, right?” I do believe that some dogs will flip over and really want a belly rub, but my sense is that most dogs, especially when meeting a stranger, just do this so the person will back off. And then much to the dog’s dismay and confusion, the stranger does exactly the opposite! I’d love to hear your thoughts on that.

  37. Traci says

    What a great topic!

    My boxer, Harry, tolerates “primate hugs” with great dignity. He gives his own version of dog hugs: he will come up to me when I am sitting and nuzzle his face into my lap. This gets him lots of ear scratches! He generally only does this when he hasn’t seen me for a while, especially when I come home from work. He is 80+ lbs. of lap dog in other regards. He just can’t get close enough! He is not allowed on one of our couches, and has actually fallen asleep with three paws on the floor, half-laying on top of me.

    My lab, Sophie, does not enjoy “primate hugs”…unless she initiates them! She will put her paws on my shoulders (while I am sitting down) and press her body against me. She generally avoids eye contact and tongue-flicks a bit while doing this. I think she wants me to understand that she means to be affectionate, not threatening. She is very “touch sensitive” in general, and gets overstimulated by touch very easily.

    Blessings, Trisha.

  38. Pam says

    My BC, Kypp, is an absolute sponge for affection….what starts out as a lean usually leads to 50 pounds of BC in your lap and arms. She is happiest sprawled in her “Dad’s” arms in his recliner (sometimes hard to believe she was totally my girl til she picked up this “stray” male human and told me we were keeping him).
    On the other hand, my ACD, Kash, is rarely still enough to be hugged. Bestowing affection on him consists of laying on top of him and saying “I feed you, pay all the bills and we’re cuddling whether you like it or not” Then he tends to heave a sigh and put up with it til I say OK. He is much more inclined to cuddle when his little brain is tired so this is something we put a lot of effort into doing:)

  39. says

    Glad to see you back. I’ve been thinking of you all, and your loss.

    The basenjis like to sleep touching me, and like pets and scritches, but I don’t hug them or let other people hug them. One is blind, so I keep strangers from touching him at all, it’s very upsetting to him. He’ll solicit petting from me, but really doesn’t like anyone else to pet him. He can be bought for good treats, though. The other sleeps snuggled up to me, with my arm around her, but it’s not a full frontal hug. I just called her over, had her put her front paws on my leg, and hugged her. She folded her ears back, but tolerated it. As soon as I let go, she shook, like shaking off water. I don’t think it’s the best thing that ever happened to her, but she seems to have recoved.

  40. Shalea says

    My previous greyhound, Larson, was not really into prolonged displays of physical affection of any sorts including hugs. He would tolerate hugs from me, but I knew he didn’t enjoy it and kept it brief (just enough to satisfy my primate need to hug).

    My current boy loves pretty much all sorts of human contact including hugs, although I try to keep it to more canine-friendly cuddling most of the time. I joke with my husband that we need to work on Gryphon’s space issues, where those issues consist of the fact that he seems to think that there’s usually way too MUCH space between him and his humans.

    And yes, I have gone out of my way to look at their faces when I hug them. I tend to interpret Gryphon’s squinty eyes, relaxed jaw, and leaning into my neck as a positive reaction. Particularly when he makes his occasional little happy-dog grunting noises.

  41. Natalie says

    I have one of those dogs who seems to love hugs – but only from me and my husband. She’s terrified of strangers (pretty much everyone else in the world), but with us two she is huge into cuddles and hugs, often crawling onto your lap and wiggling joyfully. She does seem to prefer backing under you to being hugged front-to-front, but she seems to enjoy it all.

    My first dog (a BC) put up with my hugs. She always had a look of disdain about her during them. “That TOUCHING thing again,” she’d seem to say. “Well, get it over with, then.”

    Our german shepherd is interesting. He loves people and definitely is not fond of hugs. He gets grouchy when I try to give him hugs and kisses. Likes the attention, dislikes the method. Except with His Person, my husband. I have some photos somewhere that show the dog with his ears half-down, eyes half-closed, a look of pure bliss on his face as he’s getting hugged by the husband. They have a very special bond.

  42. Scott says

    It’s funny that a fellow reader (Sandy) would post about a feral dog and we’re talking about hugging as I used a similar method for both issues:

    Knowing my very ALPHA, retired racing Greyhound did not have much exposure to children, and children love nothing more than to hug a dog, I used the negative reinforcement technique used with llamas that is outlined in the first chapter of Karen Pryor’s ‘Don’t Shoot the Dog’ (initially using the removal of an aversive stimulus as the reinforcer) and then positive reinforcement with treats to train him to tolerate hugs. In the beginning, when he would allow me to put an arm over his withers while laying or standing still, I’d click and remove my arm. I continued in this manner until I eventually moved to a half-second, full-on hug. Then I began the positive reinforcement by giving him treats for longer and longer hugs. He now actively seeks out hugs.

    I used to same technique with a recent foster dog who spent his entire four years in a kennel with exposure only to the female worker who fed him and clipped his nails. As far as I know, he never saw a man before I got him, and I am not a small person :0). Initially, I did exactly as the folks Karen writes about did with the skittish llamas: I would get as close as he was comfortable with, click, then give him his space. I was saying “If you allow me to get within ten feet without cowering, I will leave.” This gradually shortened until I was right next to him and then touching. Eventually I added treats and he now likes to get pretty snuggly with me. He is still very reactive to noises and sounds, but he is miles ahead of where he started.

    I don’t do a lot of clicker training, but generally whatever works for me for a particular behavior with a particular dog is the best method at that time.

  43. Sarah says

    I have a 5 yo foxhound who loves hugs – and seeks ventral contact and pressure. She will leap up on furniture, then teeter longingly on the edge until she is confident that she can leap at myself or my boyfriend. She drapes paws over our shoulders and PRESSES into our chest. I’ve always wondered where this came from, as she has always been inclined to this since I got her at 11 mos old.

    She was bred to be a research dog, so had a relatively unsocialized life, both to people (and “home life”) and to dogs. I suspect that she was probably just naturally snuggly, and I encouraged the hugging so much that she now seeks it out.

    What is more interesting is that Lucy has impulse control and excitement threshold issues (result: significant dog aggression, work in progress: relaxation protocol, management strategies, prozac). In her “trigger situation”, which is fairly specific, her “self-calming” mechanism of choice is to throw herself on me, in this hug pose, and press on me as hard as she can. If I just hold her, I feel her muscles loosening and her breathing calming as her tension eases. She seems to relax more quickly if I hold her with gentle pressure (petting, massaging, and/or stroking doesn’t seem to make a difference).

    All that said, now that I’m thinking about it, I don’t think Lucy necessarily enjoys human-initiated hugging, especially when it doesn’t rapidly progress to more acceptable forms of snuggling. But when it is on her terms, she certainly pursues it in a very atypical fashion!

    By the way, I was very sorry to hear about Lassie. I hope you and Jim are healing steadily.

  44. says

    Tricia, I am so sorry for your loss. Lassie sounds like she was such a special soul.

    I’ve been waiting for you to bring up the subject of hugging because I keep wanting to tell you about one of my puppers.

    I own two littermate Italian Greyhounds – one who LOVES hugging, and one who’s a normal dog. The one that loves it even learned a “hugs” command, which means come up to me and stand sideways so that despite his deep chest he can be effectively squeezed. This is not a dog that picks up commands very easily (albeit he tries) but it must have been such a positive experience that he learned what to do after two repetitions. He offers hugs like that all the time, too, even if i don’t ask. Although in general he’s more of a “people” dog than a “dog” dog. He prefers the company of people he knows and can get moody with other dogs.

    His brother, on the other hand, will tolerate a hug with a funny look on his face and would rather be doing anything else. He also gets along with other dogs better – if he had the option to meet a new person or a dog he’d by far choose the dog. I’m always amused by how different they are in that respect.

    I often think back to pictures of those pissed off dogs in The Other End of the Leash when I hug the one that actually enjoys it. He’s special, I guess.

  45. Debra says

    My 20 month old Aussie loves to hold hands/paws. It’s the weirdest thing. He will sit next to people and put his paw (or often both paws) in their hands and sit for 5 or 10 minutes just being very quiet and still. This is not a still dog normally – he is very tough and plays very hard with his dog friends. He lets me hug him, but “let” is the operative word – I wouldn’t say he enjoys it for very long. He puts up with it and then slinks off as though I won’t notice him making a get away.

    My experience with grief is that each day the rawness subsides a little and after awhile, the goood memories begin to surface and help fill the empty spaces. After awhile it doesn’t seem to hurt quite so much. My first Aussie died in the backyard under a tree on a sunny afternoon when he was 15 years old. He had progressed slowly into old age and left us peacefully. I still treasure the precious memories of him by my side through two terrible pregnancies and his constancy throughout the many changes in our life together. It still miss him though and it’s been over 10 years.

  46. Frances says

    Thanks for posting again, Trisha – I read some research somewhere that said grief showed in brain scans in the same places as pain from major abdominal surgery. You forget each time how physically painful it is, and how hard it makes every day tasks. I hope that the immediate shock is fading, and that you can soon begin to remember the good times with sadness but with pleasure.

    I have two lapdogs, so both have been used to cuddles from babies. Both enjoy cuddling, but we don’t do a great deal of hugging – I think of hugging as holding the dog in such a way that she cannot get away if she wants to. I do have friends who cannot resist swooping on them and lifting them up – they tolerate this with good grace and a few propitiatory licks, but don’t solicit it as they do from me or other family. Sophy the papillon is a cuddlebug – she would rather cuddle than play, which is a bit tricky at Agility classes! All the other dogs are frantically trying to earn a game with a ball or tug toy, and what Sophy would really like as a reward would be a nice cuddle in a quiet corner. I suspect we will not be taking it to competition level! Poppy the toy poodle will often come to be picked up and cuddled when out on a walk if she is feeling chilly. At eight months she is happy to approach people, but is a bit wary of being touched, and really hates being restrained by anyone she doesn’t know well, no matter how gently.

    I have never patted my dogs (except as an “OK, that’s your lot!” signal) – I have always automatically used a sort of massaging stroking and petting that I’ve recently discovered is very similar to TTouch. Perhaps that is why they enjoy it so much!

  47. says

    My two young Shelties love to be hugged, ask for it, and will happily remain in a clinch for as long as you’ll keep it up. Bonnie, our elderly Sheltie, likes to be near but wants her own space.

  48. Anna says

    On the theory of belly rubs my Rudy has me just a bit confused. He has always rolled over for any human he meets… as a younger puppy he rolled over for any dog he met but when he reached about 1 year old he stopped rolling over for other dogs unless he knows them well and has started to bark and drag me to dogs he doesn’t know, once there he just sniffs and greets. He still rolls over for people so just what does the roll over mean? Is it submissiveness and now that he has a puppy at home he isn’t so submissive to other dogs? Whatever it is I am trying to calm his reaction to other dogs as my shoulder needs to be intact.

  49. Emily says

    It’s interesting how much we influence our dogs, isn’t it? Neither Mick nor I are very cuddly, and I don’t like dog “kisses” (to me it’s just gross). Mick doesn’t really cuddle, and it is very unusual for him to lick people. Whenever I do hug him, he seems to interpret this as me asserting my rank in the pecking order (makes sense, really), and being naturally submissive he seems very uncomfortable with the whole thing. Our displays of affection are much more likely to be sitting on the floor next to each other, some scratches or a little bit of wrestling.

    On the other hand, the neighbour’s dog that I used to walk, Ellie, is absolutely a love-sponge. If you sit on the floor she’s in your lap, and any kind of physical contact seems welcome. Hugging isn’t her favourite (that would be getting the bridge of her muzzle scratched!), and she also responds with submissive displays (looking away, ears back, etc).

  50. DebC says

    Bo, our border collie is definitely not comfortable with ‘hugging’ but he does love body contact on his terms – he’s a leaner. He will lean into my legs, and absolutely loves a good butt scratch. If he is feeling stressed (thunder, gun shots, loud voices) he will lean on the back of my legs, or get between me and whatever I am in front of (like the sink).
    Dozer, the lab/hound mix, loves hugs. He will try to jump up for hugs, climb in your lap – which is harder for him since he is already over 50lbs and not yet a year old!
    I really enjoy observing their behaviors – the differences between them are sometimes striking. They are just like ‘Oscar’ and ‘Felix’!

  51. Sue says

    Trisha,
    Thanks for posting so soon; my heart continues to weep for you.
    Regarding writing about your grief, it took three months before I could gather the shattered pieces of my being to relate a minute portion of what Shasta meant in my life–she left just over two years ago.
    Regarding dogs’ toleration to solicitation of hugs, Milo, my 13+ Lab granddog, lives with me now after his family moved across country. (He stayed with me at times from puppyhood on, so the transition was easier than it might have been.) Milo solicits lots of body contact when I sit on the sofa to read. He leans onto me (sometimes getting his chest on my knees and leaning back against me while avoiding being on the sofa) and pushes his head against me until I give him lots of neck/ear rubs, back massages, rump rubs. I generally lean forward to put my head along his and continue massaging his neck/shoulder in a sort of half hug. I don’t see his face, but he doesn’t walk away and seems totally relaxed.
    Re dogs’ grief, Shasta mourned the loss of her best buddy, Monty–she a Lab, he a Lab/Akita mix. I needed to take her to our favorite walking roads so stimulate her interest in life; otherwise she spent a lot of time in bed.
    Re the barn photo, I love standing in the mow and watching the light patterns; the experience offers solitude and peace. Sadly, my barn must be dismantled as the roof on the half-height addition collapsed under the weight of December’s wet snows. I like to imagine those wonderful beams finding good use, though; and I’ll gain a wonderful view to the north across fields where I’ll view the deer and turkeys.
    Peace to you,
    Sue

  52. Kait B. Roe says

    Levi just lost his best friend next door to cancer. He is taking it hard, woofing at the fence, nose in the air, not quite howling, but looking as if someone is hugging him- yuck! I don’t honestly know what to do. He is just so … sad. He seems fine on long walks and plays well with other dogs, but when we get home, he seems to just mope. time will tell, I suppose, but I can’t attribute the behavior to anything but grief. – anthropomophic or not.

  53. Ignacio says

    Our Lab/BC mix kinda hates hugs. He would try to squeeze out most of the time, unless he is REALLY tired. I noticed he does respond better to softer hugging, lower than the neck (more like around his chest). Even for just a little pat, petting on the chest while he is sitting is always better welcome than petting around the neck area, in which case he dashes to get a toy since he thinks you’ve initiated a play session.

  54. Lori says

    Our 3 rescue dogs all tolerate hugging and cuddling for as long as we want to do it, but would be uncomfortable with strangers hugging and would try to wiggle away.
    Roxy, 7 yr. female lab/pit bull mix loves constant contact with me. Her favorite place to sleep is curled up on my belly with her head rested on my chest or in my arms. She will let me hug her and let me lean my head on her without showing any distress. She likes her back against my tummy with my arms around her more than face to face – though any touching from me is good touching in her book. She never looks upset about any kind of cuddling with me. She would squirm away from a guest though.
    Obi, 2 yr. male lab/hound mix will sit or stand very still for hugs, but with wide eyes. My 10 yr. old daughter carried him around, head over her shoulder with lots of belly to belly contact when he was 4 months old and he liked it then, but as he got older and bigger, he likes cuddling less. He sleeps in bed with her, head on pillow and often with her hugging him, but when sitting on the couch he allows a hug, and then when released he quickly goes away. Exception is when he is frightened (thunder, loud noises) and then he tries to wedge himself against us and calms down when held gently.
    I think hugging and being draped all over each other seems to be more acceptable for the dogs when its bedtime – even with dog sitters they want to sleep in a big pile.
    14 yr. old collie, Merlin, who we have had for only 6 months, often comes up and pushes his head into my belly or my arms and closes his eyes for petting. He is arthritic and achy and lumpy so he doesn’t get real hugs for fear of hurting him, but likes to be held close.

  55. cassie says

    My little pit bull Jethro solicits what I would call hugging. If allowed or invited he will put his front paws in peoples laps, he then seems to really enjoy being leaned over and hugged/squeezed or back scratched. Sometimes he gets tired of it and starts nervous licking the person, but most often he stays as long as he is allowed. Kids can hug him all they want. He just keeps coming back for more.

    My dane is a typical dane, and leans for hugs/side pets. I think that due to their size this doesn’t give quite the same over the head, rude type feeling that it does in a lot of smaller dogs. There’s so little leaning involved, and they are controlling the positioning to a much larger degree.

    In the clinic I have probably a dozen or so patients, all boxers, goldens and border collies for whatever reason (maybe just size) that give what looks like a hug. They jump up and grab the humans waist (in a non-humping way). Its ventral ventral contact, I just don’t know that hug is the right word. Then they just stand there for squeezes/pets/baby talk, ususally until they’re told to get off. They’re the social butterfly type, that never meets a stranger.

    For what it’s worth they’re usually the “pushy by way of submission” dogs that are always trying for some attention or whatever they want, but very quick to roll over if they think they’re in trouble or you’re gonna make them do something they don’t want. ( the same way every golden retriever I’ve ever tried to move by the collar into a cage or other place they don’t want to go immediately alligator rolls, smiling and tongue lolling about. Then immediately hops back up once the pressure is off, like they’re saying “wasn’t that fun! Now what are we doing?”) As sweet as these huggers are, they often seem to run their house by way of silly rotten-ness, but since they’re so people oriented and willing to please the owners usually think the pushy attention getting is just “cute”. (I say it’s cute for 5 minutes, then I want that “hugging” on cue and not all the time)

  56. Julie says

    I have two adult Italian Greyhound littermates, both of whom love physical contact. Absolute snugglers. One loves being held close and would sit in my arms forever, and the other (the more nervous and reactive of the two), while standing on the ground, loves burying his tucked head under my chin, while I hug him and rub his sides. Like it’s a safe place. But I think it’s the sweetest when they lie curled up and wrapped all over each other – sort of hugging in their own way – like they’re two sides of the same dog.

  57. says

    Of all my dogs, only one really seems to enjoy any type of hug. Not a restraining type of “hug” as in the picture, but she likes to lie on the sofa and wedge herself against me while I drape an arm over her and will also sometimes stand on her hind legs and lean her chest and the side of her face against my leg. The latter mostly when she’s feeling a little insecure.

    My other dogs? The only thing worse than mushy-human-huggy-kissy-lovey stuff is when one of the CATS rubs up against them – EWWWWW! The “hugger” is no fan of that either. Talk about an expression of pure disgust – I really should try to get a picture!

  58. Amy W. says

    Neither of my dogs like to be hugged. It is quite common for them to yawn while being hugged; they also look away from me while being hugged. My best description of their faces during a hug is ‘this sucks, how much longer is this going to last?’

  59. rheather says

    Well, I’ve just test hugged Phoebe a couple of times and she’s okay with it, but that might be because it goes into scritches and other pets immediately. Rufus is asleep but he’s a big leaner and I have to hug him when he does that! So I’ll be checking his face next leaning time.

    The picture of the hay in the barn triggered immediate hay envy! And barn envy too!

  60. Michelle says

    We have two German GSDs, one 11 years old and the other 4 years old, both spayed females. The younger of The Girls, Faith, is definitely a lover and she likes hugs, pets, snuggles, baths, you name it. She sees herself as an 87-pound lap dog. Mauser, on the other hand, is a dog who likes her own personal space. She likes to be where we are, and is very playful, attentive and friendly, but if I sit on one couch she sits on the other or in “her” chair. She tolerates hugs, but gets a very disgusted look on her face about it. Faith would like NOTHING better (well, maybe beef) than to sleep in our bed with us. Mauser thinks that is just too chummy and prefers her own bed. Funny Girls.

  61. says

    I have four dogs. One is too small to really ‘hug’ but loves to be coddled and carried, and on your lap. The other 3 cocker spaniels love body to body contact, hugs, snuggling…they are very affectionate.

  62. says

    I’ve never felt an urge to ‘hug’ a dog as illustrated in the picture or chest to chest. Like others have said, it just seems physically awkward to do. Then again, we have a large dog (an akita).

    Kumi will sometimes lean against you, either pressing her side against your leg, or putting her chin in your lap while you’re sitting and leaning her chest into you. When coupled with us scratching her nearest part, I consider these ‘dog hugs’. Overall she’s fairly averse to physical contact – she doesn’t lay on our feet, or sleep with her head on our laps – so I think these solicitations of closeness are very similar in intent to human hugs: an intimate but temporary greeting. Now that I think about it, she will often lick her nose while doing this, but it’s usually coupled with twisting her head to get a better angle on the ear scratching, and she definitely initiates the contact, so I’m not sure what to make of that. She normally leans with her side when we get home and she is excited to see us, and with her chest when we are all being quiet watching t.v. or reading.

    My husband was very fixated for a while with the idea of using her as a pillow or putting his head against her while she lies on the ground, which I suppose is a similar constraining affection like a hug. Initially, it freaked her out, but he went slowly, and while she still gives him a look like he’s crazy she doesn’t seem uncomfortable or bothered anymore.

  63. Shannah says

    I have a red doberman, “Roxie,” (she looks a lot like Willie’s red doberman friend–it always makes me smile when I see a picture of her) whom I acquired at four months old. She was a bit “difficult” in the beginning–she didn’t like to be touched, and she had a pension for taking off running (with the goal of never returning, which, fortunately, she never accomplished). She has a “flight” reaction rather than a “fight” reaction to new experiences, and right after I got her I took her in for a vet exam. The vet explained to me that it was up to me to get her familiar with people and ready for things like exams and people who would want to hug. So I did as he said, let her relax and then touched her a little bit, and then a little more, and growing into petting and finally hugging. Roxie, at five years old, still is not in love with being hugged, but she tolerates it if she knows you (if she doesn’t, she squirms away). She still has the “flight” reaction first. She has, however, turned into quite the cuddle buddy. She seeks physical attention and petting, and “leans into” people she knows well. She likes to sit right next to people she loves on the couch, and to rest a paw or her chin on them. If there are two people she loves, she stretches out to touch them both (a paw on one, chin on the other). Note, though, that they must be “loves” (I know “love” is not the right term, too anthropomorphic, but it suffices) to get attention. Strangers are not afforded the same level. They are, however allowed to “touch” and even an exam by a vet is ok these days. I had always had dogs that came “pre-conditioned” to touching before Roxie. It was a good lesson to learn that some dogs must be taught to enjoy petting.

  64. Karen Armsey says

    My Pyr boy Nash is a therpy dog, and there is just something about a big white dog that makes people want to hug him. I always am amazed at how much he will put up with when he is “on the job”. At home he looks at me with a look that says “I am doing this just becuase you know how to open the food bag”. I still hug him, how can you not hug a big white dog?

  65. Maureen says

    My Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Shamrock, loves to hug…a paw on either side of one’s neck and a soulfull gaze into one’s eyes. She also loves to rub her face against any man’s beard (it looks to me like a reminder to her of her nursing days, but don’t tell the bearded men!)

  66. Wendy W says

    Trisha – thanks for posting so soon – I hope your days are getting a bit brighter.

    In reading through the responses, I’m wondering if there is one specific feature of hugs that dogs dislike. My dog, a BC/whatever mix, first endeared herself to me by jumping into my lap in a visiting room at the SPCA, snuggling against my chest and giving puppy kisses (while avoiding all eye contact). She has remained a snuggler over the years, with the “sweetest” contact initiated as she lowers her forehead and presses it into my shoulder or chest while I rub her ears and shoulders (reminding me of one of your photos with Tulip). She is also willing to have me flip her over onto her back while we lay on the sofa (her back up against my chest or side), and often snoozes in this position. She also feels free to initiate ventral-ventral contact, pouncing on me in the morning if I linger in bed for too long.

    But, she obviously just tolerates being hugged as I stand by her side (it’s better than your “happy slappy” in warding off continued contact), and seems truly horrified when the 2 year old son of my neighbor reaches to hug her (and yet she continues to run up to greet him…). However, she seems perfectly happy with hugs that take place when we are at roughly the same level (i.e., when we are on the bed or she is up on the sofa and I am sitting on the floor beside her). And when I read your post and followed through with the foolish idea of hugging her from below (I laid down on the floor and hugged her as she walked by), she perceived it as an invitation to roughhouse. This was clearly a stupid impulse, as I spent many of our first months together overcoming the Jekyll/Hyde behavior that emerged every time I lowered my head…

    I wonder if her dislike of “standing” hugs is related to a perceived display of aggression/control. I also wonder how this might be linked with her obvious preference of lifting up her feet when I want to wipe mud from her pads – rather than have me grasp her feet and lift them myself.

  67. MJ says

    I’ve got a ventral/ventral hugger in the form of a 3 yo, 11 pound Lhasa Apso. Talk about an oxytocin rush. Being the bumbling status seeker that he is, I’ve wondered if it is a ploy to get higher than me. But when he sighs and rests his chin on my collar bone, my high blood pressure comes tumbling down!

    The 15 yo old …. never! She will sit on my lap if her feet are cold. That’s it.

  68. Susan says

    I taught my older two to accept hugs (I did some therapy dog work with them with autistic kids) and they’ll happily put up with anything, Brodie just loves interacting with anyone and everyone with two legs (but not with four!) and Kyp! did it for the treats and butt scritches. Arie is a different story, and I no longer work with autistic kids, but she has her version of a hug which is to get up on something so that she can reach me, put one paw on each shoulder and nuzzle her head in by my neck and shoulder- its very sweet, and although I’ve given her praise and attention for it, I’ve not otherwise reinforced it. She is a very sweet, soft little girlie, and her reaction when stressed, like at the vets, is also to reach up and put her paws as far as up as they reach, as if trying to get to that position. One thing I did do when she was a pup was just have her lie on my chest/belly while I petted her, don’t know if that influenced anything.

    We’ve moved, and she doesn’t have any good furniture to stand on to do her hugs (I’m sleeping on a mattress on the floor, no bed anymore which is where she usually did it from, and also no sofa, which was the other place!) anymore. She has started coming up in the morning and nuzzling me in the neck while I’m still flat, giving some ventral-ventral but slightly to the side action, then rolling herself on her back and giving her tummy, with her whole body up against mine, which is different for her- she has been much more resistant to showing her belly than any of my other dogs have been, even rescues I’ve had.

  69. says

    I have a dog who loves hugs- from me- if she initiates it. She will come up on my lap and press her head against me and she wants a hug. Now if she’s in a playing mood, forget hugs.

    What is it about nose kissing? I have another dog who will go up to people and stare at them. They think he wants his nose kissed, and he clearly does not. Now I have started to warn people- don’t kiss his nose, and then I will distract him and get him to come back to me if they start to lean toward him. No one reads him, except for one person, who is a long time stockdog person and an expert at reading body language. I warned her as she was sitting and petting him, “don’t kiss his nose”. And she said “I was not about to- look at his eyes- he’s not sure of me yet”. She gave off all the right signals and a few minutes later she said “look at his eyes now, he’s ok with me”. He had the crinkly eyes instead of round and staring. I should say he doesn’t bite, but he will air snap if someone he doesn’t know kisses him, which is bad enough.

  70. RoseMarie says

    My Cinders, also age 16 went to the bridge a day after your Lassie……and while she lay on the vet’s table I hugged her…..and believe it was the only time I did…not that I didn’t love her heaps and bounds,,,,,but I guess we were not the ‘hugging’ type. Tears streaming down my face, I told her goodbye and God speed, and thank you…..her fur was so soft, and even though her ears could no longer hear the words, she knew and felt the love for her. What an extraordinary dog she turned out to be.
    A huge helper in our border collie rescue, her short story of not six but five words would read:

    misfit rescue helps rescue misfits……..

    RoseMarie 2nd Chance Border Collie Rescue

  71. Lacey H says

    Of all the dogs I’ve known, I only had one (probably a Sheltie-Pom) who really liked hugs and would hug back. One of the sweetest foster dogs I’ve had actually fell back out of an adoption partly because the adopter continually grabbed him up and squeezed! This was not her only dog handling problem, and he was starting to get quite upset with her.

  72. Krystal says

    Both my dogs (GSDs) will initiate what we call a “hug” in our house – which is more or less similar to what some people on here have described: I lean over from my chair and they crowd in to be first to be hugged – first thing in the morning, by way of greeting, i think. It seems to be comforting to them in that instance. I had taught my previous dog to “give me a hug” but after reading your book, I keep my “hugs” to only the above.

    Romeo though seems to crave contact in whatever form he can get it. I think he would put up with hugging all day if it meant he could be right-up-next-to-me. If he is sleeping next to me on the couch, and i happen to move, he will wake up and reposition himself so that his head is resting on me. Roxy and Shadow (both females) seem more likely to put up with it for a bit and then gently move away as soon as they think they’ve put their time in ;)

  73. Susanne says

    David, my sweet smelling soft furred brown kelpie detested hugs, he had pure fear in his eyes if he even sensed a human was about to launch a hug attack on him. (ears back- big wide open eyes) My last gift to him was to resist the urge to hug him as my Vet came to visit for the last time. Ohhh it was hard….

  74. Ed says

    I am not hugger either so I don’t usually hug dogs in that way.

    However, they seem to like it when you are laying on the ground, and they come up and lay next to you, and you hug them from behind and roll back over so the dog is on top of you, paws to the ceiling, and you rock back and forth and say stupid things about how much they stink and have furry furry bodies.

    This might say more about me than it says about all the dogs I’ve don this to…

  75. Jessie says

    Oh, Patricia! I haven’t been here lately and did not know that your beloved Lassie passed! I am so terribly sorry to hear this news and can’t even imagine the depth of your loss.

    You’ve written about her so vividly over the years that she’s ‘our’ beloved Lassie, too. It feels a little silly to be in tears over a dog I’ve never met, but your writing about her has given us all such a sense of her and your love for her that tears also seem totally appropriate.

    Thinking of you and all who loved Lassie.

  76. Emily says

    My BCx will tolerate occasional hugs but is generally clearly uncomfortable. Lots of calming signals – yawning and lip licks/tongue flicks. Exception – when I’m eating something on the couch. Then he’ll cuddle, lean against me, crawl partially into my lap, gaze (read stare) adoringly (read “I’m STARVING”) into my eyes, scootch under my arm for a hug. Very manipulative, also effective (oops).

    My Aussie mix loves hugs. She’ll cuddle and snuggle and is thrilled with body contact. Regardless of whether there is food involved or not.

    Our husky loves hugs but tends to overheat in about 8 seconds, so that’s about as long as he can tolerate before breaking away, panting. Yep, even in winter.

  77. says

    I’ve been reading A Tale of Two Species, and love the stuff about comparing us and dogs. I have one huggy child and one not so huggy. The hugger is 4 and you just cannot tell him that dogs do not like hugs. He still hugs them and all our dogs put up with it even when not in the mood, but try to tell him that they don’t enjoy it and he takes it as a personal insult “but they love me” (insert 4 year old frowny face). At least I have managed to teach him not to hug strange dogs, or pet until ok’d by their owner.

  78. Miriam says

    My dog Calypso (Sheltie/Belgian Shepherd mix) loves cuddling of all types but does not like being hugged while she is sitting up. However, if she is lying down with me in my bed (which is our daily morning ritual – the minute my husband leaves the bed in the morning up she jumps to take his spot) on her side, I can “spoon’ with her and she is totally and completely relaxed. I put one hand on top of her head and the other arm is wrapped around her and draped over her belly. I guess it’s more like a “half hug” than a full hug, but she will sleep like this with me for hours. Her breathing often relaxes me and puts me back to sleep.

    I’m guessing other people will concur with this post, and am curious if Patricia has any insight on why this might be (that a dog doesn’t mind being hugged lying down but not when sitting up)? Perhaps they feel less vulernable in that position?

  79. Jillann says

    My Olivia is deaf and has been since birth. We became partners when she was about 6 weeks. With all my prior pups, I would talk constantly to them, soothing them & me. With her being deaf, I switched to much more physical touch. When she went to sleep at night, I either craddled her in my arms or laid her on my chest until she slept. So even now, at 4 yrs old, she’ll come to me and lay on my chest when she’s upset, or when I’m upset.

    Of course, now that she’s 65 lbs…

  80. says

    I have 5 Rat Terriers and out of them I’d say 3 (2 of them are siblings) enjoy at lot of human contact including hugs. This of course is primarily for those they know well. Their faces don’t look all happy like when I pull out a treat, but they don’t avoid me giving the hug. Ha!

  81. carla says

    I’m so sorry to hear about your Lassie. It is so hard to lose a member of the family and it hurts like heck.

    We have 2 rat terriers and they don’t overly mind hugging. The older one, when relaxed and happy, likes to roll on her back and get her belly rubbed and wiggle her body. And she will stand on the bed with her front feet on your chest or shoulders and want her side and back scratched.

  82. Roberta says

    Because I have an inherited maltypoo (sp) with a childish, happy spirit which drives her into Highway 83 if she’s lucky enough in her little dog mind to wriggle out of a halter, I searched until I found a dog training method I thought would be compatible with my life philosophy of love, not war. I found not only my dream method in your method, Dr. McConnel, I found a refuge. It is soothing to read the anecdotes here of others who are as attached to their dogs as I get to mine. I’m finding much to ponder here.

    I have received and watched already “Come Lassie, Come,” and am practicing the technique demonstrated in the DVD. My Drucilla is responding well to it. I have received but not yet viewed, “Both Ends of the Leash.” I sure it will be an eye opener for me.

    In the meantime, I will still pick up and mercilessly hug my little fluff ball of a dog. I will say that a real “hug” to her, though is the thrill of my allowing her to hold one of my fingers in her mouth. She doesn’t bite it or nip it, but just holds it and her little eyes light up with full, unbridled love when I let her do that.

    Regarding Frances’ comment on brain activity similar to abdominal surgery in grief, I did my best to find a website supporting something like that but found nothing, not that it means it’s not true. It could just mean I’m a poor researcher. It makes sense, though, that it would be true. In fact, when I lost my father many, many years ago, I described to my friends a reshuffling of the organs within my abdomen.

    I believe that those we love, whether our animals or our relatives, truly do become a physical part of us and that grief over the death of a loved one is as much a chemical and physical activity as it is an emotional response.

    Healing is hard and no matter how we try, we will never ever be the “same” as before because part of us is, literally, missing. Perhaps the pain of losing a loved one is like the “phantom pain” of an amputated limb, an “itch” that can’t be scratched. We can, of course, come to terms with the death of our loved one, as it is clear you and your human family and Will are trying to learn to do after the death of Lassie. My heart is with you.

  83. Alexis says

    The puppy kindergarten trainer (and now obedience trainer) that I go to actually did stress that we needed to hug our dogs every day and in all sorts of different situations. The reason he gave was you never know when a little kid is going to hug your dog before you can stop them and you need to be sure your dog will be safe for that.

    This was actually brought into action for me big time this past Saturday. I was at a pet store picking up some food and had my dog with me. She’s a 10 month old Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, around 90lbs right now, and like most of her breed rather aloof with strangers but great with family (we’ve also socialized the heck out of her).

    While in the store a young boy ran at us, hugged her, and screeched in her face! It turned out the boy was severely autistic and loved big dogs and thought she looked like Snoopy. The boys mother came running up right behind him but I am firmly convinced that that situation could have ended very badly had I not followed the trainers advice to hug her all the time and in all sorts of situations. Instead of a bad ending though I was able to help the boy pet her nicely AND have a very proud doggy parent moment. I’m also hoping this is a good sign that she might someday make a therapy dog.

    I know I’ll keep hugging her all the time. It’s probably not her favorite thing in the world but it will help make her a safer dog. I’m very thankful that this was taught in her puppy kindergarten, it’s likely what kept at least one young child from being bitten but a startled dog.

  84. says

    It would be interesting to study how much early handling by a breeder affects whether or not a dog likes to be hugged. I have only one dog to base this on (hardly a scientific sample set!) but my BC puppy is the “huggiest” dog of our three. He and his littermates were treated extremely well by their breeder and handled, hugged and cuddled all the time. I did the same each of the five or so times I visited the litter and she had tons of visitors, all of whom cuddled the puppies to death (in a good way.) We now have a puppy who not only tolerates being hugged, but seems to really enjoy it. He curls up in laps, he snuggles, he makes joyful little noises that we have reinforced because of their adorable-ness.
    Our oldest Lab, on the other hand, displays a much more “typical” dog response and shrinks away in disgust when I put my arms around him. (“Gross, Mom! Get off of me!” ) He doesn’t have a problem with human contact/affection in general, just the full-on, both arms around him hug.
    The other Lab tolerates hugging and doesn’t squirm but I’d be hard-pressed to believe she truly enjoys it.

  85. geslina says

    I have a little rescue chihuahua mix, so I don’t know much about his early days – and even though he shows signs of abuse, someone at some point loved and cuddled him because when he is sitting on the lap of those he loves, he leans right in, head lowered, eyes closed, and melts into your chest – you can’t help but wrap your arms around him and snuggle back, and he just LOVES it.

  86. says

    I found this post after doing some searching on hugging as a result of the “Comfort Dogs” volunteering in Sandy Hook/Newtown. I was curious about their all be Goldens. My dog is a Golden who loves being hugged and seeks it out. I was curious if this was more of a propensity for a that we bred to want to sit beside a hunter for hours in a duck blind. My dog craves constant contact and when I hug her, she leans her head into me and sighs and makes other happy sounds. In fact, she wanted hugs more than belly rubs as puppy.

  87. Trisha says

    I’ve joked for years that Golden are the exception to the rule! Willie too loves to lean his head into me. However, he is not always comfortable about hugs from strangers. Best to think of it somewhat anthropomorphically…. few people (and dogs) want full body hugs from strangers, but love them from their best friends. Some people and dogs are huggier than others, and Goldens have to be at the top of the list!

  88. Zena says

    We rehomed a 5 1/2 year old springer a couple of days ago, and when I sit on the floor she sits right by me and rests her head on my shoulder and push her body into me. Like a real hug. It’s so sweet! She wont do it to my husband, but as I said to him its early days.
    I was just wondering if this was a ‘doggy hug’ or if it had a different meaning? (Reassurance/dominance etc)

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