Hugging your dog makes them unhappy, research shows

Photo analysis proves dogs show signs of stress and anxiety while being hugged

Dogs do not like being hugged by their owners, according to new research by canine expert Dr Stanley Coren.

Contrary to popular belief, the results show that hugging a dog raises its stress and anxiety levels and makes them unhappy.

Dr Coren analysed 250 pictures of dogs as they were being hugged and looked out for signs of stress or anxiety.

According to Dr Coren, dogs are designed for swift running, and use that as their first line of defence when they feel threatened.


When you hug a dog you deprive them of their ability to run away, which can increase its stress level.

Common indicators of a dog being stressed are when they turn their head away, when they close their eyes or show a “half-moon eye” which is where you can see the white portion of the eyes at the corner of the eye.

Other signs include when their ears are lowered, when they are licking their lips or yawning.

Over 80 per cent of the photographs which Dr Coren analysed included dogs which were showing at least one sign of discomfort while being hugged.

“The clear recommendation to come out of this research is to save your hugs for your two-footed family members and lovers.

"It is clearly better from the dog's point of view if you express your fondness for your pet with a pat, a kind word, and maybe a treat," Dr Coren wrote in Psychology Today.

Niamh Towey

Niamh Towey

Niamh Towey is an Irish Times journalist