Should You Still Hug Your Dog?

We as people are well-practiced in the art of hugging. From the moment we exit the womb, parents and loved ones hold us tight for a variety of reasons. Ask any kid and they’ll tell you—hugs are love. So how better to show affection than to hug everyone, pets included?

Hug guru Paul Zak, claims the minimum number of hugs we need per day is eight, but the truth is that the more we hug, the happier we are. Why? The groovy little love hormone Oxytocin, which we—and, as it turns out, all other mammals—produce when expressing affection.

You may have missed the latest canine controversy on dog hugging. It began with an article by my friend and colleague Stanley Coren, PhD, titled “The Data Says Don’t Hug the Dog.” In his well-intentioned piece, falling on the eve of Dog Bite Prevention month, he points out that dogs don’t process hugs the way people do. Canine moms lick their pups and puppies snuggle instead of hug. We do mimic these interactions when we pet and sit with our dogs.  In his piece, however, Stanley illustrates a few Google images to show a dog’s signs of stress, which included:

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