Tuesday, February 15, 2011

You're Making Me Uncomfortable

Today, you should hug a random person.

Better yet, walk up to a stranger, plant a wet one right on their lips and try to walk away without getting punched in the face! Ready?? GO!

Okay. Don't really do that. And if you do, don't hold me responsible for what may happen.

It's weird to kiss random people. It's weird to get a kiss from a stranger...

So why is it we often expect our dogs to tolerate these social faux pas?

Dogs should be even more deeply offended than humans considering it's not in their nature to show affection via hugging.

In fact, when a dog wraps their front leg around another's back, it's often a gesture of a take-over - a time when a dog is truly displaying dominance. That explains why when you hug your dog, they may lick their lips, avert their gaze, or look away: they're trying to be appeasing so you'll leave them alone!

But my dog has never complained before!

I'm not really a huggy person. Once I'm comfortable with you I dont mind but there are some people I meet for the first time that give gigantic hugs as if they've known me for ever. **shiver** That makes me feel so uncomfortable and yet people still do it and I let them! I would rather just endure it than make a big stink about it.

Your dog may be the same -- she's just enduring it because she understands that it will soon be over.

How do you know your dog doesn't enjoy it?

Hugging or kissing an unfamiliar dog can have disastrous results! (Being "human-affectionate" with a dog that is familiar with you isn't always safe either!)

Here are some pictures of dogs being hugged and descriptions below them of signs the dog is uncomfortable...

- Tight mouth
-Ears tucked
- Overall body language is tight
-Eyes look "worried"

- Panting, mouth open
- Whites of the eyes
- Leaning away from the hug

-Whites of the eyes
- Mouth is open
- Leaning away from the hug

But this sucks! I want to show my dog lovin'!

I know. Trust me...I struggle with this myself. I want so badly to squeeze my dogs until their heads pop off!! Sometimes, I catch myself reaching in to give Sarah a big giant hug but then I see her face: eyes squinting, head turned from me, body braced for impact..."GAWD!" I think, "She must really hate this!"

It doesn't necessarily mean you can never be close to your dog - it just means you've got to let them do it on their terms.

Check out this picture of Sarah and me:

I'm pulling her in close...notice how tight the leash is...look at her eyes, her head is turned away from me...she doesn't like being forced to come close to me. I'm also leaned in closer to her...

Here's a minute later, when I wised up:

I loosened the lead and had the person behind the camera make playful noises...my body language is more relaxed, I'm less "all up in her business"...

Sarah is a perfect example of the dog that hates affection but endures it...

Here's my Sarah showing affection on her terms - see, we can still be lovey!

When Kuna was less than 3 months old, I began his handling training - being held, being kissed, being hugged - because I knew he would be around our kids at an age that they have a hard time following instructions. We never leave the kids unsupervised with him but we also wanted to build up a solid and positive history with being hugged so he didn't take offense if they do reach for him.

We've now got a boy who is relaxed when it comes to snuggles (seriously, he turns to jello, throws his head over my shoulder and goes to sleep...). We've worked on this since day one!

Do you have pictures of you hugging your dogs? Can you find any where you can identify your dog's signals as being uncomfortable? Was that something you already knew or did it come as a surprise (as it often does to me when I look through old  all our photos)?



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  2. This is such a great post and really made me cringe to think of all the forced huggy shots we put Gus through.

    I will definitely think about this the next time I reach in for a squeeze.

  3. Lori, I'm a little late on the reply (Forgive me!) but trust me, I've put Sarah through her fair share of hugs! Thank goodness those dogs of ours are oh-so forgiving!

  4. I agree that it has to be on their terms. My husband was always wanting our peke to give him a kiss. I convinced him to stop about 6" from the peke's face, instead of getting right at his face.. As soon as he did that, he got a kiss, which was a lick.
    Our pekapoo girl, however, would actually purse her lips when I asked for a kiss. Don't ask how she learned that unless it was from watching me and my husband kiss.

  5. Actually, my dog seems to really love being hugged. He comes in for more and gives us kisses when we do hug him. He also likes to be held like a toddler with his paws up over our shoulders. Granted, he is only 6 months, and I think it has a lot to do with him being handled so much as a pup. He got parvo at 8 weeks, so he's definitely used to being held and coddled by us. I don't think he realizes hes a large dog though, and he may be very upset when he learns that the way we hold him will be impossible to do very soon.

  6. Very interesting article! I've always felt a bit upset and dejected when my dog doesn't hug me back and now I know why. He's not really a cuddly dog and I always thought he was a bit odd. But now I see that it's normal.