Should You Give Your Dog Hugs?

It’s completely natural for humans to hug somebody to express affection. Just as natural as dogs sniffing rear ends to say hello. Of course, people don’t share dogs’ love of sniffing behinds. And to the same degree, dogs don’t share our love of hugs.

If you watch dogs interact, you’ll notice they don’t embrace each other. They might pin each other to the ground, but it’s in only one of two contexts: play fighting or real fighting. So, when you hug a dog, they don’t understand what you’re trying to say.

Dogs Don’t Like Hugs

How do you know if your dog is genuinely enjoying your hugs? They won’t show any signs of stress or discomfort. Learn to read dog body language so you can recognize your dog’s emotional state and understand what they are trying to tell you.

How to Know When Your Dog Is Uncomfortable

If you dog stiffens or becomes still when you hug them, they are not enjoying the experience. A happy dog is loose and relaxed.


Dogs will not make eye contact when they are uncomfortable, so they might turn their head away from you, sometimes also closing their eyes.

Head turned away

Also called half-moon eye, this is where you can see the white of your dog’s eyes.

Whale eye

A stressed dog will lower their ears or lay them back against the side of their head.

Ears lowered

For safety and to help prepare your dog for unexpected hugs from well-meaning strangers or children, teach your dog to tolerate hugs. This is critical if you want your dog to be a therapy dog.

Teach Your Dog to Tolerate Hugs

Even if you’ve taught your dog to tolerate hugs, it won’t be their preferred way to accept affection. Find other more dog-friendly ways to say, “I love you.” Try giving your dog a belly rub for example. Or scratch their back, behind their ears, or whichever spot they like the best.

Canine-Friendly Ways to Express Your Affection