The Unexpected Health Benefits of Hugging Your Dog

Hugging your dog can bring many benefits for your health, but what if your dog doesn't enjoy being hugged? If your dog doesn't like cuddles, you can still get many of the same benefits from simply stroking, scratching or talking to your four legged-friend.
The Unexpected Health Benefits of Hugging Your Dog

Last update: 27 April, 2019

Recently, many pet owners heard the unexpected news that experts have concluded that it’s actually best to avoid hugging your dog. While it might be true that some dogs dislike hugs, there are just as many that do love cuddles with their owner, so it’s important to read your individual pet’s body language.

Furthermore, there are actually many surprising health benefits to hugging your pet. Here, we’ll tell you about some of the most interesting benefits that hugging your dog can have for your health.

The unexpected benefits of hugging your dog

Hugging your dog is relaxing, not just for the mind, but also for the body. During a hug, your heartbeat slows, and the brain releases oxytocin. This happens in both humans and dogs, and has a significant positive impact on the body.

When the heart rate slows and the brain releases “feel good” chemicals, the body doesn’t have to work as hard. This can help to reduce physical discomfort such as pain and fatigue.

Hugs create a sense of belonging – for you and your dog

Another benefit is that it makes us feel more connected to the person – or animal – that we’re hugging. Our pets often use touch to communicate feelings of happiness and belonging. In this way, they are actually very similar to us humans.

For example, scientific studies have shown that babies who receive most skin to skin contact with their mothers in their first year of life are less likely to develop sleep disorders, colic, and are even less likely to get colds and fevers.

A woman hugging her cat.

All this has to do with the deep feelings of belonging that physical contact can create. There are many stories of rescue dogs who were terrified of humans, but with time, patience and gentle strokes, they slowly learned to trust again.

Hugging your dog can create greater feelings of self-esteem and love

It’s no secret that humans use hugs as a way to express connection, love, and affection. Regular hugs can make us feel safe and worthy of love. They show us how much we mean to others, and vice versa.

While animals don’t exactly hug, they recognize cuddles as a human way of expressing affection and approval. When you hug them, they understand that they did something that made you want to connect with them.

This makes them feel secure in your friendship, and helps them understand that they are good. For pets, feeling loved is essential for a good quality of life.

Hugging your dog can help them break bad habits

Another surprising advantage of hugging your pet is that it can help them unlearn bad habits and behaviors. For example, if you own a rescue dog, a former stray, or a dog that was abused by its previous owners, it’s likely that it might have some behavioral issues.

A girl hugging her dog on the beach.

It might accidentally urinate when it’s afraid, or become aggressive around people. Hugging your dog and teaching it that it can trust you can be a good way to help it feel safe enough, and, as a consequence, it may stop some of its nervous habits.

How to touch a dog that doesn’t like hugs

At the beginning of this article, we mentioned that some dogs don’t really like hugs. Some canine behavioral experts and veterinarians have found that hugging your dog can make it feel anxious and trapped.

Learning to read your dog’s body language can help you work out whether it likes hugs or not. For example, if your dog pulls away from you when you try to hug it, or it turns its face away from yours, it probably doesn’t really appreciate being hugged.

Pay attention to signs such as: flattening the ears, moving away from you when you go for a hug, or any little whines or growls. These signs are a clear indication that your dog doesn’t want to be hugged. And that’s fine- there are plenty of other ways to show your dog affection.

If you’re not sure whether your dog enjoys cuddles, you can still make it feel happy and loved with a good belly rub, or by scratching its ears.

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