Affection – Giving our Dogs the Choice

Hug a dog

As a nation we love to cuddle and hug our dogs. Some people might say they prefer to hug a dog than a human.

Is your dog ok with that?

Do you allow them to make the choice for affection?

It’s important to allow our dogs to have the choice with regards to affection.

My dogs will often come over to me. They ask for affection very differently. Phoenix my older Lab will push his head into us. That means he wants a good head rub. He will keep pushing into us until he has had enough and then he walks away and shakes his head and will then lay down.

Bumble isn’t very good at understanding about personal space. He would be on my lap if I let him. At 29kg he is a bit too big to be a lap dog! If I am sitting in the kitchen and he comes over to me I will invite him to put his paws on my lap or shoulders for a hug. Sometimes he will move away very quickly after a quick cuddle other times he will sit there for a while as he loves a neck massage.

When I’m in the living room he will come and sit in-front of me and will then push into me sometimes he even pushes his head under my arms for me to stroke or massage his neck. He lays down or moves away when he has had enough.

When a dog moves away they have made it clear that they have had enough and just want to go and relax. If my dogs keep pushing into me then they want the affection to continue.

My dogs are both very affectionate but they also like their own space and it is really important that we listen to our dogs.

Look for their body language signals.

Are they trying to move away as you are stroking them or “hugging” them? 

Are they licking their lips?

Are they holding their head a bit low or moving their head away as your hand goes to touch them?

These are some signs that they may not be 100% comfortable with having affection at that time.

When people stroke dogs many will always go straight for the head to give the dog a pat on the head. It’s not the best place to stroke them and interact with them. Dogs much prefer to be stroked on their shoulders and back or under their chest if they are sitting. Be mindful of their body language and what they are telling you.

If you have children it is very important to teach them right from the start that your puppy or dog has feelings and they are not toys. Children can be a bit rough with their affection and not understand how much is too much and what your puppy or dog is comfortable with. So all interactions must be monitored very closely. Constantly picking up puppies and squeezing them for a cuddle isn’t kind and can lead to many unwanted problem behaviours including growling and nipping.

Not all dogs like cuddles and some just don’t want them and it is important that we respect this. It doesn’t mean that they don’t love you. It means they are unsure and not comfortable with it.

I know of many people who don’t like hugs and it is no different for dogs.