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Hugging Your Dog Could Be Upsetting Them, Here’s Why

Hugging Your Dog Could Be Upsetting Them, Here’s Why

Many of us may enjoy curling up with and hugging our dog on the couch after a long day at work, but this enjoyment may prove to be one sided. An article published in Psychology Today entitled “Don’t Hug the Dog” by Dr. Stanley Coren argues that by hugging your canine friend you may be causing him anxiety. This idea has also been voiced by Clair Mathews, senior canine behaviorist at Battersea dog and cat home and Caroline Kisko, kennel club secretary.

Dr. Coren a canine expert and professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia writes that dogs are cursorial animals, which means they are designed for swift running. He states: “Behaviorists believe that depriving a dog of that course of action by immobilizing him with a hug can increase his stress level”.

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Dr. Coren took a random sample of 250 pictures of adults and children hugging dogs. He sourced the pictures from the internet. He gave each picture one of three possible scores:

  1. One could judge that the dog was showing one or more signs of stress or anxiety
  2. One could judge that the dog appeared to be relaxed and at ease
  3. One could decide that the dog’s response was ambiguous or neutral

Dr. Coren states that signs of a dog’s anxiety include:

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  • turning the head away from what is worrying them
  • partially or fully closing their eyes
  • showing the white portion of the eyes at the corner of the rim
  • lowering of ears
  • lip licking
  • yawning
  • baring of the dog’s teeth

Dr. Coren found that 81.6% of the photographs showed dogs who exhibited at least one sign of stress or anxiety. 7.6% of the photographs depicted dogs that were happy to be hugged and 10.8% showed dogs who portrayed a neutral or ambiguous response to the hugging. Thus, Dr. Coren concluded that four out of five dogs find hugging unpleasant or  anxiety provoking.

Dr. Coren notes: “The clear recommendation to come out of this research is to save your hugs for your two footed family members…” and “express your fondness for your pet with a pat, a kind word,  and maybe a treat”.

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Claire Matthews says: “A hug might be a normal social greeting for humans but it isn’t  for a dog.”

She notes that people may not notice that a dog is feeling stressed or anxious and this could lead to an undesired reaction from the dog. Although many of us may think we are making the dog feel good when we are hugging it, Matthews notes that the dog will tolerate a hug rather than enjoy it.

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Furthermore Matthew notes: “When you hug a dog it usually show signs of stress because it invades their personal space – a person putting two arms around the neck of a dog can be interpreted as being intimidating and means that it can’t move away from the situation it is uncomfortable with.”

Caroline Kisko, concurs with this sentiment and adds: “On the whole dogs are sociable animals and love interacting with people, but any action that restricts a dog’s movement could make them uncomfortable and it is important for an owner to recognise the signs of  stress or anxiety.”

Rather than showing your affection for your dog through hugging try a gentle pat. Understanding that dogs are different to humans is crucial. It is important to be able to read your dog’s behavior so as to know when he is happy or anxious. This will help you get along better with your canine friend and make sure that both of you feel comfortable and happy — and knowing that you’re both happy can be just as good as a hug, any day!

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Rebecca Beris

Rebecca is a wellness and lifestyle writer at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

Boundaries are limits

—they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

1. Self-Awareness Comes First

Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

  • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
  • When do you feel disrespected?
  • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
  • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
  • When do you want to be alone?
  • How much space do you need?

You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

2. Clear Communication Is Essential

Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

Sample language:

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  • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
  • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
  • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
  • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
  • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
  • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
  • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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Final Thoughts

Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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