British Columbia

Hugging your dog makes it stressed?

Based on a survey of 250 photos on the internet, a canine expert says four out of five dogs showed at least one sign of stress.

A canine expert says so based on a survey of 250 photos

Based on a survey of 250 photos on the internet, a canine expert says four out of five dogs showed at least one sign of stress. (Shutterstock)

A crisis moment for dog lovers around the world: your puppy doesn't like being hugged! In fact, it hates it. It gets stressed.

If you're a pooch lover, you've probably seen various articles in the last few days that says science has proven just that. 

But before you give up hugging, let's do some fact checking. 

The 'study' that everyone is referring is not a study in the sense of a peer-reviewed scientific study. It's a column titled "The Data Says "Don't Hug the Dog!" in the magazine Psychology Today by a UBC professor emeritus of psychology and dog expert, Stanley Coren.

He looked at a random selection of 250 photos on Google image search and Flickr of people hugging dogs, and determined that in 4 out of 5 cases, the dogs exhibited at least one sign of stress. 

That's right. Just 250 photos. 

Not everyone on social media was buying into Coren's theory however. 

Informed opinion vs. scientific fact

Dr. Coren admits his survey of the photos is not a formal study.

"That wasn't the point of it. I'm sure one of my master's students will follow up with that."

But he says his survey of the photos is in line with what many dog experts believe. 

He was at Doggie De-stress Day at the BCIT campus — a puppy therapy session where stressed students prepping for exam finals could unwind by petting dogs — a few weeks ago. "I noticed the dogs looked stressed when hugged ... ears down, half-moon eyes, yawning, averting their eyes or closing them, licking the air." 

Many dog websites make a point about teaching children that they should not hug dogs, so that they avoid getting bitten. 

"I'm not saying don't love your dog," Coren said. "But maybe instead of a hug, you can give it a belly rub or ear scratch or a doggie treat."


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