June 29, 2023

So should you hug your dog or cat?

So should you hug your dog or cat?
Dr. Chris Brown

For such a loving gesture, the hug sure has had a bad rap lately. But before we ‘consciously uncouple’ from dogs and cats for good, maybe just sit, stay and wait.

There might just be hope for the hairy hug yet. Here's whether it’s actually ok to embrace...the embrace!

Tracing it back, the cloud over the loving hug actually came from a 2016 study from the University of British Columbia.

But importantly, for such a widely shared message, the research wasn’t the most scientific. Instead, it relied on 250 images found on the internet of dogs being hugged. On analysis of the photos, around 81% revealed dogs showing signs of anxiety like side eye or looking away.

But my issue is that the very act of taking a photo often stresses out both dogs and cats. Having a phone pointed at them, a flash going off, a hug that was too forceful or that pic being the fifteenth attempt at the 'perfect' photo may have also been factors. Photos shot in a studio only increase the stress.

My attitude is that with the right furry family member, the hug can be ok. In fact, it can even be the direct attention and affection they’re craving.

Just remember that pets aren’t that different to people. Some enjoy endless affection while others feel uncomfortable with it.

You just need to work out which side of the fence your mate sits.

If you see wide eyes, ears that are down or feel them backing away or escaping, then give the hug the heave-ho. It’s not for them.

Safety should always come first and a simple pat on the chest or a treat might be a better option. Especially with pets that are already uncomfortable with too much body contact...

But if they are relaxed, enjoy being up-close and you’ve always hugged it out then feel free to let your love off the leash. And hug away…

Remember in winter, cats are especially interested in sharing body warmth so getting up close will almost always be welcome.


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