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Updated 4:59 PM EDT, Fri, Oct 11, 2019

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Hugs Can Be Stressful to Dogs, New Study Reveals

Hugging the dog restricts its ability to move freely.

(Photo : Reuters) Hugging the dog restricts its ability to move freely.

New study revealed that a hug can be stressful to dogs even if the gesture is well-intentioned.

According to a new study from the University of British Columbia led by Psychology Professor Emeritus Stanley Coren that the hug gesture to the dogs can stress them out. Hugging the dog restricts its ability to move and could stress the animal given its natural inclination to flee in dangerous situations. Also, it is putting kids at risk if there is any at home.

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The university’s animal psychologists analyzed 250 photographs of pups being embraced by their owners, and found that 80 percent of the animals looked stressed, anxious and visibly uncomfortable. Coren stated that there are easily observable signs of stress displayed by dogs including bearing teeth, but there are more subtle signs of anxiety that can be seen when a dog is hugged.

The most common signs are when a dog turns their head away from what is worrying or bothering them, or they lower their ears to the side of their head; lick their lips or lick the face of the person who is hugging them; yawn or raise one paw. Another sign is showing “half-moon eye” or “whale-eye,” which is when the whites of a dog’s eyes are bared.

“When you hug a dog it usually shows signs of stress because [you’re invading] 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,” said Claire Matthews, senior canine behaviorist at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home in London.

Coren said studies have been made that clearly state a high number of victims of dog bites were attributed to hugging the dog at the time.

Dogs are cursorial animals, meaning they like to run and they like to run away when stressed. So confining them in an embrace does not sit well. Coren suggests that dog owners should take time to learn their pet’s stress signs

He even recommended that owners should talk to dogs in a repetitive, singsong voice that psychologists call “motherese,” the language being used when talking to babies. Dogs respond very positively to that kind of communication.

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