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One of the most common mistakes that we humans make is misreading what our dogs are saying. Our dog’s body language may say one thing but we interpret it as something else. Take for example a hug. We do it all the time. Because I cherish my dog and want to share my love and affection with him, I hug him. But does he know why I’m hugging him? Actually, he doesn’t read it as affection at all. To him, it symbolizes dominance and an invasion of his space. Lower members give space to higher members to show respect, so he accepts my hug. The position of our body is also meaningful. When we bend down to hug our dogs, it reinforces our higher status ranking because we are coming at our dog from above. So we’re not only above them but in their space. I certainly don’t think that way but I’m only human.
This explains why people, generally children, run the risk of being bitten when they run up to a strange dog and throw their arms around the dog. That person is asserting dominance over the dog and the dog may not want to be dominated. Dogs are “fight animals” and if they find displeasure in this act, they will communicate it with a growl and/or a snap or bite.
This is not to say that you shouldn’t hug your dog. As I said, I do it regularly and he doesn’t appear to mind it. I think it’s good to hug your dog especially when you’re relaxed and happy and he is in a submissive state of mind. Our dogs feel our emotions and that can be felt through a variety of ways including hugging. The energy that we radiate can be very calming, not because the hug has the same meaning to him, but because he is enjoying the calm he feels coming from you. So if you’re feeling good today, hug your dog – it’s good for both of you!!