Show your affection in a language your pet understands

The most natural way for humans, and especially children, to show compassion and affection is with a hug. It is second nature for us and, therefore, it feels natural for us to give our beloved pets hugs too. Unfortunately, for animals, this is not natural at all.

Why they dislike hugs

Dogs and cats don’t understand what we’re trying to tell them with a hug. Dogs don’t hug each other at all, and neither do cats. The closest they will come to this behaviour is when they’re fighting, or play-fighting, and they pin each other to the ground.

Cats and dogs feel trapped when we hug them, as we’re restricting the option for them to flee from the situation. Cats might retaliate with a nasty scratch and a dog might bite to get out of the embrace. What makes the situation even more dangerous is that your face is so close to his face and his teeth.

To take it a step further, a hug usually goes hand in hand with prolonged eye contact, especially as you come in for the hug. Although you’re only looking at your dog to give him a hug, he might perceive this as being aggressive or threatening.

You might think that your dog loves hugs but, in many situations, the dog is simply tolerating your affection. Look out for clues, like whale eye (the whites of his eyes are showing), his ears being pulled back or him freezing on the spot. These are all typical body language from a dog who doesn’t appreciate the hug.

For these reasons, it is extremely important to teach children not to hug cats or dogs.

Signs of discomfort

  • Freezing the moment you give him a hug.
  • Turning his head away when you want to hug him.
  • Tucking his tail between his legs.
  • Yawning when you come closer.
  • Licking his lips and/or nose.
  • Lowering his ears.
  • Showing the whites of his eyes (whale eye).
  • Raising his paw off the ground.

Would you like to read the rest of the article on what you can do to show your affection? Get the November 2022 edition of Animaltalk magazine now from retailers, or order a printed or digital copy from



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