Have you snuggled your pup lately?
Before you run over and smother your pooch with cuddles, keep one thing in mind: not all dogs love to hug. That doesn’t mean that you can’t teach your dog to like hugging, or that there aren’t good reasons to do so — it just means that for some pooches, you’ll need to approach hugging with a little bit of precaution.
“Hugging and kissing are human things, and in some cases, a restraining hug can make a dog feel very uncomfortable,” says Mary Burch, Ph.D., Good Citizen Director with the American Kennel Club. “But, with proper training, you can teach your dog to tolerate a hug and, if you pair it with something the dog likes, hugs can become a reinforcer for the dog.”
Assuming your pooch has already reached the ‘I love hugs’ phase, here are some of the best reasons to reach out and hug her right now!
Hug for (Your) Better Health
Believe it or not, a good old-fashioned pup hug is good for your own health. “For humans it lowers blood pressure and heart rate,” says John Tegzes, MA, VMD, Dipl. ABVT. It also decreases stress, and for children with autism, a dog hug may help them experience calm and help them connect in an intimate way. Canine hugs have also been show to help those suffering with PTSD.
Hug for (Your Dog’s) Better Health
Hugging it out with your furry BFF isn’t just good for your health, Tegzes says it’s also a calming and stress relieving action for the pup.
Hug for Healing Purposes
Not only can hugging your dog help prevent health issues (like lowering blood pressure and heart rate), but it can help you heal after suffering from a heart attack, too.
“Studies have shown improved survival rates following heart attacks in dog owners compared to non-owners,” says Oscar E. Chavez, BVetMed, MRCVS, MBA. “Simply having a dog living with you — and the occasional hug — may save your life.”
Hug for a Better Bond
“I hug my Golden because I want to experience joy, closeness, or just because I need to because I’m having a bad day,” says Charlotte Reed, author of Miss Fido Manners Complete Book of Dog Etiquette: The Definitive Guide to Manners for Pets and Their People.
Tegzes agrees that a good cuddle every now and then can help strengthen the human-pup bond, which in turn can lead to better training, as well.
Hug for Emotional Healing
The physical reactions that our bodies have to dogs is great, but there are emotional reasons to cuddle up to your pooch, too.
“It is clear that the human-animal bond has an important psychological effect on humans,” says Chavez. “There have been multiple documented cases of people suffering from depression being helped significantly by their bond with their dog.”
Hug for Better Sleep
Having trouble getting to sleep at night? It might be time to hug your pup.” Cuddling up with a dog when trying to sleep has been found to help those with sleep disorders get better rest,” says Tegzes.
Hug to Comfort Her
According to Chavez, animal behavior research has shown that the domesticated dog differs significantly from its wild wolf counterpart when it comes to behavior and human interaction.
“In short, they have many of the same anxieties, fears, worries and needs as us,” he says. “They are dogs living in a human world that is not build for them. An occasional hug may be needed just to remind them that all is okay.”
Hug for a Better Life
Studies show that people with dogs have increased physical activity and social contact, which may also influence their overall health. “In fact, one of the earliest documented studies associated with this phenomenon looked at the increased social interactions and well-being of dog keepers in their communities,” says Chavez.
Hug for the Sake of Hug Training
In day-to-day life, other people may try to hug your dog, so it’s a good idea to get him used to the idea as soon as you can. “Accepting hugs can be a part of a training program related to grooming and handling by veterinarians,” says Burch. Also, “responding acceptably to a hug might be important for some therapy dog settings where a child may suddenly attempt to hug the dog.”
Hug to Say Thanks
The truth is, you really don’t need a good reason to hug your dog other than the fact that he’s simply your best friend. Our dogs are there for us through thick and thin, they’re great listeners, and they never judge us.
For that, and for so much more, don’t they deserve a great big cuddle?