Hug me

n interesting theory gaining steam on the internet argues that you should prevent your kids from hugging your dog.  Sounds crazy, right?

Or Not.

The basis of the theory is that dogs are cursorial animals, meaning that they naturally predisposed to run from danger when needed.  And whenever we hug our dogs we are depriving or preventing them from that ability.  In some cases it can stress your dog to the point that they might bite.

Dr. Stanley Coren writes on PsychologyToday.com, that he found several sources that suggested reducing the chances your child suffers from a dog bite start with preventing them from hugging dogs.  They also found that the proximity of your child’s face to the dog's mouth during a hug greatly increased the chances of being bitten.

Dr. Coren decided to test the theory.  He collected a random sample of 250 pictures posted to the internet that shows a child hugging a dog.  He then looked at the dogs for signs of stress.  He lists signs of stress that can include baring teeth, lowered ears slicked back against the head, submissive eye closure or partial eye closure, avoiding eye contact and lip licking.

Coren found in the pictures he reviewed, 81.6% of dogs showed at least one sign of discomfort, stress or anxiety.  He found that only 7.6 % showed comfort in being hugged and the remaining 10.8% were neutral or ambiguous.  That’s pretty striking.

One thing that Cohen found troubling about his study was that he feels the pictures people post to the internet are the ones they feel show the dogs and their children at their happiest.  If such a high percentage of these photos show dogs under stress, he fears that the owners are not recognizing these signs and, if left unchecked, it could lead to stress and bites.

After reading both articles, I think the thing we can take away is to do a better job of observing our dogs and watching for these signs of stress.  As we try to teach our kids to better interact with our dog, hopefully we can catch any of these signs and prevent something bad from happening.


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