McGregor Says: Hugging your dog is the best therapy

I read an interesting article by Dr. Patricia McConnell, a certified animal behaviorist who has done a study and determined that our dogs, in general, don’t like hugs.

She apparently has become acutely attuned to canid biology, social interactions and body language.

I’m guessing this involves more than just having lunch at the dog park.

She explains that it’s not that they don’t love us, it’s just that hugging is not a normal way for dogs to show affection and she points out that when dogs meet each other in the park, they don’t rise on their hind legs and embrace, they have other ways of greeting and showing affection.

I’m thinking not many dog owners are going to stop hugging their dogs but instead, bend down and sniff their rump when they come home at the end of a busy day.

The study points out that dogs and humans are two different species.

Good to know.

While some dogs are OK with hugs from their owners, they may feel stressed when a stranger suddenly hugs them. I’m that way too, so not too much difference between us.

The study shows some photos to illustrate the point. In one, a small dog is being hugged by a big man with two days’ growth on his face.

The caption says the dog is displaying obvious stress.

In the next photo, a large golden retriever is being hugged by a pretty young blonde girl.

His tongue is out and there is a big smile on his face.

The caption says this dog is much more relaxed.

Really? There isn’t much difference between our species in those two examples.

Any dog will tell you that pleasing the family is its main purpose. When Johnny comes home after not making the ball team, Champ will be there in a quiet spot in the yard to take that hug and absorb all the tears.

Champ knows Johnny’s siblings will ridicule him, his Dad will go into a rant, Mom will say, ‘better luck next time,’ but Champ will be the only one who will just simply listen and Johnny can hug that dog as long as he wants.

Any dog owner knows that dogs will listen for hours and never offer an opinion.

The study says that sudden, unexpected hugs or human contact can set a dog into protection mode and often invoke an aggressive reaction. For instance, pictures of a small boy coming up behind a dog and grabbing is ears show fear and aggression on the dog’s face.

To me, the dog’s expression is one of horror and disbelief that an adult would allow a small child to simply walk up to a strange dog and grab his ears.

The dog is clearly thinking, “Who needs the licence here? How does this person qualify to have control of small children?”

Apparently, we have to re-learn our approach to reading a dog’s body language.

It seems when a dog comes out of the water and shakes off, he is telling us he needs time to calm down from the excitement of the swim. All these years I thought he was trying to shake the water from his fur.

It has been said that one reason a dog can be such a comfort when you’re feeling blue is that he doesn’t try to find out why.

Besides, you always smell better after hugging a dog.

At least that’s what McGregor says.