By now you’ve probably seen at least one headline claiming that dogs hate hugs. But what you may not know is that those articles are not referencing a scientific study but rather an op-ed from Psychology Today.
The author of the article, Stanley Coren, Ph.D., analyzed more than 200 photos of people hugging their pups. He looked for signs of doggy stress—drooped-down ears, half-moon eyes (when you can see the white part at the corner or rim), turned-away heads—and found that the majority of dogs displayed at least one sign. His theory? Dogs are naturally built to run, so when you restrain them from moving, it makes them more stressed.
Worst news ever, we know. But it’s important to recognize that this is just one researcher’s observations, not a peer-reviewed study. As The Washington Post points out, we don’t know how random the photo selection actually was, nor do we have much background on the photos (was the pup already stressed? How does the dog typically appear when he’s not being hugged?).
So while we’re not suggesting you smother your dog in hugs and kisses, more research is certainly needed. The most important thing is to pay attention to your own dog’s reaction. And if you’re at all worried, you can always opt for a nice belly rub or head pat instead.