Thanks to that old wet blanket known as science, we now have compelling evidence that your dog hates it when you hug him. Dr. Stanley Coren, a professor of psychology specializing in canine behavior, says dogs nearly always show signs of stress or anxiety when being embraced, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. According to Psychology Today, those signs include avoiding eye contact, showing the whites of their eyes, lowering their ears, yawning, licking, and raising a paw. And while the idea that dogs hate hugs is "widely accepted" by experts (though not by dog owners), Coren found a lack of scientific research on the subject. So he decided to study 250 photos of people hugging dogs found randomly on the Internet (unsurprisingly, there were plenty to choose from).
"I can summarize the data quite simply," Coren writes in Psychology Today. "The Internet contains many pictures of happy people hugging what appear to be unhappy dogs." He found the dogs in 81.6% of the photos showed at least one sign of "discomfort, stress, or anxiety." Only 7.6% of the dogs appeared comfortable with being hugged. "More than four out of five dogs find this human expression of affection to be unpleasant," Coren writes. And that's the key: Dogs aren't people. A dog's natural impulse when faced with a threat is to run away, New York Magazine reports. By embracing a dog, you take away its ability to deal with potential threats. Instead of hugs, Coren recommends showing affection through pets, treats, or playtime. (This sheepdog hated its new job, so it walked more than 200 miles to get home.)