Don't Hug the Dog?

Many of us love giving and receiving hugs—doesn't everybody? Well, no actually, there are some people who are not comfortable with hugs and usually they can tell us when it's ok and when it's not.

It's a little different with our four-legged friends. Dogs (and all animals) can't tell us how they feel with words, but if we watch them closely, they might be saying more than we once thought. They're just speaking in a different language—body language.

Most of us recognize a growl or bared teeth as a sign that a dog does not like what we're doing, but they can also show more subtle signs of discomfort with a situation. When dogs are feeling stressed or uncomfortable they may lick their lips, yawn, look away or avoid eye contact, lift a paw, put their ears down, close their eyes, or even have dilated pupils and "wide eyes" showing the white area around the eye.

This topic has been in the news lately with a report in Psychology Today noting how many photos there are on the internet of happy people hugging anxious dogs. The signs of anxiety are often not recognized by people since dogs, more than any other animal species, are willing to put up with a lot to please their humans.

Here is a link to the Psychology Today article:

And a New York Times article on the topic:

The photos included in the articles are great examples of uncomfortable-looking dogs. I should know, I'm a veterinarian, I make animals uncomfortable for a living! I try to reduce their stress as much as possible and learning their language is very helpful. See if you can figure out what your animal is trying to say to you today!

Enjoy the spring and go hug your 2-legged friends!