Thursday, May 21, 2015

Tip of the Day: Dogs Don't Like Hugs and Kisses (What?!)

A different kind of love
One of the most important things you can teach your children is that dogs don't like hugs and kisses. This is a tough lesson, because many (if not most) dog owners simply do not believe it themselves.

Children learn early on that giving hugs to parents, siblings, and stuffed animals is a way to show love and affection. The desire to show affection extends naturally to the family dog. To a child, the family dog is just an animated stuffed animal.

Sadly, this desire to show affection to the family dog is a major cause of facial bites to children. Dogs may tolerate hugs from kids, but few actually enjoy this type of attention. If a dog does more than tolerate this inappropriate handling, it is only on the dog’s own terms—when the dog comes to the child for attention, and only if the child does not hug tightly or hang on too long. There is no dog that loves hugs from kids anytime, anywhere, anyhow.

Teach children to pet with one hand and to wait for the dog to come to them for attention and then to leave the dog alone if he moves away or says "please leave me alone" with his body language.

There are lots of ways to love your dog that don't involve hugs and kisses. Read our article on How to Love Your Dog for lots of ways your kids can build a great relationship with the family dog.

Listen to the experts, including the dogs!

How do we know that dogs don't like hugs and kisses? In part it is because every dog behavior expert tells us so. For example, world renowned expert and author Patricia McConnell in her wonderful book "For the Love of a Dog" says that she has at least 50 photos of kids hugging dogs and in not one of them is the dog happy about it. We also know because dogs tell us and dogs don't tell lies.

If your dog is enjoying a hug he will do one or more of the following:
  • Ask for more if you stop
  • Lean into you
  • Relax and close his eyes
  • Pant and wag his tail with a loose body
If your dog is not enjoying a hug he will do one or more of the following:
  • Turn his head away from you
  • Lick your face repeatedly
  • Lick his lips or flick his tongue out
  • Yawn
  • Lick or chew at himself
  • Sneeze
  • Wriggle to get away
  • Hold his body tense
  • Shake off vigorously when you let go
  • Show a half of moon of white in his eye
  • Wag his tail stiffly

If you ever hear yourself saying, "my dog just loves the kids, they can do anything to him", then take a close look and see what the dog is really saying. In the vast majority of cases, the dog will be saying (at least some of the time), "I don't like this, please make it stop". You love your dog, so why would you want him to have to tolerate hugs when it makes him uncomfortable? You love your kids, so why not teach them this simple safety rule: pet dogs with one hand.

Prevention is the key

When the dog tells us and we don't listen, eventually he may come to the point that he just can't take it anymore and his only recourse is to use his teeth to say clearly "stop that". This is the equivalent of a person shouting "just stop it" or even giving someone a push to get them to stop being irritating. This would be a minor incident if the dog did this to another dog, but when the recipient is a child, the results can be devastating.

Be an advocate for your kids and your dog, intervene and allow only interactions that the dog truly does enjoy.

There is one safe way for kids to kiss their dog. Check out this terrific video from The Family Dog TV:

Learn More About Dog Body Language

Learn more about dog body language by taking our online course: Basic Dog Body Language, and also from the Doggone Crazy! Board Game, available in the Doggone Safe store.

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