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Channel Islands Veterinary Hospital

April 10 is National Hug Your Dog Day: It’s Good for Both of You

Couple hugging their dog on the bed

Open your heart and your arms! It’s National Hug Your Dog Day on April 10. What better way to show your pooch just how much you love them than with a good old-fashioned hug. And a hug is healthy for you too! A hug may relieve stress and release the natural “feel good” hormone, oxytocin. This can also lower heart rates and stimulate the release of dopamine which may reduce depression and pain. A simple hug is a nonverbal way to express the love you feel for your dog and for them, can hold many benefits including:

  1. In both humans and dogs, oxytocin, a hormone associated with love, connection and trust is released from the brain when you hug your dog.

  2. Hugging your dog gives both of you a sense of unconditional love and closeness.

  3. Hugging your dog is calming and relieves stress.

  4. Hugging your dog lets them know you appreciate their loyalty and companionship.

But it is important to keep in mind that not every dog is a happy hugger. Every dog is different with their own sense of personal space, so owners should respect their dogs’ needs. If your dog gets a little stiff when you try to hug them, it’s probably because they don’t really care for it. Look for signs of anxiety, such as head turning to avoid eye contact, whining, barking, yawning, or ears down and back. Squirming or trying to get away is another good sign, so be sure to give your dog space when they want it. If your dog doesn’t care for hugs, try belly rubs or back scratches instead. Of course, many dogs can’t wait for a quick snuggle. Sometimes, your pooch may even purposefully nuzzle themselves under your arm because it brings them a sense of comfort and security. If your dog is not a fan of being hugged, there are other ways to make sure they know they are loved:

Play time – Although your dog may not be the hugging type, there are other playful ways to show them you care such as a snuggle on the sofa, a long walk, a game of fetch or tug of war.

A new toy – Dogs always enjoy a new toy to throw around or chew on.

Treats – Dogs love treats, but it’s important to remember that food treats should only be an occasional reward, and should be pet-approved.

Contact – Head pats, chin scratches, and belly rubs are all great ways to stay in “touch” with your dog, but just like with hugs, be mindful of your dog’s response to ensure they are comfortable.

Positive words – Everyone enjoys words of praise and affection. Even if your pet doesn’t exactly know what “good dog” or “I love you” means, they will understand the tender tone of your voice.

And of course, National Hug Your Dog Day can be celebrated with a sweet embrace between you and your pooch, every day.

LifeLearn News

Note: This article, written by LifeLearn Animal Health (LifeLearn Inc.) is licensed to this practice for the personal use of our clients. Any copying, printing or further distribution is prohibited without the express written permission of Lifelearn. Please note that the news information presented here is NOT a substitute for a proper consultation and/or clinical examination of your pet by a veterinarian.