A family dog is trained when and where to pee, eat and sleep, and now, preliminary data from a new study suggests that in return for room and board, our dogs suffer through our hugs.
The study examined 250 internet photos of people hugging their dogs, scanning for known signs of anxiety in the dog, including turning their head away, showing the whites of the eyes and slicked back ears.
Psychology professor and neuropsychological researcher Stanley Coren's data revealed that 82 percent of dogs in the pics demonstrated at least one of those signs of stress. About 8 percent of dogs appeared happy with the hug and the remaining 10 percent appeared neutral or showed an equivocal response toward the gesture.
Coren said that dogs are technically cursorial animals, which indicates that they are designed for swift running. In times of threat or stress the first line of defense that a dog uses is not his teeth, but rather his ability to run away.
Behaviorists believe that depriving a dog of that course of action by immobilizing him with a hug can increase his stress level and, if the dog's anxiety becomes intense, he might bite.
The study has been published in Psychology Today.