As pet owners, we always look for ways to shower our canines with more love and affection. With all the joy they bring to our lives, it only makes sense that we reciprocate by being the best companions for them as well. One way to ensure they feel loved is by celebrating National Hug Your Dog Day on April 10!
If you’ve ever wondered why hugging is known as a form of love and affection, studies show that it triggers a biological response that improves our well-being. Some of these benefits include a boost in oxytocin levels, which makes us feel safer and less threatened, depressed, anxious, and stressed.
This hormone response starts a chain reaction that also strengthens our immune systems. Another benefit of hugging to our overall health is that it increases our quality of sleep by lowering our body’s cortisol levels.
If you think the benefits of an embrace stop at the human level, you might be surprised to learn that hugging also provides many benefits to our dogs. Thinking of our furry friends as our babies isn’t as much of a stretch as some believe.
When we show our pets physical love, increased oxytocin can be seen in both pet and owner, but additionally, this hormonal boost also strengthens relationships.
Think about the importance of sustained physical contact and affection with babies. These types of connections are equally as important to dogs, especially puppies. They strengthen and solidify our relationships by promoting attachment, triggering protective instincts, improving social skills, and fostering generosity.
In 2021, the University of British Columbia-Okanagan conducted a study to better understand the social connections and well-being relationship between humans and pets before and after an instance of physical connection and affection. They found that those who could engage in physical contact reported being happier after the encounter.
Think about how this study relates to the increased popularity of therapy dogs. Embracing your pet on a regular basis releases serotonin and dopamine that help relieve depression and make you feel happier overall.
However, before you start showering your pooch with hugs, you first must understand their body language. Some dogs don’t enjoy being embraced at all; one study showed that 81% of canines showed signs of distress when hugged. According to the American Kennel Club, some of our pets feel trapped, uncomfortable, and scared, which could trigger aggressive action in an attempt to protect themselves.
Notice behaviors like tensing up, growling, and barking. However, if you notice signs like pawing, nudging, whining, and rolling on their back, it usually means your furry friend would like some physical affection. Make sure you maintain awareness of their physical boundaries to ensure the safety of you and your pet, and have a happy National Hug Your Dog Day.