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Is it dangerous to hug the dog?

After a long day of work, many people like to unwind by spending time with their dog, whether that means going for a long walk, playing catch in the front yard or taking a nap together on the sofa.

While it perhaps goes without saying that these and any other activities will involve showering their favorite four-legged friend with considerable affection, a recently released study suggests that people might want to consider keeping it confined to kind words, delicious treats and copious pats on the head, resisting the urge to give them loving embraces.  

What exactly did this study find was so problematic about hugging the dog?

According to the study, published in Psychology Today, dogs are "cursorial animals," meaning their first line of defense when they encounter a stressful situation is to run.

As such, when a person hugs a dog, they are essentially taking away this ability to flee, something that can cause them undue anxiety and, by extension, cause them to bite if the tension becomes too great.

How did the study arrive at the conclusion that dogs perhaps don't like to be hugged?

In order to test the theory that dogs don't like to be hugged, the lead researcher gathered a random sampling of 250 pictures on the Internet posted by dog owners showing them giving their canine companion a squeeze, taking care to eliminate photos in which stress could be attributed to some other factor.

From there, the researcher examined the 250 random photos for some of the telltale signs of dog-related anxiety from lowered ears and lip licking to turning the head or yawning. Using these criteria, the photos were then divided into one of three categories: the dog's response to the hug was signs of nervousness, the dog's response to the hug was signs of relaxation and the dog's response to the hug was neutral acceptance.

What did this photo exam uncover?   

The researcher found that the dogs appeared anxious or agitated in 81.6 percent of pictures, neutral in 10.8 percent of pictures and comfortable in only 7.6 percent of pictures.

This is truly a fascinating study and one that should not only serve as a warning for dog owners to take steps to not only protect themselves, but also guests -- particularly children -- who may inadvertently put themselves in harm's way.  

Please remember you do have options for seeking justice if you or a loved one have been seriously injured in a dog attack, suffering anything from puncture wounds and lacerations to permanent scarring and emotional trauma.

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