Why Does My Dog Freak Out When I Hug Someone?

Why Does My Dog Freak Out When I Hug Someone?

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Dogs can react differently when you meet up with other people whether they’ve never seen them before, they are a part of the family, or your partner.

Your pooch might sit quietly, or they might do everything in their power to break you apart, especially if there’s physical touch involved like hugging.

This behavior can be unsettling both for you and the other person especially when the reason is not clear.

Why does my dog freak out when I hug someone?

Your dog might freak out, bark, jump, and try to keep you from hugging someone because they think you’re in danger and that they need to protect you. Your dog might be jealous, in need of attention or you might be reinforcing this behavior.

If you want to know more about why your dog is trying to break up physical interactions between you and other people and how to stop them then keep on reading!

Why Does My Dog Freak Out When I Hug Someone?

I’m sure we all love the goofy and sometimes unpredictable nature of our canine friends, but we still want them to be on their best behavior around others.

But if what you get instead is a freaked-out pup who doesn’t want to share you with other humans then it’s time to figure out where this behavior comes from.

Reason 1: Your Dog Wants Attention

Perhaps the most simple and obvious reason your dog acts weird or wild whenever you hug someone is that they need attention.

Your dog simply wants in on all the fun and he can’t hold back the enthusiasm.

We usually hug someone when we are really enthusiastic about meeting them and your dog can sense this sudden eruption of positive emotions.

Some will try to join in by jumping on you or putting their paws on you. Others will start wagging their tail or licking you and your friend and even barking.

This pushy behavior might be attention-seeking behavior, and you may even notice your dog behave like this when you are on your phone and computer or trying to get intimate with your partner.

When you hug someone in your dog’s presence and your pooch starts freaking out this could be their way of protesting because they feel excluded.

That’s how they know they might get you to turn your attention and possibly the attention of the person you are hugging towards themselves.

This used to happen when my dog was still young, and I noticed that it didn’t happen with every person. He wouldn’t do that to strangers, but with people, he was familiar with and felt comfortable acting out a bit.

Reason 2: Your Dog Is Curious

There’s nothing like a warm hug, and for humans, this gesture can mean lots of things, it’s comforting, it can show support and love.

In fact, a study showed that hugging can reduce the chance of a person getting sick.

But dogs are not like us, and they have very different body language. So, when a dog sees their owner hugging another human they might get confused or curious by this unexpected approach.

If your dog hasn’t seen you hug anyone before, or it’s a rare thing to happen in front of them then they might react by staring at you intently, tilting their head, or simply having alert ears and their tail will be upright.

They could also let a bark or a growl escape them and they might even look anxious.

In a dog’s brain hugs are unexpected and confusing, but to smell someone else’s rear is the most natural greeting in the world.

Reason 3: Your Dog Might Smell Another Dog

If your dog freaked out because you hugged another dog then most of us can agree that this reaction would be easier to decipher.

Dogs are naturally territorial animals, and they can act anxious, even aggressive if they sense a stranger dog around.

This territorial aggression could be triggered by the smell of another animal. So, if the person you hugged has a cat or a dog then this scent, in particular, could have triggered this response.

Even if your friend doesn’t own a dog, but they have touched a dog in the past few days your dog could still detect that scent.

According to Frontiers in Veterinary Science, “dogs’ superior olfactory abilities and high trainability are leveraged for a wide range of chemical and biological detection applications.”

But your dog doesn’t need to be a police dog to detect the smell of another animal. So, if the smell bothers him then they might not approve of you hugging that person.

Reason 4: Your Dog Is Protective

It’s clear that dogs don’t see hugging the same way humans do and according to Stephanie Gibeault, CPDT, most dogs may tolerate us when we hug them but that doesn’t mean they like it.

When dogs interact Gibeault states that “they might pin each other to the ground, but it’s in only one of two contexts: play fighting or real fighting.”

So, when your little pooch sees you hug another person they might feel that you are in danger and that they need to keep you safe.

That’s why you may notice your dog freak out and even go to extreme behaviors like jumping on the other person, trying to get in between you, braking, and growling as they do so.

This type of behavior can be more common in guard dogs, these dogs according to AKC “have a natural instinct to protect their home and family.”

If your dog perceives hugging as a sign of conflict or they find the person you are hugging untrustworthy they might come between you to deescalate the perceived danger.

Joshua Van Bourg from the Department of Psychology actually found that rescuing an oner is a rewarding action for dogs.

Herding breeds can also exhibit similar behavior. These working dogs were bred to move livestock and they are triggered by movement.

Seeing you and your friend suddenly move to hug can cause your dog to react in a way a herding dog would with sheep.

They might start pushing you and even nip your ankles in the process.

Of course, we can’t only look at a dog’s breed, and we need to look at dogs as individuals as well.

Any dog that hasn’t been properly socialized may be more suspicious of other people, and if they see you interacting intimately with someone they don’t know well then they might simply freak out.

Reason 5: Your Dog Is Jealous

Jealous is a very humane emotion, and the way we perceive jealousy can only come from a very human-oriented lens.

Nonetheless, a study showed that dogs can experience a feeling that is similar to jealousy and they can display jealous behavior similar to a human child does when they see their mother show affection to another child.

Your dog can feel jealousy whenever you hug a particular individual or any person, and each dog will use attention-seeking behaviors to get you to focus your attention back on them.

According to this study, the jealous behavior your dog can exhibit is snapping, getting between the oner and the object, or pushing/touching the owner of the object.

As you can see here this Golden Retriever won’t even share his owner with a stuffed dog toy!

It’s also quite common to hear a dog getting jealous around their owner’s partner and it can take time to change their perception and behavior.

Your dog might try to get your attention by doing tricks or licking your hands, hitting you with his paws or they might take their frustration on their mortal enemy.

“Pets may aggressively bark, hiss, or growl when owners are greeted or visitors arrive,” Dr. Scarlet Magda says.

So, you can imagine what a hug can do to some.

Reason 6: You’re Reinforcing This Behavior

Sometimes our dog’s bad behavior is a sign that we need to look at our own mistakes in our training.

Usually, unwanted behaviors are a cry for attention from anxious dogs that needs proper support.

Sometimes instead of curbing a behavior we help it fester and grow until it seems and feels uncontrollable.

Similarly, your dog freaking out every time you hug someone could have started as something small, like the licking of your hands, not leaving your side, a jump towards you, or a bark.

Your dog could have seemed super excited and young so you decided to laugh it off, or the person you were hugging reacted in an overly excited way.

Instead of letting you take control of the situation the other person or your partner started petting the dog.

But even if the other person reacted negatively, getting attention when your dog asks for it is rewarding.

Scolding your pooch instead of using proper training techniques can still be rewarding.

After all, negative attention is better than no attention and if that happens every time or every other time you hug someone then you end up reinforcing this attention-seeking behavior.

Reason 7: Your Dog Is Afraid Of Strangers

Dogs can have all sorts of personalities, and while some can be extremely confident and self-assured some doggies are shy and anxious about the outside world.

No matter which group your dog belongs to they can still feel uncomfortable in certain situations and around certain people.

Pups that have experienced past abuse, stray dogs, and dogs that have spent a long time in shelters can feel threatened by a stranger, especially if that person hugs you.

According to Dr. Lori Teller, “roughly 5 to 17% of dogs are affected with canine PTSD”

“The symptoms of PTSD in dogs are similar to those in humans and include chronic anxiety; hypervigilance; avoidance of certain people, places, or situations; sleep disturbances; fear of being alone; decreased interest in a favorite activity; or aggression,” Teller says.

Perhaps your dog is being reactive towards certain stimuli or situation. They could freak out when you hug men, or people who wear hats or certain colors. Sudden movements can also trigger your dog’s fight or flight response.

However, your dog doesn’t have to suffer from PTSD to freak out every time you hug someone, they could simply lack proper socialization and they might need more training.

Either way, it’s important to help your pooch with their social anxiety, not only will you make other people feel more comfortable around your dog, but your dog will start living a more fulfilled stress-free life.

How To Stop Your Dog From Freaking Our When You Hug Someone?

It may seem cute to have a puppy or a young dog freak out and act all clingy the moment you hug someone else, but as this behavior persists it can make a lot of people uncomfortable.

So, let’s see how you can deal with this behavior.

Meet Your Dog’s Needs

One way of meeting your dog’s needs is not giving them necessarily attention whenever they ask for it, instead, you should try and understand why they are asking for it in the first place.

Are they freaking out specifically because of the hug?

Is this reaction directed towards the person you’re hugging or is it you who has been reinforcing this behavior?

Sometimes these questions can help us deal with our dog in a more productive way, but even if you don’t feel like you have a clear answer there are still ways to cope with this behavior.

Train Your Dog

Knowing what triggers your dog’s reaction to you hugging other people can be helpful, but no matter what lies underneath you still need to implement the right training techniques to curb this behavior.

Positive Reinforcement

The best way to motivate your dog to stay quiet when you hug someone and not freak out is through the right reward.

That’s basically what positive reinforcement training is.

Of course, this technique might sound easy enough, but you actually need to find the reward that will motivate your dog.

Some dogs don’t enjoy treats as much as they love toys, others couldn’t care less about toys and all they need is a tasty treat.

My dog for example will do anything for a jerky ring from Pet’n Shape Chik’n that you can check on Amazon by clicking here.

If your dog is not excited about their reward or they are more excited about jumping on you whenever you hug someone then they will keep displaying this unwanted behavior.

You also need to be careful with timing, and consistency because the goal is to reinforce the right type of behavior every time you hug someone.

Counterconditioning and Desensitization

Debra Horwitz, DVM, explains this type of training as such:

“Desensitization is the gradual exposure to situations or stimuli that would bring on the undesirable behavior, but at a level so low that there is no negative response.”

“Counter-conditioning means changing the pet’s emotional response, feelings, or attitude toward a stimulus.

With desensitization, you need to find out at what stage your dog starts freaking out. For some, it could be simply seeing a person sitting next to you. It could start with a handshake or it could only be a reaction to an enthusiastic hug,

Once you find their threshold you can work on gradually exposing them to more intense levels of the stimulus that makes them freak out when you hug someone.

Then with counterconditioning, you need to reward your dog when they are not reacting to the stimuli at each stage of the hug.

Work On Your Commands

Remember that no matter what training technique you choose, you need to also work on your commands.

According to Paisley Lunchick a certified dog trainer, you need to be able to call your dog to you, tell them to sit down, to lay down to stay put, and teach them loose-leash walking.

As you work on these basic commands you can expand them and use commands like “leave it” and “stop.”

These commands can help get your dog’s attention and redirect them from the other person or the situation but remember to also tell your dog what to do instead of repeating what they should not do.

Try to keep the commands short and simple and use the same commands so your dog doesn’t get confused.

Don’t Reinforce This Behavior

As dog owners, we are also responsible for our dogs and their behavior around us and other people.

The best way of teaching our dogs good social etiquette is through training, but we need to be careful not to reinforce bad habits instead.

My biggest mistake as a rookie dog owner was consistency.

For example, whenever my dog freaked out when I hugged my friends I would either give my dog my attention, trying to calm them down or I would use treats to reward them when they were quiet.

So, as you can imagine my dog was very confused. With time I realized my mistake and I made sure that I used firm commands to redirect their behavior and reward them when they were being a good boy.

For some I know timing can be a problem, that’s when you miss the few seconds that the rewards must occur and end up rewarding their unwanted behavior instead.

I also want to make it clear that punishment should not be a part of the training process and you should not hit or shout at your pooch for acting out.

Not only are you reinforcing the bad behavior, but you are also creating more tension and anxiety.

“If your dog is lying quietly instead of jumping or barking, praise and pet him. If your dog walks beside, you on the leash, tell him what a good dog he is,” says Harriet Meyers from AKC.

Socialize Your Dog

A great way to reduce aggression in dogs is to socialize them when they are puppies. The more they spend time around people and are trained to properly behave in social situations the less anxious they’ll get when faced with new dogs and people.

Of course, if you have an older dog that hasn’t been properly socialized or for whatever reason you missed that window of puppyhood, then you can still socialize your pooch.

The best way to do it is to keep exposing them to unfamiliar people and keep that interaction as positive as possible and make sure your dog feels comfortable.

Try to avoid hugging other people when you’re with your dog, first let your dog become familiar with that person and slowly use positive reinforcement.

If it’s a new family member or a new partner that keeps freaking your dog out whenever you’re close or intimate then ask them to come with you on walks, and get them involved in your dog’s playtime.

Help your dog feel less jealous of this new person or people by increasing the familiarity between your dog and them.

Let them reward your dog when they are polite and quiet and ignore them whenever they are acting out.

Make your canine companion understand that the people you choose to hug deserve their respect and that they are part of the gang and not a threat.

Talk To A Professional Dog Behaviorist

Training a dog is not always an easy task and with some dogs and breeds, certain behaviors are more difficult to manage.

But you don’t have to be alone in this.

There are plenty of skilled professional dog behaviorists and training classes that can help you deal with your dog’s jealousy or aggression when you hug other people.

If you’re not sure where to start looking, you can talk to your vet and ask them for a dog trainer or dog behaviorist recommendations.

Why Does My Dog Bark When I Hug Someone?

Not every hug is the same, with some people it’s a brief exchange with others it’s a tight embrace where both parties are squealing in excitement.

When I meet my best friends, you can definitely expect the latter, so it’s only natural to see my dog stare at us in confusion.

When that first happened, he let out an unexpected bark but using the right commands and some perfectly timed rewards he never reverted back to this behavior.

For your dog, the reaction might be even more intense, with nonstop barking. Your dog might feel jealous of the sudden intruder or they might be scared that this new person is going to hurt you.

According to a study by Arizona State University, dogs barked and whined more when their owner was distressed.

So, if your dog doesn’t understand what is happening then they might start barking at you.

This makes even more sense in the context of hugging since dogs don’t understand hugging the way humans do.

Why Does My Dog Jump On Me When I Hug Someone?

Having a dog jump on you can elicit different reactions. If it’s your own dog then you might laugh and pet your enthusiastic dog.

However, if your dog is jumping on a stranger then he may get mixed feelings from the other person. But no matter how negative or positive the human reaction will be your dog can still see it as rewarding, after all, they are getting attention.

So, if you’re hugging someone and your dog starts jumping on you or on the other person then they might want to be a part of the hug group.

And if you’re not clear with them that this behavior is unacceptable, through commands, and perfectly timed treats your dog will keep on doing it.

Then again, your dog might jump on you when you’re hugging a stranger because they are trying to break you two apart, either to protect you or because they are jealous.

According to Stephanie Gibeault, CPDT, simply telling your dog not to jump is not enough, you need to tell them what to do instead. So, sitting or lying down is a much more productive command.

You also need to teach your dog how to keep all four paws on the floor whenever you greet people.

But of all the steps she talks about in AKC, being fast with treats is really crucial. You need to anticipate this behavior and give them their treat before they jump.

Until your dog learns not to jump on you or the people you hug, I’d also suggest you minimized the hugging, at least until you’re confident that your dog can keep his paws on the floor and not around you.

When Should You Worry?

Safety is really important when you or any other person is interacting with your dog.

If your dog freaks out when you hug someone else then you need to be honest about how this type of behavior manifests itself.

Is your dog jumping on your or the other person, is their body language stiff, and do they exhibit aggressive behaviors like barking, growling, and biting?

Even if you’re confident that your dog won’t hurt a would, you still need to be in control of your pooch at all times, especially when you know a certain situation triggers them.

Stay on top of their training, socialize them, and use a leash or a muzzle when you’re meeting people in public or if they show signs of aggression around others.

My biggest advice is to seek outside help, a dog behaviorist can help your dog even if you feel like there’s no way out of this aggressive cycle.

Debra Horwitz, DVM, states that “a behavior modification program will generally include avoidance of triggers, teaching new responses, positive reinforcement for desirable behaviors, control with a head halter and leash, training exercises for response substitution and desensitization for the dog’s significant triggers.”

Closing Thoughts

I love it when people adore my dog, and I’m equally happy to see him all excited when he meets my friends and family.

Unfortunately, certain human behaviors can confuse our canine friends, and when we express our love and friendship by hugging someone else our dogs can react in an unexpected rude or even aggressive way.

When this happens it’s important to not lose our cool and implement the training techniques that will show our pooch that some things are not acceptable.

With time they will learn to accept the fact that humans hug each other instead of smelling our rear ends.

Does your dog freak out whenever you hug other people and do you think they’re jealous or overly protective?