Why Does My Dog Growl When I Hug Him? 11 Reasons Plus Solutions

Dogs are awesome to have around. They’re always happy and excited to go on walks, play fetch, and just hang out. They make the perfect buddies for anyone looking for (or in need of) a friend.

You’ve treated him as part of the family since the moment he came home with you. Your dog adores being with you and you hope he knows that you love him too. It makes sense that you want to show your dog how much you love him.

Of course, treats are always an excellent choice, but what if you want to physically express how much you care? Unfortunately, dogs don’t always show love the same way as humans.

In reality, your dog might react unexpectedly to you when you show your love. You may get a yelp, a snarl or they may even run away. It’s important to understand why your dog acts the way he does so that you can act appropriately to your dog or when necessary and possible, change your dog’s behavior.

So, what about growling at a hug? Why does my dog growl when I hug him? There are many reasons your dog might growl when you hug him. Most likely your dog growls at you when you hug him because he sees it as one or more of these reasons:

  • Invasion of personal space
  • You being aggressive
  • Talking to you
  • A change in attention
  • Being woken up
  • Being playful
  • A poor association with the past
  • You asserting dominance
  • Sick or injured
  • Confusing
  • Something he doesn’t like

Reasons My Dog Growls When I Hug Him

Maybe after looking through the list above you had an ‘Oh yeah!’ moment and know exactly what your pooch is up to. If you’re still trying to figure out what is going on with your dog’s hug growls, keep reading. I’ll go into more detail about each point. Of course, there won’t be a ton to say about the most obvious reason: He just doesn’t like hugs.

You’re Invading His Personal Space

Like people, every dog has a unique personality. Some dogs are more aloof than others and some dogs love being the center of attention. And some dogs enjoy being smothered with loves and belly rubs while other dogs only enjoy a light pat on the head or a quick scratch behind the ears.

When you try to hug a dog who isn’t used to it or doesn’t enjoy being smothered, he may see it as an invasion of his personal space. Dogs communicate through body language and when you go in for the hug, he may be trying to tell you to back off by growling.

Your Dog Thinks You’re Being Aggressive

Have you ever gone to hug someone and they flinched or stepped back? It could’ve been because you came at them too fast, your body language was off, or they just weren’t expecting it. The same thing goes for dogs. If you approach your dog too quickly or lunge at him, he may think you’re being aggressive.

To a dog, aggression can take many forms like staring, leaning over, or crowding. It can also be things we do without realizing it, like putting our hands over their head or coming in big for a hug. Naturally, your dog isn’t going to meet your ‘aggression’ with a bite or a fight. He’s still your loyal best friend after all. But he will tell you ‘Not Cool!’ with a growl or a bark.

Replying to You

When you have a dog, you need to pay attention to body language, tone, and everything else going on when you want to learn what your dog means. Just like I can’t say every dog’s bark means it is angry, as they bark a lot when they play too! Similarly, I can’t say every dog’s growl means the same thing.

If your dog lightly growls at your hug and then gives you some kisses or a smile, their growl is more than likely just a way of saying ‘Thank you!’ or ‘I love you!’.

You Changed The Attention

Maybe your dog LOVES belly rubs and you stopped rubbing his belly so you could hug him. Your dog might want to let you know that he prefers belly rubs. Since his options to verbally communicate are limited he might growl to let you know that he’s not happy with the change in attention.

Waking Him Up

We’ve all experienced that familiar and awful feeling of being woken up by someone unexpectedly. It’s not a pleasant feeling, right? Well, the same goes for dogs. If you try to hug your dog while he’s sleeping, he may growl at you as a way of saying ‘Leave me alone! I’m sleeping!’.

He’s Being Playful

Dogs love to play. It’s in their nature. If you try to hug your dog and he starts wagging his tail or bouncing around, he may just be trying to invite you to play with him. Odds are, if your dog growls in this situation he’s a playful pup who would love to go for a run around the yard or a round of fetch.

Bad Experiences

Some dogs may have had bad experiences in the past that have led them to associate hugging with something negative. It could be that they were hugged too tightly, someone tried to pick them up when they didn’t want to be, or something else painful happened while they were being hugged.

Additionally, your dog might have spent too much time around toddlers. A lot of times, young children will hurt dogs when they try to hug or play with them. Many dogs understand that toddlers don’t mean to hurt them but if that was the only experience your dog had with hugs then he probably isn’t excited about the idea of getting another one.

Whether it was from kids playing rough or someone else being harsh or mean to your dog while hugging them. Your dog is letting you know that he doesn’t like it with a growl.

Dominance

Sure, you’re the leader of the pack but that doesn’t mean your dog enjoys you constantly putting him in his place. If you do it too much he might try to assert his dominance. A warning growl that you’re going too far with the hugging might just be your dog’s way of saying ‘Hey! Back Off!”.

He’s In Pain

If your dog used to enjoy hugs but now you’ve noticed that he growls every time you try to hug him, even if you’re being gentle, it could be a sign that something is wrong. Dogs can’t tell us when they’re sick or injured but a sudden behavior change is usually a good indication.

If your dog suddenly starts growling when you hug him it might be time for a trip to the vet.

Remember though, there are a lot of reasons why your dog might growl when you try to hug him. It’s important to pay attention to the context and your dog’s body language to figure out what he’s trying to say. 

Don’t worry yourself sick about your dog being injured if growling during a hug is the only change. Simply call your vet to make sure your best friend is ok.

Hugging Confuses Him

Dogs don’t hug each other, not in the way we humans do; with a big embrace from both parties. Indeed, they express their love for each other and for us in different ways.

So, when you go to hug your dog it might just confuse him. He may not understand what you’re trying to do or why you’re doing it. For all he knows, you might be trying to attack him, pick him up, or even punish him.

Your Dog Simply Doesn’t Like Hugs

I saved the most obvious answer for last. Odds are if you’ve read this far, this isn’t your issue but something else is going on with your dog, and you, as an excellent dog owner, are trying to figure out what is going on.

Still, a list of why your dog growls when you hug him isn’t complete without the most obvious reason:

It’s also possible that your dog is just not a fan of being hugged. Not all humans are either, some of us prefer a pat on the back, a simple handshake, or even not being touched at all. Just like people, dogs have different preferences. If your dog growls when you hug him it could be that he simply doesn’t enjoy it and would prefer you not do it.

Why Do Some Dogs Like Being Hugged?

Of course not every dog growls when they are hugged. Some dogs (though not many in my experience) actually LIKE being hugged. There are a few different reasons why that’s the case.

Been Trained To Like Hugs

With enough work, you can train dogs to do almost anything. Okay, maybe not almost anything but you can train them to do a lot. As far as training a dog to like something like hugs, it usually just means training the dog to associate a hug with something good, like a treat.

They Only Like Hugs From Certain People

Dogs view their owners and family as their pack. People outside of that pack, may or may not be trusted as much. It’s possible that your dog only likes to be hugged by people he trusts and views as part of his pack: you, your partner, and your kids. No one else, no matter how good of a friend, can get away with hugging these dogs.

It’s why you shouldn’t try to hug a strange dog. They’ll probably growl at you! Even if you just witnessed their owner get a loving response.

Only Enjoy Hugs They Initiate

Some dogs only enjoy hugs they initiate. In some way, they’ll let you know they want a hug. Some dogs can be rowdy and jump on you. Others will be sweeter about it. They’ll come up to you, put their head on your shoulder, and wait to be hugged.

But if you were to go in for the hug first, they may back away or growl at you.

What Should You Do If Your Dog Growls When You Hug Him?

If your dog growls when you hug him you need to assess why he does it before you can figure out what to do about it. Hopefully the top reasons your dog growls at you when you hug him that I went over above helped you figure it out!

Don’t Hug Him

For most of the reasons listed above, you’ll just need to back off the hugs. If your dog doesn’t like being hugged, don’t hug him. It’s that simple. You may be able to win him over with treats or time but ultimately you need to respect his wishes and not force him into something he doesn’t want to do, even if it’s just a hug.

Train Him To Like Hugs

This is more applicable to puppies than older dogs who may already have negative associations or other reasons to not like hugs. With some treats, good boys, and lots of patience you might be able to train your pup to like being hugged.

If your dog doesn’t come around, go back to the advice above. Don’t hug him and don’t force it!

Take Him To The Vet

If the growling is a sudden switch in the way your dog acts when getting hugs, it might be time for a vet appointment. Dogs don’t often suddenly change their behavior without a reason. There may be an underlying health concern causing your dog discomfort when being hugged.

Even if there isn’t a health concern, your vet may be able to help you better understand your dog’s behavior and what might be going on. They can also give you more personalized advice than I can in an article!

Summary: Why Do Dogs Growl When They Get Hugged?

There are many reasons your dog might growl when you go in for a hug. For instance, he may be feeling threatened or his personal space might be invaded. It could also be that he’s not a fan of being woken up or doesn’t like you being assertive. Or the most obvious reason of all, your dog simply doesn’t like hugs.

If your dog only growls when you hug him, it’s best to just stop hugging him. You may be able to train him to like it but ultimately, you need to respect your dog’s wishes. If the growling is a sudden change in behavior, take him to the vet to rule out any health concerns.

Some dogs love getting hugs, while others may not like it so much. It’s important to remember that every dog is different and will react differently to being hugged.

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