Why Does My Dog Growl When I Hug Him? Does He Not Like it?

dog growling at owner when getting hugged

If your dog growls when you hug him, it usually means one of two things. Either your dog wants personal space and is letting you know, or your dog is inviting you to play. Read their body language when they growl. If their tail is wagging, they probably want to play. If not, give your dog some space.

Much like humans, dogs come in all different shapes, sizes, and, most importantly…personalities. These personalities can stem from multiple facets of their development.

Quirky behavior comes naturally for dogs. It’s essential to understand your pup’s unique personality and not to diminish their methods of communicating with you.

One of the main methods of communication dogs have is growling. Growls can mean several things. Dog’s growl when they’re aggressive, playing, hungry, and even bored.

But what does it mean if your dog growls when you hug them?

Invading Personal Space

We have all experienced that one coworker who loves to give awkward, unwanted hugs. Or even the infamous “close talkers” that get right up to your face when they talk to you.

People appreciate their personal space and don’t appreciate it when that barrier is unwelcomely breached.

Your little (or not so little) canine companion experiences the same flow of emotions. Simply put: sometimes they just want to be left alone!

If you hug your dog and receive a low-toned grumble; no, it doesn’t mean your dog hates you. Sometimes they just need some time to themselves.

Just as humans experience conflicting emotions, dogs go through the same process. We don’t always understand what’s coursing through that noggin of theirs (except for dinner time), so when they growl at you, don’t take it personally.

A few years ago, I remember receiving a growl from my dog after hugging her. Sometimes, she would even growl if I tried to pet her. It perplexed me as I had no idea why she was doing this. I took it personally, especially since my other dog loved hugs. I feared she no longer trusted me. But I was being intrusive with her personal bubble. Once I started respecting her space, the issue was quickly resolved.

Interrupted Sleep

I think we can all relate to this one!. I can’t count the number of times I have had to physically restrain myself from throwing my phone through the window after the alarm starts singing.

What’s worse than that? Getting woken up before the alarm.

Though your dog has every opportunity to sleep all day every day, getting woken up prematurely can muster up one grumpy puppy.

No one is immune to grogginess, and that goes for your doggo too. I know if someone woke me up at 3 am scratching my ears, I wouldn’t be in my most pleasant mood. Dog’s need their beauty sleep too!

Instincts and Communication

I read a great quote from professional dog trainer Yamei Ross – “Punishing a dog for growling is like taking the batteries out of your smoke detector. You don’t want to hear the noise, but the danger is still there.”

This perfectly represents why punishing your dog for growling can be an ineffective and potentially dangerous tactic.

Dogs use growling as a clear method of communication, and trying to weed that out of them goes against everything that their instincts are trying to tell them.

It’s imperative not to punish your dog. Try to sympathize with the rooted issue.

Reprimanding your dog for growling can provoke dangerous behavior, such as skipping the growl entirely and going straight for the bite.

Be calm and patient with your little buddy. They have your best interests at heart. They are only trying to protect you.

Playful Growling

Disobedience, aggression, and dominance aren’t always motivators within a hearty growl.

Dog’s growl when they play, when they are excited, and even when they let you know that it’s time to use the restroom.

If your dog growls when you hug them, they might view this as an invitation to play. Their growl is their way of saying, “yes, I want to play!”

This is why it’s extremely important to know your pup and their unique personality. I had mentioned before that my dog hates hugs and has no problem letting me know.

But my other dog absolutely loves them! He’ll bury that fuzzy little head of his right into me every time he sees me coming with open arms…but he still growls. Except in this case, it’s playful growling.

He sees the hug as a sign that we are about to play, and the excitement triggers a few adorable grumbles. It’s no different from a cat that purrs with affection.

Being a dog owner, you know exactly what this is, and how to differentiate it between aggressive behavior.

Growling at Children

Kids can be…a little much sometimes.

Especially when you have big floppy ears and a long whipping tail to pull on.

Earlier, we mentioned the importance of respecting a dog’s space and times of peaceful slumber. But the kiddos don’t always maintain that space.

Children are often just as curious as our four-legged friends. They don’t always understand when a dog needs to be left alone.

It’s fine to let them wrap their arms around your dog and use their furry body as a pillow. But make sure they understand the signs of when they should give the dog a breather.

If the kids misbehave around the dog, it is very important to correct the situation right away, as this can be potentially dangerous.

Dominant Gesturing

In the dog world, a simple hug doesn’t always signify a warm embrace. Rather, a precursor to confrontation that might trigger a fight-or-flight response, resulting in a precautionary defense mechanism.

Hugging a dog can be misperceived as trying to establish dominance over them. This can be especially dangerous if your dog is an alpha.

Within the pack, tight embraces, or mounting, can mean a challenge in hierarchy.

Obviously, when you are hugging your pup, your intention isn’t to disrespect or challenge their hierarchical status.

It is a mix of good intentions and lacking knowledge of pack structure. As goofy as they can be, the interworking of a dog’s brain is complex and not always straightforward.

If you are dealing with this issue, a solid understanding of pack mentality is a key factor to understanding

Respect Your Dogs Space

I’d love to just chalk this up to “our dogs are just big loveable dorks” (which they are). But the issue goes deeper than that.

Dogs are fascinating, complex creatures with more love to give than you can handle. But you have to respect their emotions and instincts.

Try to hone in and appropriately interpret the signals your fuzzy buddy is trying to communicate with you.

I love my family to death, but I definitely need some space from them every once in a while, and your dog requires the same courtesy.

Don’t punish them, try to understand them. Try to recognize what your dog is telling you and respect their bubble.

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