Should Your Vet Tell You to Hug Your Dog?

By Karin Krisher

don't hug your dogShould veterinarians give pet owners advice on how to treat their animals? This week, a controversy emerged that brought this issue to light, and that we, as dog lovers, had to address.

On April 10th, we caught wind that Purina’s Beneful had declared an annual Hug Your Dog Day.  This decision struck a chord with dog owners that have long resisted the urge to squeeze their pups due to knowledge of the discomfort the action can cause the animal.

Hug Your Dog or Stay Away?

While information on this concept is available online and from various trainers and behaviorists, it’s clear that not everyone is privy to that information—if they were, Purina would not have made the attempt to create this tradition. Dogs generally consider hugs a threat—they don’t have the same understanding of arms and clasping that primates do. Instead of finding hugs endearing, dogs are likely to see them as assertions of dominance.

Which leads us to our next point. If Purina didn’t know that, who did? The average dog owner does not complete in-depth research on the meaning of human body language, and instead tends to act based on emotion (in this case, love). That fact alone makes the question of the veterinarian’s role here a question at all. If you know the owner’s intentions are good, when, and how, should you interject so that animals receive the best at-home treatment (and wellbeing support), but the owners aren’t offended by your advice?

If you feel that a dog might not be receiving the best at-home care to support its health and happiness, certainly speak up. When it’s a question of diet or exercise, hesitance isn’t as prominent as when it’s a less obvious contribution to health, like personal space. Still, owners need to be receptive to the fact that several unseen factors affect their dogs, and that someone is taking the initiative to prevent those effects from being harmful.

Don’t hesitate to be that person, and put the ball in the owner’s court, where it belongs.

Have you ever told a customer, “Don’t hug your dog?” What was the result?