Parents, please note, when it comes to helping your children build strong a strong relationship with their dog, it is important to remind them that big bear hugs make most dogs very uncomfortable – and NO ONE likes being around someone who makes them feel uncomfortable.
Another thing to keep in mind is that, just like us, dogs have times when they would rather be by themselves, times when something around them (unrelated to you but that will impact how your dog feels about interaction at that time) causes them to feel anxious, and times when they want nothing more than to cuddle or play with their favorite humans.
And, also like all of us, different dogs have different preferences for where they prefer to be touched – and that can be situational. Many dogs are uncomfortable with hands or bodies looming over their head. Many enjoy having their necks or the underside of their mouth or their rear ends scratched – but NOT ALL.
Some signs that the dog in this photo is not enjoying his hug include: the lip lick and closed mouth, avoiding eye contact, and the whites on the sides of its eyes.
Dogs that do not actively engage with children or that roll over submissively or show other avoidance body language have probably come to predict from past experience that kids do things that are not enjoyable from the dog’s perspective. This is why I do my kid’s class to teach children (and their parents) about how to be a positive teacher and friend to their pet.
Some signs that your dog is feeling uncomfortable when being pet include: turning or moving away from your hand, lip licking, yawning, suddenly stiffening, wet-dog shaking, holding a front paw up, ducking the head and showing the whites of the eyes. Never approach a dog that is growling, showing teeth, freezing and or staring at you or showing its teeth.