Dogs Unable to Understand What Hugging from Humans Mean, Making Them Feel ‘Afraid’ or ‘Stressed’ [Study]

Dogs are man’s best friend, as the popular saying goes. However, this bond does not make pet dogs and their owners always understand each other. According to a study in February 2024, human-dog communication involves body language and non-verbal cues for dogs to understand hugging, petting, and directed play behavior by humans. If the communication is not clear, there is a tendency for dogs to get stressed, researchers say.

The new research paper specifies that dogs are unable to understand what hugging from humans means, making them feel “afraid” or “stressed.” In addition, pet dogs also feel these negative emotions since humans are unable to decipher the meaning behind their behavior, according to scientists involved in the paper. The recent findings highlight the complexity of dog behavior and the need for further research into the subject matter.

Human-Dog Communication

Dogs Unable to Understand What Hugging from Humans Mean, Making Them Feel 'Afraid' or 'Stressed' [Study]
(Photo : Photo by Erica Magugliani on Unsplash)

In the study published online in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science on February 23, researchers confirm that human-dog communication could be lacking clarify and understanding for both species: Homo sapiens and Canis lupus familiaris. Although it may seem that our pet dogs always enjoy our petting them, the paper shows that human-dog behavior can affect “canine ontogeny negatively.”

The authors consist of an international team of researchers, including from the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain and Belgium. They reviewed online videos of owners and their pet dogs posted on different social media platforms, as well as through Google. In their assessment, the team found that the online clips showed a “high incidence of stress and agonistic behaviour in dogs” based on observations.

The team explains that the miscommunication between humans and dogs could be due to several factors, including behavioral body language, signalling, and vocalization. Due to the common behavior of showing affection to dogs, humans tend to hug, kiss, and touch them. However, the meaning of these physical gestures may not be the same for some or all dogs, in terms of form, function, and motivation, the study says.

Also Read: Pit Bull Myths: Researchers Debunk Misconceptions About the Dog Breed

Dog Behavior

Dog behavior has been an interesting subject both for pet enthusiasts and animal behaviorists. Particularly, dog owners prefer to know whether their dog is aggressive or not. Although all dogs have the tendency to become aggressive or violent, there are varying factors that determine the nature of an individual pet dog. In a separate study published in January 2024, scientists developed a new AI algorithm to predict dog behavior.

While the February 2024 study focuses on the mutual miscommunication between dogs and their owners, experts in dog behavior emphasized the importance of understanding dog body language. According to the American Kennel Club, dogs often rely more on non-verbal body language and emphasize that knowing canine communication like barks, growls, and whines is important to know what they mean.

Related Article: Dog Behavior Can Now be Predicted by New AI Algorithm: UK and US Scientists Say

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