Why You Might Think Twice About Hugging Your Dog

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Hugging a dog may pain the animal even if the gesture is well intentioned, an expert says.

A hug that restricts a dog’s ability to move could stress the animal given its natural inclination to flee in dangerous situations, Psychology Professor Emeritus Stanley Coren wrote in a blog post on the site Psychology Today.

Coren supported his belief with a back-of-the-napkin survey of photos of people hugging their dogs online. More than 81% of photos evaluated suggested that the dogs were uncomfortable with being hugged, according to the post. The informal study is not peer reviewed, but Coren suggested that the findings will come as no surprise to those familiar with dogs.

“Save your hugs for your two-footed family members and lovers,” Coren wrote in the post. “It is clearly better from the dog’s point of view if you express your fondness for your pet with a pat, a kind word, and maybe a treat.”

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Write to Justin Worland at justin.worland@time.com