This all started when a member on Quora asked are there any real animals who actually enjoy hugs. This is an interesting question since animals can’t hug each other but for humans this is a very important gesture.
Tirumalai Kamala, Immunologist, Ph.D. Mycobacteriology has posted an interesting answer which was picked up by Forbes. Long story, short, real animals can enjoy hugs when they are used to them. This means that if you try to hug a homeless dog for example, it will run away or even bite you as it doesn’t know what a hug is and will consider it an attack.
But, when you have raised a dog as a family pet and you have hugged it a lot, it will know what a hug means. It will also understand it is a gesture of affection. Some dogs even enjoy hugs so much, they actively expect them.
It also means that they can get jealous if this affection is shown to others. A 2012 Plos One study on 36 dogs studied in their homes suggested they became jealous when they observed a rival for their affection. The study videotaped the dogs’ reactions when their human owners ignored them and instead pay attention to a stuffed animal, a jack-o-lantern pail or a pop-up book they read aloud. The stuffed animal consisted of a realistic-looking dog that barked, wagged its tail and whined.
It turned out dogs really don’t like it when you overlook them. 78% of dogs would push or touch the human owner when they petted or sweet-talked the fake dog. 42% of the dogs also became upset when the human owner gave attention to the jack-o-lantern pail. 22% became upset when the owner gave attention to the book.
It was only a preliminary study so results can’t be taken as conclusive, and there are caveats as well. The study was small, only 36 dogs. Even so, it brings an interesting subject to mind.
What to do if you dogs do become upset when you hug or pay too much attention to your stuffed animals? Simple. Pay a little bit more attention to your dogs. After all they are more important. Your stuffies will understand and wait for their turn when the dog is tired. Or… you can play with both the stuffed animals and your dog(s) at the same time! It’s also an option.