Why Doesn’t My Dog... Like to Be Held?

Know the Signs

What are the signals that your dog is unhappy being held? He may turn his head away, show the whites of his eyes (called whale eye) or pull his ears back against his head. Other signs of anxiety are lip licking and yawning. If you see your dog performing these behaviors, the message is clear: He’s not a happy camper.

Between themselves, dogs show affection not by hugging or snuggling but by licking each other’s faces and then giving a good sniff to other parts of the body, including the all-important butt.

I always like to remind people that dogs are individuals. Some love to be cuddled, but it’s always a good idea to be sensitive to your dog’s preferences. If you force affection on him, he can become more reluctant to interact with you. Instead of a hug, you can show affection to your dog by scratching him behind the ears or on the chest, rubbing that sweet spot between the eyes or giving him a belly rub if that's what he loves best.

Most important, pay attention to changes in your dog’s behavior. If he normally loves to be held and snuggled, take note if he suddenly resists being held. He could have a painful medical problem that’s causing the unusual behavior. Take him to your veterinarian for a once-over to make sure he has a clean bill of health.

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