Teach Your Dog to Give You a Hug

The Resting Hug

The resting hug is the version I most often encourage clients to teach their dogs. For this hug, sit on the floor or on a dog-friendly piece of furniture with enough space for your pooch to nestle close to you. Before you start working on the hug, make sure your dog will consistently lie down on command; this is key to a successful hug.

Smaller dogs can be taught to hug you while lying on your chest or stomach. This is how my Pug, Willie, snuggles in for a hug. I lie on my back, and Willie settles on my stomach with his head on my chest and his chin near mine. If you have a larger dog, or you would simply prefer not to have your pooch on top of you, you can teach your dog to lie next to you and rest his head on your chest or shoulder, or in the crook of your arm.

Use a food lure to direct your dog into the desired position, either in your lap or beside you. Once he’s where you would like him to lie, give the “down” command and reward him for remaining in place.

Once your dog is in a down, reward signs of relaxation, like lowering his head or resting it on your body, or lowering his tail. Pair these rewards with the cue “hug.” At first, your dog may stay in this resting position for only a short time, but with practice and rewards, he should increase the time he spends snuggling with you. Eventually, fade the lure and treats.

For dogs who enjoy human attention, just being close to you may become reinforcing in and of itself, while others may prefer to give you a quick snuggle and then return to their busy schedule of doing dog things.

One last word: It is important to respect your dog’s choice to move away. Keep in mind that many dogs will be more comfortable with a one-sided hug — in other words, your dog may willingly put his paws and body on you but may not want you to hold or handle him in return. In this situation, don’t force a full-on snuggle fest; just appreciate the contact your dog gives you. Other dogs, particularly those who enjoy being petted, may be eager to remain in your arms and soak in the hugging.

No matter your pooch’s personality, always pair hugs with ample reinforcement to make them as rewarding as possible.

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