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How To Teach A Dog To Hug

How To Teach A Dog To Hug

Some people are huggers and others aren’t.  However, most dog owners will take a hug from their furry friend any day.  If you ever wanted to learn how to teach your dog to hug, this article will provide step by step instructions for teaching his sweet trick.

Why Teach your Dog the Hug Command?

Outside of the basic commands every dog should know, tricks are optional so you don’t have to teach your dog this command.  However, it is fun to teach a dog new tricks.   Additionally, learning new tricks is mentally stimulating for your dog as well as a good bonding experience.

Plus, who doesn’t love a little extra affection from their pup?

What Type of Hug do you Want from your Dog?

The first step is to decide on what type of hug you want to teach your dog.  Personally, my dog hugs me with her paws.  Whether I’m standing up or kneeling down, she will wrap her paws either around my waist or around my shoulders.

However, some people prefer for their dog to hug them without the paws and just use their head to snuzzle and lay in the crook of your neck.

The choice of what hug trick to teach your dog is up to your personal preference. 

Steps to Teaching the Pawed Hug Command

dog hugging

This version of the trick is a little easier for medium to larger dogs.  Smaller dog may have trouble reaching your shoulders with their paws.  Of course, they can just hug a lower part of your body, so you may have to slightly modify these instructions for a small dog.

Step 1:

Place you dog in a sit and kneel down in front of your dog.

Key tip:

Make sure your dog already knows basic commands like sit before attempting this trick.  This trick is more of an intermediate level trick so for the best results your dog should know the basics first.

Step 2:

Get your dog to place their paws on your shoulders.

My dog does this naturally (which isn’t always a good thing).  If your dog already does this a lot get them to recreate that behavior and give them a treat when they get their paws in place.

If your dog doesn’t naturally do this, you will have to help them out. 

Pick up their front paws and place them on your shoulders.  It may take a minute for them to get comfortable with you doing this so patience is key.  The second their paws are on your shoulders, treat, praise and get excited.

Dogs are smart they will quickly learn that paws on your shoulders equal a tasty treat, and they will start doing the motion on their own.

Step 3:

Start using the word “hug” with the action of putting your dog’s paws on your shoulders. 

Once they have the movement down, it shouldn’t take long for them to associate the word with the action.  Remember to treat and praise any time they respond after you say the command. 

Be patient and stay on the step as long as needed until your dog has it down every time.

Remember – this motion is not natural to our dogs, so don’t expect for a long hug – even 10 seconds could be too long for some dogs.  Let your dog hug you for however long they feel comfortable with and don’t force them to hold very long hug.

Step 4:

Once your dog has the first three steps down cold, start phasing out the treats.  Instead of treating every time – just treat every other time, then every three times etc.

If your dog continues to hug you even without the treats – congratulations, you’ve taught your dog to hug.

Steps to Teaching the Snuggle Hug Command

This version of the hug may be easier for smaller dogs, dogs that have trouble with the other version or dogs that just don’t like putting their paws on your shoulders.

Step 1:

Place you dog in a sit and kneel down or sit down in front of your dog.

Step 2:

Using a treat as a lure, take a in one hand and hold it behind your neck to get your dog to place their head on your shoulder reaching for the treat. 

As soon as your dog reaches around your neck for the treat praise them and give them the treat.

Continue this step until they have that motion down.

Key Tip:

This may take some time – be patient.  Don’t expect your dog to get this command down flawlessly with just one session.  It may take many sessions for some dogs to understand what you want them to do.

Step 3:

Once your dog has the motion down, add the word “hug” to this motion. 

Continue practicing with the treat and the word hug until your dog has associated the word hug with his head reaching over your shoulder and around your neck.

Step 4:

Slightly increase the amount of time your dog has to hold their head around your neck before giving them the treat. 

Remember, don’t make the time period excessive.  A couple seconds is fine to start – then you can increase the time to 5 seconds and maybe 10 seconds.

In doing this step you will probably learn how long your dog is willing to be in this position before they bail.  Don’t force them to stay in this position for a super long time period if they aren’t comfortable with it.  Knowing your dog is key here.

Step 5:

Gradually phase out the treats and use your hand behind your neck as a lure using the word hug. 

Practice this step until your dog has it down.

**Remember if your dog has trouble with moving onto any next step, go back to the previous step that they had down – sometimes it just takes time for them to catch on to the progression in the trick.  Be patient.

Things to be Aware of When Teaching your Dog to Hug

Know your dog’s personality

I have a German Shepherd and she is naturally very affectionate.  She loves to hug, kiss, cuddle etc.   However, my previous dog, was not as outwardly affectionate.

If your dog doesn’t like cuddling or being close and prefers their personal space, this may not be a trick they will enjoy.

Although it is a cute trick, we don’t want to force our dogs to hug us all the time if it is totally out of their comfort zone for their personality.  You’ll know if this trick is a good trick for your individual dog.

Consider your dog’s demeanor

If you have a wild crazy German Shepherd puppy for example, attempting this trick before they calm down could lead to a paw in the eye or some interesting bruises.

Some dogs may just be too rambunctious for this trick at the moment, but as they get older and calmer this trick could be a possibility.

Or you may have to settle for shorter hugs until they calm down a little so be flexible on the time you dog is willing to stay in the “hug” position.

Don’t attempt this trick with kids right away

As said previously, some dogs are naturally more affectionate than others so some dogs may gravitate to hugging your child naturally and in a calm manner.  However, it is important to assess this before having your dog “hug” your child.

If your dog is learning, or a little on the wilder side, they may paw your kid in the face, or knock the kid over (if you have a bigger dog), and that may scare both your child and your dog.

Wait until your dog has the trick down, and you know they can hug gently before trying this trick with children.

Final Thoughts

Teaching a dog to hug is an adorable trick to add to your dog’s resume.  This motion will come more naturally to some dogs than others, so be patient when teaching your dog this trick if they don’t catch on right away.

Once they get it down, you’ll enjoy loads of doggie hugs whenever you need a little extra pick me up.  My dog naturally comes and gives me a hug whenever I drop her off somewhere now.  Enjoy!

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