According to a recent study by Dr Stanley Coren, a canine expert and professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, dogs actually become stressed out when humans stroke and cuddle them.
The research, which analysed 250 pictures of dogs as they were being hugged, showed eight out of 10 of the pets looking visibly uncomfortable.
Some of the most common signs of discomfort are when dogs turn their head away, partially closes their eyes or bares their teeth, but other signs of canine anxiety include the animal turning its head away to avoid eye contact or folding its ears down. Lip licking, yawning and raising one paw are also tell-tale stress signs.
“In times of stress or threat the first line of defense that a dog uses is not his teeth, but rather his ability to run away,” said Dr Coren.
“Behaviorists believe that depriving a dog of that course of action by immobilizing him with a hug can increase his stress level and, if the dog’s anxiety becomes significantly intense, he may bite.”
Dr Coren recommends a treat, or even a pat or a kind word as ways of showing affection for your pet.
“The clear recommendation to come out of this research is to save your hugs for your two-footed family members and lovers.