Grrr - the five things your dog hates

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Dogs ride waves in the annual Surf City Surf Dog competition in Huntington Beach, California.

It’s not just hugging that can hurt a family pet.

For anyone who works with dogs, this has been a good week. A study by Dr Stanley Coren, a canine expert and professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, confirmed what we professionals have been saying for a while: those smothering hugs your dog "loves"? Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but he/she actually hates them, because it stops them being able to run away.

Coren studied 250 images of dogs being cuddled by adults and children, and in eight out of 10 images the dogs were showing visible signs of stress or anxiety.

We might think a dog who is licking his lips is hungry or satisfied after eating, when lip licking is often an early signal to convey discomfort.

Dogs communicate differently to us. They use subtle signals we often miss as we seek, instead, body language that we recognise. For example, we might think a dog who is licking his lips is hungry or satisfied after eating, when lip licking is often an early signal to convey discomfort.

 Photo: Greg Murray

Dogs don't just communicate with one part of their body, but every part – tail, ears, eyes, mouth – to send us messages about how they're feeling. Learning to understand this is crucial, not just to recognise what they're trying to tell us but, more importantly, when to remove them from a situation they're finding difficult to deal with.

Here are five other things your dog may not like as much as you think they do:

1. Patting them on the head.

Many dogs dislike this, because they cannot see where your hand is going, which can make them feel uneasy. Dogs often duck away or turn their neck to try to follow where the hand is trying to pet them, but they can't follow a hand coming from above with no warning. A dog feeling cornered by a patting hand may often use aggression to get it to stop – nervous specimens may even bite in this situation, if they feel they have no choice.

2. Picking them up.

This is most common with puppies and small breeds. Just because you can pick them up doesn't mean you should. It is an invasion of space and very often dogs that have been over-handled may start to growl when being lifted or moved. Before you go to pick up a dog, ask yourself if you'd do so if it were a large breed such as a Rottweiler. You probably wouldn't.


3. Staring into their eyes.

Eye contact is crucial for dogs and humans, but to stare into a dog's eyes can make them feel threatened. Dogs use really subtle signs that humans confuse with our own emotions. Staring straight into his eyes may seem to him like you're trying to start a fight.

4. Allowing a child to follow them around.

When a dog gets up and physically removes itself from a situation, it's stating that it needs some space. Parents often confuse this with their dog feeling too hot or wanting to get comfortable elsewhere, and allow their children to follow and pat it, even go under the table to stroke it. Don't. Your dog's space needs to be respected. Think of a dog walking away as saying "Leave me alone".

5. Waking them up.

All dogs require a safe place to retreat to and rest. It's your dog's own personal space and it shouldn't ever be invaded. They should never be prodded, moved, picked up, carried or laid upon while sleeping. If you were in a deep sleep and someone jumped on you, would you be able to control your reaction? We should, quite literally, let sleeping dogs lie.

Louise Glazebrook is a dog trainer.