Why Do Border Collies Hug?

Dogs do not naturally hug each other in the same way that humans do. So, when border collies hug each other, it is because they have been trained to follow a command.


The Border Collie Hug


If you have spent any time online looking at pictures and videos of dogs, you have likely seen the infamous “Border Collie Hug.” But what is this hugging all about?


Hugging and Dogs


As humans, we like to think that our dogs appreciate hugging as much as we do.

They don’t. In fact, the majority of dogs hate being hugged.

Dogs rely on non-verbal more so than verbal communication when interacting with each other. Some gestures have a similar meaning in the canine and human worlds, but others – including hugging – do not. Humans hug each other as a way of showing affection. Dogs hug each other as a sign of dominance.

The placing of a paw on another dog is a sign of domination. So, whenever one dog has a paw on another dog, the dog with the paw on top is dominant, and the other is submissive.

Paw placement holds extreme significance in the wild canine world because society builds entirely on a hierarchy of dominance and submission. Vestiges of this need for dominance remain in domestic dogs today.


Alpha and Omega


The top or alpha dog gets the best cuts of meat, the best “toys,” the best sleeping area, the best mates, etc. So, the alpha spot is a prime position. For the dog in the submissive or omega position, though, life is tough, and they often become the target of attacks by other frustrated pack members.


What Does Hugging Mean to Dogs?


When dogs are hugged early on in their life, they often realize that hugging is a human gesture of love. For many dogs, though, hugging is still an unpleasant and even fearful experience as they interpret it as a display of dominance. In the wild, fighting, growling, and sometimes, ostracism from the pack often accompany such displays of domination.

When you hug your dog, you are essentially reinforcing your dominance over them, which causes anxiety and fear.


So, Why Do Border Collies Hug?


So, if hugging has such a negative connotation for dogs, why do border collies hug?

If you spend some time researching the dogs hugging each other in viral media, you will find that they also excel in obedience. These dogs often “perform” for praise or treats. The border collies that you see hugging in photos and videos are dogs trained to hug each other.

If you look at the video or image a little more closely, you will often see signs that the dogs are less than comfortable with the situation. Signs including:

  • “Whale eyes” where the whites of the eye are showing (a sign of fear.)
  • Looking to the camera or the side for assistance from a human figure.
  • Unnatural posturing.
  • Panting or yawning.

Why Do Dogs Allow Us To Hug Them?


If dogs hate hugging so much, you might wonder why they allow us to give them hugs and why they perform such “tricks” with little fuss. The answer is simple – we are the alpha. Our dogs live to please us, and if that means making themselves uncomfortable, they do it.


What Do Dogs Do Instead of Hugging?


Dogs show affection in various ways.

With each other, dogs may show affection by:

  • Nuzzling (usually the neck)
  • Licking ears
  • Sharing toys, food, sleeping space, etc.
  • Play bowing

With humans, dogs may show affection by:

  • Nuzzling or “cuddling.”
  • Bringing “presents” (usually a toy or treasured possession.)
  • Tail wagging
  • Play bowing
  • Following
  • Jumping up as a greeting
  • Licking
  • Leaning
  • Nose nudging

Should You Hug Your Dog?


Although some dogs have grown up with hugging and accept it as an expression of affection, most dogs interpret hugging as a threatening gesture. So, it is best to avoid hugging your dog!

What can you do to show your dog affection without hugging them?

  • Just spend time with them.
  • Play a game together.
  • Rub their belly.
  • Go for a car ride together.
  • Nuzzling (gently nuzzle your head into their neck)
  • Go for a walk.
  • Go to the dog park.
  • Give praise.

Conclusion / Summary


Border collies do not “hug” in the way portrayed in viral videos; in fact, hugging has a negative connotation in the canine world. The dogs that you see paling around are trained dogs performing a trick for a reward.

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