Why Does My Dog Growl When I Hug Him?

Dogs are such adorable creatures. Who doesn’t want to pet one? Being the most adopted pet animals in the world, they are quite homely and friendly.

However, dogs have feelings too and they try to communicate their feelings through various gestures. You should pay attention to dog gestures like tail wagging, barking, growling, rolling, or even their postures. While tail wagging signifies love, appreciation, and happiness, growling usually signifies displeasure or anger.

why does my dog growl when I hug him
Why does my dog growl when I hug him?

Most dogs love to be hugged and cuddled. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for some dogs to act up and growl when being hugged by their owners. If you are in these shoes, this dilemma could be due to quite a few reasons.

To help you simplify the puzzle, here are a few reasons your dog may be growling whenever you hug him.

Your Dog Does Not Want to Hug You

why does my dog growl when I hug him
Why does my dog growl when I hug him?

Dogs are emotional animals. Just like humans, they can pick up behavior according to how they feel at the moment. You might have done something he does not like.

Then, the growling when you try to hug him would be as a protest.

However, if the growling is too recurrent, you should check your relationship with him. Especially when he hugs everyone else but you. Your dog may hate you or the way you treat him.

Or, it may be afraid of you. If you are the kind of person that scolds him every time, you are most likely to have this kind of issue.

Animals cannot talk it out with you. Thus, they express their feelings the only way they can; through their actions and expressions.

However, if your relationship with your dog is good but he still growls, you should book a section with professionals to see if your dog is going through some emotional trauma.

Poodle in a raincoat being held by man in a raincoat
Man in a raincoat hugs a Poodle also in a raincoat!

Your Dog is Not the Hugging Type

Fun fact; not all dogs are used to hugging. Hugging as an expression of affection is a human thing that was only trained and adopted by dogs. So, if your dog does not hug you but licks you instead; well… It is doing what dogs do.

The natural way dogs express their love and affection is by licking; not hugging.

While some dogs have learned to hug as puppies, yours may not be fortunate enough to have had this experience. In this case, hugging will be confusing to him.

To correct this, you need to teach your pooch that hugging is a positive gesture. You can give him treats after hugs to instill this knowledge. You need to be patient while training your dog to hug because it will take some time for him to get used to it.

a shih tzu licking its owners face
A Shih Tzu licks its owners face. Lick frenzy!

Your Dog Feels Threatened By Hugs

This is dependent on the posture at which you hug your dog. Dogs, just like other animals, recognize that their neck is a sensitive part of their body. Knowing that their neck is a vulnerable part when attacked, they may be very protective of it.

When your dog growls whenever you hug him, you should pay attention to the positioning of your hands. If your hands are wrapped around the neck, it may trigger some aggression. He may feel like you’re trying to harm him by strangulation or another deadly attack.

As a dog owner, you should pay attention to unusual gestures from your dog, especially ones that indicate threat or aggression. When you hug him and he’s growling, you should immediately let go. Otherwise, he may proceed to bite you.

dog growls
A dog growls to someone coming near him.

Your Dog Has Health Problems

This is a possibility when your dog who used to hug suddenly changes. Dogs do not speak. So, when they feel comfortable with hugs, they only make their feelings known by growling.

The reaction you get may be less or greater than growling. This depends on the pressure of the hug on them. If the pain is severe, they may bite.

His health problem may be some infection, body pain, or even stress. When you notice sudden changes in the attitude of your dog, you should consult a vet doctor immediately.

brown and white puppy on dog bed
A (very) sleepy brown and white puppy nods off on a large dog bed.

Your Dog Is Just Not In the Mood

Do you know that dogs have mood swings too? Well, now you know. Your dog may not hug you just because he does not feel like it at that moment.

Just like humans, dogs want their lone moments sometimes.

Another related possibility could be that you’re startling the dude. 

Jumping on your dog suddenly for a hug could indicate an attack and piss him off. You should avoid this. Instead, you should be gentle and speak gently to him as you slowly embrace him.

Try not to hold him too tight. It can be pretty uncomfortable.

Boston Terrier sitting with owner
Boston Terrier sitting with his owner on a couch.

Your Dog is the Leader

Dominance is a primal trait in dogs. It is passed down from their ancestors, the wolves. When more than one dog is reared together, there is usually a leader. 

Unfortunately, some dogs want to be the leader in their relationship with men too. They want to be in charge and show it.

Allowing your dog to establish dominance above you is a mistake you want to avoid. When a dog feels like he is the leader, he can be aggressive when he does not get what he wants from you, or if you try to make him do what he does not want to. This includes hugs. 

A hug from you may be interpreted as authority to him. Of course, he would protest against this. How you can deal with this scenario is by always establishing your dominance over him.

However, you should not establish your dominance in a way that threatens him. You should try hugging him sometimes too if you feel it helps to calm him down.

strong rottweiler
Strong Rottweiler

Your Dog Has a Distorted Sleep Pattern

Here is a fascinating one. Dogs are known to get grumpy when their sleep is disturbed. Actions like trying to hug him while he sleeps will only be met by his growl. Hence, you should let the sleeping dog lie.

Owning a dog requires some understanding between you and the dog. Understand that dogs do not like being hugged in their sleep, do not do it. You should teach your family to never do that too.

dog breathing hard while sleeping
Why is my dog breathing hard while sleeping?

Your Dog’s Breed Does Not Hug

The attributes and characters of dogs vary by their breed. Some dog breeds are innate huggers. Breeds like Labrador Retrievers, Rottweiler, and Boston Terriers are known to love hugs.

Owning a hug-loving dog breed is an advantage. However, if you own a breed like the German Shepherd which is not a hug-loving dog breed, you will have some job to do.

You need to train your pooch that is hostile to hugs. Any dog can be trained and retrained. There are strategies to help train your dog to hug gradually.

Do not forget to give them treats as encouragement.

German shepherd at the beach
A big boy German Shepherd enjoys a beach visit

Your Pup Is a Selective Hugger

Does your dog allow some other people to touch him, but not you and some others? This is an indicator that he is being selective. Dogs may connect with some people above others.

They have preferences too.

While your dog may like some people, they may detest others. If you notice that your dog is always growling whenever you hug him, but is different from some certain people, you should desist from hugging him for the time being.

Another possibility is the sociality of the canine. Unlike the unsocial ones, a pretty social dog will find hugs friendly from more people. If you notice that your dog loves to spend most of his time alone, this is an indicator that he is not the social type.

You may want to check yourself around him.

white maltipoo dog sitting on couch
A white adult Maltipoo sitting on a couch. Photo by Mitchell /CC BY

Your Dog is Confused

Imagine going to your friend’s house. Knowing that this friend never hugs anyone, all of a sudden, he begins to hug you. Weird right?

Yeah, dogs feel like that too. If you have had a dog for a while but never hugged him. If you start out of the blue, it confuses them and they may mistake your intentions.

You should hug your cutie often. This trains his mind to recognize hugging as a compassionate gesture.

dog growling
A dog growling is not always an issue


There are many more reasons why your dog may be growling when you hug him. Nonetheless, these are the most common ones. Dogs are very social animals.

They are called man’s best friends for a reason.

It is important to note that your dog may not like your hug just because it is tired of it or because it feels stressed from excessive hugging.

Pay attention to your dogs. They always communicate their feelings in many ways. Learn to understand your dog.

There are materials online that can help you achieve this.

Finally, you should pay attention to any unusual changes in your dog that might show that he needs medical attention and do the needful. A healthy dog is a happy one.