As a purveyor of gently used pets (yes, I’ve been called that) it’s fair to say I am in the love business. With that credential, especially in light of tomorrow’s holiday, it’s time to take a public stance on a topic which makes me crazy.
Here it is: There is a growing consensus within segments of the science community that hugging a dog is bad for that dog’s health and well-being. Wow.
OK, let’s deconstruct. The logic is that dogs are designed to flee from danger rather than stand and fight that danger; that given the option of “flight or fight” they will chose door #1. In technical terms, this makes them cursorial animals. By extension, a hug is a form of constraint which prohibits them from running and, as a result, provokes anxiety. It is for this reason, the argument concludes, people are at more risk of being bitten in the face when they are hugging a dog. This logic has led the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior to issue a parental warning advising parents to not allow their children to hug dogs.
Someone who hugs a dog they do not know is certainly at risk of getting bitten by that dog. Similarly, someone who eats stuff from a bowl without knowing what that stuff contains is at risk of tasting some really awful stuff.
Valentine’s Day is tomorrow, which as far as I’m concerned is one of the 365 days in a year to feel love, to be loved, to give love. You know your dog, your cat and your pet guinea pig. You know if they appreciate being hugged, kissed, fed from your table or dressed up like Dolly Parton (My dog Frida appreciates the first three but would probably balk at the big wig).
Give your animals the love you know they appreciate, the love they deserve. They certainly are planning on giving their love to you.
Ken White is the president of the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA.