The dog may not know what’s happening, so they may be protecting you or their territory, on high-alert for emotions, jealous, or think you are playing and want to join in. Bored or anxious dogs also tend to bark a lot.
Find out why your dog barks when you hug someone and how you can successfully train them out of it.
Why does my dog bark when I hug someone?
They don’t know what’s happening
Hugs are not a thing that dogs do, so they often don’t know what’s happening when they see this behavior in humans. However, they can see that it’s a very close, full-body action towards you, and that can really alarm them.
They think you might be being attacked
One of a dog’s most important jobs is to protect you from any threat. The hugging action might be triggering their alarm bells. This is more common in breeds of dogs known as guard dogs.
They are territorial
Dogs are territorial animals, and their first line of defense in protecting their home territory is to bark.
They think you’re playing
Two people engaged in a hug, greetings, or kisses can look like a fun interaction, which might mean a game. Your dog doesn’t want to miss out.
They are a highly alert dog
Dogs are vigilant animals, and they read the environment and the situation in heightened detail. Breeds that are herding dogs or guard dogs and some of the smaller dogs can be even more alert. Noticing changes and doing something to act on them is part of the intrinsic nature of dogs.
They think they are the pack leader
If your dog thinks they are the pack leader in your family, they may need to insert themselves into every interaction that looks like it might be significant or intense.
They are trying to prevent a fight
Dogs in the wild, and even domestic dogs, have been known to push between two dogs that are fighting, and stand between them. They may be trying to break up a fight or a confrontational situation they imagine you are having.
They are reading heightened emotions
Sometimes we give and receive hugs when emotions are mixed or heightened. Dogs are very alert to our emotional states, and they could be reacting to the emotions they perceive as unusual or intense.
They think you’re in distress
Studies have shown that dogs instinctively try to “save” people who make distressed sounds or actions. High-pitched talking or laughing as you hug, or the movement of the hug, might trigger them to save you. Dogs do this even without being trained to do so.
They are resource guarding
You are the source of everything necessary to your dog: food, belonging, play, and a pack structure. Dogs naturally guard their resources.
They are jealous
Many studies show dogs commonly react with jealousy if they see their owners petting another dog. Your dog may be jealous of the “petting” and attention that is going to your friend or partner.
They are surprised
Especially if someone has arrived at your door, and you let them in and hug them, the dog is surprised. They possibly weren’t expecting that person or a visit at that time of day.
They are scared
If the dog’s tail is tucked between its legs or ears are back, they’re scared. They may be reacting out of fear of the other person or the hugging situation.
They are showing the other person that you are in their pack
Your dog may be showing the other person that you and the dog are in a pack together, and they had better not disrupt that bond.
They have learned to bark
A dog only needs to do a behavior a few times, and it may persist, simply because they have now associated that behavior, like barking or jumping, with you hugging. So now, when you hug, they bark – just because they have learned to.
They are bored or anxious
A dog who is bored for much of the day or has separation anxiety will be more prone to bark at anything and engage in attention-seeking behavior.
They are unfamiliar with the other person
Some dogs want to be friends with everybody, but many breeds are wary of unfamiliar people and can be triggered to bark by seeing them.
Do I Need a Dog Trainer or Behaviorist if My Dog Barks When I Hug Someone?
If the barking seems aggressive, is accompanied by growling or showing teeth, or standing stiffly, you should consult a dog trainer or dog behaviorist.
These are important warning signals that the situation is overly triggering the dog, and you need to prevent any escalation.
Steps to Help Your Dog Not to Bark when You Hug Someone
We often raise our voices to a barking dog, telling it to stop. However, this may not work unless you have specifically trained the dog on this.
They may just think you’re barking too, so it’s okay to keep barking!
How to teach the command “Quiet”
Wait for a while when your dog is barking (not uncontrollably). While they are barking, say “quiet” several times: keep your voice calm but firm and directive. You don’t want to be shouting at the dog.
As you say “quiet,” hold a finger to your lips. Body signals are easier for dogs to pick up on and learn.
At some point, your dog will either stop barking or stop just to take a breath: quickly say “quiet” and feed them a treat. Say “quiet” and show them your finger to your lips while they eat the treat.
How to teach a dog to greet a visitor at the door
There are several steps to train a dog to be well-behaved when a visitor comes to the door.
Firstly, pick a spot near the door where the dog can see the door without being too close to it. Set a small mat there.
At times when you don’t have visitors, practice “on your mat,” using “sit” and “stay,” and give treats.
Once the dog is happy to sit on the mat and stay for a minute to get a treat, start directing them to sit “on the mat,” then going to the door and opening it a bit. Then give a treat.
When you feel the dog is comfortable with this sequence, you can try it when a friend comes in the door, but don’t hug the friend.
Your dog will probably bark, so use your “quiet” command and treat as soon as they are quiet (even if it takes a while).
This might be a slow process; be patient with your dog, as there are several steps involved, and you are training them to go against several instincts.
What if My Dog Barks at My Partner When I Hug Them?
Dogs can be more protective or jealous of one person over the other in the home.
It’s hard not to feel it’s kind of cute that they love you so much. However, you could be giving the dog the message that you don’t really mind their barking.
Let a barking dog know that you are not happy if they bark when you hug. If they are on the couch or bed, make them get down. Speak firmly.
You’ll also need to rewire your dog’s learning to teach that when your partner gets close to you, it’s good.
You can get ahead of the barking by feeding a treat right at the start of the hug with your partner or friend.
Do this every time: most dogs learn quickly when treats are involved, and they will possibly only need ten days.