Category Archives: Dogs

Is hugging your dog a good thing?

Does hugging your dog stress him out?

Back in 2016 Psychologist Stanley Coren, who’s made a specialty of dog psyches, published an article saying, basically, that dogs hate hugs. The dog’s stress levels rise, possibly to bite level. His article was based on looking at internet pictures of people hugging their dogs and noting the signs of stress in the dog. Stress signals included: ears back, head averted, lip-licking, and showing the whites of their eyes.

Stress is bad

Let’s face it. We do lots of stuff that our dogs find stressful. While we try not to tease our dogs, lots of people do find it entertaining. And those people’s dogs learn to expect and accept it. Dogs are highly adaptable beings. 

These days we’re all under stress, to some level. Since our dogs are attuned to us, they’re probably feeling it, too. But dogs are conditioned to handle life in a human world. It’s their specialty. 

We know lots of reputable dog breeders who make it a point to thoroughly and happily socialize their puppies before letting them go to their forever homes. And it’s always a joyous day when they recruit people, especially children, to meet the puppies. There are always happy “puppy hugger” pictures on those days.

That’s what responsible breeders do – they expose their puppies to all kinds of experiences so they learn to adapt to all kinds of situations. 

Hugging is good for us

While dogs may not enjoy hugging the way people do, most dogs tolerate it just fine. Especially if their owners are huggers. Hope’s French Bulldog Torque even has a “hug” behavior – when Hope puts her arms out, he dashes over and puts his front legs around her neck. They both love it!

Hope hugging her dog Torque

We don’t recommend anybody runs around hugging every dog they see. That’s just silly and asking for trouble. But if it’s your dog, you know what they like and what they don’t. 

Sometimes we all have to do stuff we don’t enjoy; renewing your driver’s license, waiting in line, cleaning, laundering, vacuuming, dusting, doing dishes. (There may be a theme in the previous sentence….)

Dogs have to do stuff they don’t like, too: baths, nail trimming, tooth-brushing, hugging. It’s part of the package living with people who care.

Hugging your dog

If your dog truly hates getting hugged, we certainly wouldn’t force them to do it. Booker is okay with it, but doesn’t really like it. We find other ways to show Booker we love him. He adores ear rubs. So he gets lots of them. 

All of our dogs are cuddlers, so apparently dogs don’t equate the two. When we’re relaxing in the evening, all of them like to be “in touch.” And they’re all bed-hogs, taking up all the night-time territory they can. 

That’s another kind of “hugging your dog.” And as long as it works for the two of you, there’s no other opinion that counts.

Mysteries with dogs

Dog obsession extends to every aspect of our lives. It’s an illness we don’t want to be cured of. It even extends to reading, our favorite non-dog hobby. Except some of our favorite books are mysteries with dogs!

Hope is currently reading “Gone to the Dogs” by Susan Conant. It’s part of a series with main character Holly Winter, a dog columnist, owner of Malamutes, and Obedience devotee. One of the things we love about this series is how closely we identify with someone doing obedience training with a breed not known for its obedience. Another thing we adore about it – we’re Facebook “friends” with Conant! We’ve actually “messaged” with her to talk about dogs and books! We may even forgive her for currently owning a stellar obedience breed – she has a Sheltie now.

Lighter fare

cartoon of dog sniffing out mysteries

We’ve always been big readers – our family used to own a book store. And, despite the reputation that booksellers may have, we’ve always enjoyed “light” reading. These days we actively seek lighter fare for entertainment. We need the break from all the uncertainty this year. 

So we’re revisiting some of our favorite authors of dog mysteries – because dogs always make us happy. There’s something connective reading about a character you know you’d be friends with – you have so much in common. Or maybe absolutely nothing but your love for dogs – but that’s enough!

Lots of choices

We just searched for “mysteries with dogs” and there are bunches of them! Lots of names that are new to us. Since the family bookstore closed and we brought home all the books we didn’t sell and couldn’t part with, we’ve been “shopping” on our own shelves. Lots of the new series look terrific – we’ll have to post an update when we’ve tried some of them.

In the meantime, these are the authors/series we love. For everybody who loves dogs and enjoys a “cozy” mystery, you should give them a try!

Laurien Berenson is a Poodle person and author of the series featuring Melanie Travis and her Poodles! Her Aunt Peg is a recurring character and an absolute delight.

Melissa Cleary’s main character is Jackie Walsh, whose sidekick is an ex-police dog named Jake.

Susan Conant’s books feature Holly Winter and her Alaskan Malamutes Rowdy and Kimi.

Virginia Lanier writes about Jo Beth Sidden and her tracking Bloodhounds. 

Mysteries with dogs reviews

If you try one (or all) of these authors – let us know how you like the books! And if there’s someone we’ve missed, please let us know. The books don’t even have to feature dogs, although dogs do enhance most things in life. 

Completely and totally your dog

When we were growing up, Fran and I (Hope) were under the mistaken impression that our family dog, Spunky (a Boston Terrier), was the family dog. It turned out that wasn’t quite the case. Unbeknownst to us, our Mother and Spunky were a pair – bonded for life.

It’s probably true in many, if not most, dog-owning households. The parents tell the kids that the dog is “your dog,” and their responsibility. All the while, behind the scenes, the adults are making darned sure that the dog gets fed, walked, and cared for as he should be. Mom and Spunky had lots of time together after we were asleep. We thought he slept in the kitchen, as good dogs were supposed to back then. Not so. Especially not if it was a stormy night. Like I said, Mom and Spunks were bonded.

Possession is only part of the equation

When I was all grown up and looking to get a dog of my very own – it didn’t work out that way. When I went home on weekends, Dragon (Brussels Griffon) and Daemon (Boston Terrier) glommed onto Mom and stayed there. Until they were dragged back into the car to go back to the city. Brats.

As time passed, things changed, and I returned to the family home, I was determined that I would have a dog who was all mine. I tried with Golly herself. She wanted none of me. I smuggled her onto the plane from Louisville to Chicago. I took her through a series of veterinary visits resulting in open-heart surgery. Nursed her back to health. She was single-mindedly devoted to Fran in every way. Her dog. 

Then there came Ceilidh (Kay-lee). I really, really tried. She picked Fran. 

Success at last!

My first “my” dogs – Teddy and Roc

When it came time to think about adding another dog to the family, I was absolutely determined. Roc was Golly’s nephew, also a Brussels Griffon. While Griffs are sociable dogs, they’re really one-person pups. So Fran wasn’t allowed to touch Roc when he came home. I carried him around for four days in a carrier. Fed him. Walked him. No interaction with Fran at all for the first two weeks.

It worked! He was wholly and entirely my dog. My first obedience-titled dog. We were a team. He allowed Teddy to join the team. It was great!

Not for everyone

A couple aspects of being extremely bonded aren’t for everyone. When you have a bond this strong, you never go to the bathroom by yourself. You can never dash through the house without kicking somebody. And other family members may get annoyed when your dog whines and sits by the door waiting only for you.

The upsides more than outweigh the downs. You always have somebody who wants to cuddle. You’re never lonely. There aren’t any arguments or backtalk. Your dogs are always thrilled you came back – even if you only took out the garbage. 

Family dog

There are individual dogs and whole breeds of dogs that are family dogs. They have a special relationship with each member of the family. That’s a wonderful, special situation, too. But if you want to be your dog’s person, in our experience you have to be everything for the dog, first.

Put a leash on it!

It’s the simplest “tool” for training dogs. It doesn’t require much instruction, has few moving parts, and is one of the most basic dog essentials. And yet, multiple times this week we’ve witnessed people not using it. People! Put a leash on your dog!

Sitting in the shop, watching the world go by, we see a woman and her pre-teen child walking down the sidewalk, pulling a wagon. With a cute, little, fluffy white dog in the wagon. The dog jumps out and races across the street – with cars coming in both directions. The woman is shrieking through her mask for the dog, who’s wearing a harness (good!) but no leash (bad). Fortunately, both were fine and the dog corralled in just a few minutes.

Then there’s the neighborhood guy around the shop who insists on walking his dog without a leash. We’ll admit that our shop is on a side street, in our suburb’s downtown. It’s not the busiest street around – but it is in a very urban area. Our town borders Chicago and has about 60,000 residents. It’s not the middle of nowhere. So this fellow thinks his dog will stay with him. He’s wrong. Whenever we’ve been outside, the dog comes running up to us to say “hi!” It’s a nice dog. He should put a leash on it.  

What’s the attraction?

Frankly, we don’t understand the desire to walk a dog off leash. Maybe because we know our dogs, despite their obedience/rally/agility titles, would take off after any bunny stupid enough to cross our path. Or maybe it’s because we know that people drive crazy, even on residential streets. Maybe it’s because we’re control freaks. But we just don’t get it.

A few months ago there was a viral video featuring a man with his “pack” of German Shepherd Dogs walking around. They seemed to be on city streets and the dogs surrounded him and shadowed his every move. Not a leash in sight. Frankly, we found it creepy. None of the dogs looked happy. They all looked like they were slinking around, as if they’d been beaten. And yet we saw lots of comments exclaiming how “wonderfully” those dogs were behaving. We didn’t see it. We have a friend who has German Shepherd Dogs. Hers are marvelously well-trained, with titles in multiple dog sports, too. And her dogs walk joyously, tails waving, ears erect, eyes bright and interested. On leash. 

Not instead

A leash doesn’t replace training. Dogs still have to be taught to “walk nicely” with you. In fact, the “rule” for using a leash in Obedience and Rally competition is that it should form a “J” between the dog and person. There are deductions for “tight leash” handling. 

Picture of a man walking his dog on leash at a beach

We look at the leash as a security measure – for us and our dogs. No worries about where our dogs are or what they’re doing if we can’t see them. We can always find them. And when another dog comes charging up the path, no owner in sight, we can reel in our dogs, pick them up, and yell bloody murder until a responsible party shows up to take charge. 

Hope will never forget the time when, as a young woman living single in the city, she was walking her dogs (Dragon, a Brussels Griffon and Daemon, a Boston Terrier) down a city street and a big mongrel came running up. She was trying to pick up both her dogs (Dragon was barking away, Daemon wanted to play) and yelling “Who owns this dog? Loose dog! Get your dog!” A guy sauntered around the corner and had the gall to say “don’t worry, he’s friendly!” 

Really? Why does that matter? How do you know my dogs are “friendly?” And why does anyone believe that leash laws don’t apply to them?

Rant over

It’s such a simple thing. Hook up your dog. If you’re alone, in an unpopulated or no-traffic area, take it off if you want to. But please, don’t make me worry about your dog running out in front of cars. Don’t make me worry about getting sued when my dog takes objection to your dog running up on us. If you love your dog, put a leash on it.