How to Teach Your Dog to Hug

by Sundays

Woman outside holding a beagle and kissing their face.

The DogFather 360 shares expert training steps and tips so that you both can feel the love when practicing "Give me hug" with your dog.

Did you know that most dogs don't enjoy that big squeeze-like hug we sometimes give them? At best, they may tolerate it, but it's actually an act that can make them feel trapped. Even if well-meaning there are better ways to show your dog affection.

That being said, there are dog-approved ways to get that dog hug you're after, in this case it's by letting them be the hug giver. Of all the fun tricks to teach your dog, this is definitely one of them. So we consulted the pro, the DogFather 360, to share expert training steps and tips so that you both can feel the love when practicing this command. 

How to Teach Your Dog to"Give me hug"

Step 1: Use a surface, like a sturdy bowl or pillow, to teach your dog how to isolate their front paws. Start with your dog off of the surface and with a treat in hand guide your dog so they put their paw on the bowl.

You are using what is called a magnet hand lure, this is when your dog’s nose is one side of the magnet and your hand is the other. Using a magnet hand lure will help guide your dog for many tricks. It’s ok if it’s just one paw at first, mark with “Yes” and reward your dog.

Repeat this step as many times as needed because as they build their confidence and familiarity with the surface you will be able to get both front paws on the surface. This will take time and practice so remember to be patient.

Step 2: Next sit on a chair or a couch while facing your dog. Make sure the chair is low enough so your dog can reach you. Using the same magnet hand lure, now guide your dog to put their front paws on your lap or knees. If your dog jumps all the way up just lift your body and nicely guide them back to the floor. 

Step 3: Now you will lift your body off the chair and make a small lunge position with bent knees. You are almost mimicking the shape of the chair and the front knee is going to act as a stabilizer for your dog.

This gets them more comfortable with you standing when you ask for the Hug. Use the magnet hand lure to guide your dog up towards your belly. Their front paws can land on your belly, thighs, or the knee stabilizer. If you notice your dog is struggling you can always go back to a seated position. 

Step 4: We are officially standing up now! Stand up tall as you lure your dog up towards your belly or chest. If your dog has their front paws on you but is in a seated position, raise your hand higher and give a slight bend in your knees so they can lift themselves to a standing position.

Reward when your dog has both front paws on you and back paws on the floor. You can keep treating your dog and saying “Yes” if they choose to stay in the position longer, this just reinforces that they have done the command correctly.

After lots of practice and when your dog gets into the position with ease, you can mark the action with the command word “Hug”. Start with saying “Hug” once your dog has completed the command, this is called a capture. Over time you can ask your dog to “Hug”, this is called a prompt.

How to Teach Your Dog to Hug a Person While Seated

Now if you want your dog to hug someone while seated, our recommendation is to have your dog hug from behind the person or over their shoulder. This will allow your dog to be in full control and will be less tempting for humans to put their arms around your dog.

To teach this, get into a seated position and have your dog seated to one side of you, then use your magnet hand lure to bring your dog to your shoulder and encourage them to put their front paws on your shoulder.

Once both paws are on your shoulder you can mark with “Hug” and reward. If you would like your dog to hug from behind someone’s back, continue to lure them across the back of your shoulders to the preferred placement. Remember you can use your arms as a stabilizer while your dog is learning. 

Dog training tips to keep in mind: 

Whether you're teaching a fun dog trick like "how to hug" or a useful one like "how to speak" these pro tips can help: 

1. Use high-value rewards wisely. 

Place your rewards in your pocket or in a treat pouch so you can use your hands to teach this command. Put a small amount of Sundays in your hand as you guide your dog through all of these steps. It’s best to have your hand slightly open so your dog can smell the treat, maybe even get a few tasty licks of it, but make sure they can not take it out of your hand until you reward them. This will help your dog stay glued to the magnet hand lure.

2. Keep dog training sessions short and sweet.

As with any trick training it’s best to practice in small sessions that last 5-10 minutes and you can work in multiple little sessions throughout your day. It’s important for you and your pup to take breaks when learning a new command or trick. 

3. Break it up.

Each step should be done in a separate session so you can master that step before introducing the next one. 

A standing hug is a great opportunity for your dog to receive small amounts of affection. If you want your dog to hug someone, give the person some treats and ask your dog to “Hug”. While your dog is in the position the person can give the rewards and sprinkle in a few friendly pets. Just make sure your dog does not jump on anyone without permission. 

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