How to Train Your Dog to Give a Hug

You have several ways to teach your dog to hug you. If your pooch loves to wrap his paws around you, you can reinforce this behavior when it’s happening with praise and/or treats. You can also use a command a word like “Hug,” followed by food or toy rewards. This second method works best for calm dogs not prone to excessive jumping.

If your dog is an excited jumper/hugger to start with, ignore the behavior when he’s jumping all over you, then sit with him and follow these steps:

  1. Kneel down on the floor or sit in a chair and give your dog the “Sit” command.

    Check to make sure that your dog is sitting square on the floor (not leaning to either side).

  2. Lift your dog’s paws gently and place them on your shoulders as you say “Hug.”

    Give your dog a thorough pet and/or a reward.

  3. Say “Okay” to release your dog and help him down.

    Do these steps a maximum of three times per session, and stop if your dog is too energetic or starts to nip.

The silent signal for Hug is to cross your chest and tap your shoulders with your fingers. You can demonstrate the signal each time you say “Hug.” Be patient while teaching this sign language — it may take a while for your dog to make the connection.

Some dogs get too excited while standing on two paws. If this is your pal, leave the leash on and give a slight leash correction as you say “Shhh!” Also, try practicing Hug when your dog has less energy.

Giving a hug is a breed-selective exercise! If you have an injured, dysplastic, or skeletally challenged dog (like a Basset, a Bulldog, or a giant breed) avoid this trick. And don’t forget — if your dog refuses, move on to a different trick.

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