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8 Things Dogs Hate That Humans Do, According to Scientific Studies

There are 8 things dogs hate that humans do. How do we know? Scientific studies have been conducted to show a dislike or discomfort for these behaviors. And there’s probably a few of them you probably already do without even realizing. 

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Study #1: Approaching a Dog Too Quickly

One of the most common things we do is approach a dog too quickly. I get it. You see an adorable dog, and your first instinct is to rush towards the dog and try to pet the furry companion. We’ve all been there. But most dogs actually hate this.

In a 1998 study, scientists observed 88 dogs and their reactions to certain behaviors from strangers. They tested three types of approaches from humans.

  • The first being a gentle and slow approach.
  • The second, a direct and firm approach.
  • And then there’s the sudden and fast approach.

The results showed that both sudden and direct approaches were much more likely to cause stress-related behaviors from the dog, such as lip licking, head turning, and yawning.

So if you’re ever in the presence of an unfamiliar dog, we suggest approaching them slowly and calmly, no matter how adorable they may be. 

Study #2: Inconsistent Behavior

Now here’s one that will almost certainly confuse and stress out your dog. And that’s inconsistent behavior.

Imagine this scenario. You’re going on a walk with your dog and you see your dog’s neighborhood friend strolling by. Of course, you make the exception to let your dog sniff around and say hello to his friend.

They play for a minute, exchange licks, sniff each other’s butts, and say their goodbyes. Now the next day rolls around, but this time, you’re rushing to get home to catch your favorite TV show.

And when your dog’s same friend appears, you drag them away…because you’re trying to finish his daily walk as soon as possible this time around. This type of inconsistent behavior causes confusion in your dog. And dogs hate that.

In a 2010 study, dog researchers looked at a whopping 145 random dogs. The owners of the dogs were asked to complete a questionnaire about their training methods, their level of consistency, and their level of engagement in activities with their dogs.

Not only did the most inconsistent owners have dogs that were the least likely to obey commands, but they also showed the most signs of stress in day-to-day activities. 

The study proves that dogs are “creatures of habit.” If you stray too much from their daily routine and rituals, it’ll most likely stress them out.

Study #3: Forcing Your Dog

But here’s one thing that can actually cause a big negative reaction from your dog. And that’s when you force your dog to do something he doesn’t want.

Never has something ever been so relatable. We’ve all been in these situations. We probably all have that one nagging friend who always tries to drag us out for the night, even when we just want to stay home and watch Netflix. And eventually, we snap back at them to leave us alone.

Well, it turns out that dogs are the same way. They have their own preferences and desires, and just like us, they don’t always want to do what we want them to do.

In a 2017 study, scientists took 36 random dogs and tested a variety of situations, such as, being forced to “sit,” “stay” or “come.”

When being forced into doing these things, they found that the dogs not only showed all the common tell-tale signs of stress and anxiety, but they were also much more likely to show aggressive behaviors and tendencies.

Some dogs would start growling, while others actually tried biting the handler when they were forced to do something they didn’t want to do. 

In short, the study suggests dogs hate being forced to do things, and can lead to stress or aggression in your dog. Next time your dog is stubborn about something, don’t force the situation. Take some time and come back to it later.

Study #4: Staring Directly at Your Dog

Another thing dogs hate is when humans stare directly at them for too long. When you love your dog as much as you do, you can’t help but to “stop and stare” at these amazing creatures from time to time. But you might want to consider being more discrete with that staring.

In a 2013 study, scientists wanted to understand how a human’s gaze would affect a dog’s emotions. Would they see it as confrontational? Threatening? Or maybe even friendly and endearing?

They did this by observing 29 dogs of random breed and ages. Each dog was presented with a realistic human model that displayed either direct eye contact, or an averted gaze. 

Through the observation of body language, the results showed that most dogs were clearly stressed out, uncomfortable or anxious with direct staring. But why was this the case? It’s not that dogs suck at staring contests. 

They may have interpreted prolonged and direct staring as confrontational or challenging. In fact, the scientists believe this behavior stems from the instincts of the dog’s ancestors. In the wild, staring is often used by predators to intimidate their prey. 

Dogs may have evolved to be sensitive to staring, as a way of avoiding being attacked by predators. Of course, not all dogs hate this. Just be mindful and attentive when you catch yourself staring at your dog for too long. 

Study #5: Loud Household Noises

But another thing dogs can’t stand is your typical loud noises in the home. Have you ever wondered why dogs cower and hide at the sound of fireworks? Dogs really can’t stand loud noises, and we have scientific research to prove it. 

A study looked at 24 dogs of all breeds and ages. They were exposed to a variety of loud noises, such as fireworks, gunshots and thunderstorms. Studies showed that these dogs saw an elevated heart rate and an increase in blood pressure when these loud noises were being played.

Now this may sound obvious. I mean – even humans get scared of these sounds. But what about every-day common household noises in your typical home? Noises such as the vacuum cleaner, lawn mowers, washing machine, and even outside traffic.

Well, there’s a U.K. study that tested the effects of those common household noises as well. Out of the 30 dogs observed, a majority of them saw a noticeable increase in blood pressure and heart rate. 

So if you notice the stress signs in your dog, it’s probably a good idea to stop taking them to places with loud noises.

Study #6: Using a Harsh Tone

However, loud noises may not stress them out as much as when you use a harsh tone. If a dog is having one of those stubborn streaks, it’s not uncommon for owners to momentarily slip and quickly switch to a harsher tone.

Chances are, you’re probably trying to get your dog to do something he doesn’t want to do. So the dog is likely already stressed out.

For this case study, we refer to Patricia McConnell – a world-renowned animal behaviorist and pHD. She’s studied the behavior of dogs nearly her whole life. And according to McConnell, dogs are highly sensitive to human emotions and communication.

Even the slightest uptick in tone of your voice can trigger negative emotions in your dog. You see, dogs have evolved to be attuned to human vocal cues. They’ll pick up on subtle changes in tone, pitch and volume. In fact, those cues carry more weight than the actual words spoken. 

When a dog hears a harsh tone, it can trigger stress responses or even fear. These responses are rooted in the dog’s instincts to assess potential dangers in the environment, and can resemble aggressive or confrontational behavior to dogs, causing them to feel anxious, confused, or even submissive.

McConnell advises that using positive and calm tones when interacting with dogs is best. Speaking in gentle, friendly tones helps to reinforce positive associations and encourages dogs to respond positively to your commands.

Study #7: Hugging Your Dog

But you know what may be the most seemingly harmless thing you’re doing that may actually be stressing out your dog? It’s when you force your hugs on your dog.

Everyone thinks their dog loves to be hugged by their owner. But this isn’t true. In fact, according to canine psychologist Stanley Coren, over 80 percent of dogs hate this, or at the very least, find it to be somewhat stressful.

Coren examined 250 random photos of dogs being hugged by their owners. What he found was that out of the 250 pictures, 81.6% of the dogs looked like they were displaying at least one sign of discomfort, stress or anxiety.

Only 7.6% of dogs looked like they enjoyed it, while the remaining 10.8% looked neutral. Now we’re not saying this is the case with every dog. But more often than not, a dog is just tolerating hugs and not necessarily enjoying them.

If you want to show your dog some love, we suggest gently petting them on their backs…scratching their bellies…or even giving them positive praises.

Study #8: Reaching Over a Dog’s Head

Another human behavior that dogs hate is when we reach over their heads. Because dogs often sit lower to the ground, it makes sense that we’re always reaching over them, whether to pat their heads or grab something nearby.

But according to a 2017 study by the University of California San Diego, reaching over a dog’s head can cause them a lot of stress. In the study, 33 dogs of all breeds and ages were observed as a human approached them from the front, side and back.

The researchers looked for all the usual signs of stress in dogs. What they found was that dogs were much more likely to avoid or withdraw from the human who reached over their heads.

It makes a lot of sense, as anything out of their peripheral vision may cause some anxiety to our furry companions. That being said, the best way to reach for a dog would be from the side, where you can give them plenty of pets on the side and stomach.

So let us know in the comments. Do you do any of these things to your dog? I know I’m guilty of some.

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