Happy Hygge Days

By Claudia Kawczynska, February 2018, Updated June 2021
Abby and Kobi Bear in a hygge moment.

Abby and Kobi Bear in a hygge moment.

You might be hearing the word "hygge" used during this winter and holiday season. What does that word mean? In his charming Little Book of Hygge, Meik Wiking observes that hygge (HOO-ga) is about “an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things. It is about being with those we love. A feeling of home.” While commonly associated with Denmark, hygge has its roots in a Norwegian word for “well-being.” Tracing it further back, it comes from the word hug, which itself stems from the 1560s word hugge that meant—yes, you got it —“to embrace.” The spark behind all of these good vibes is none other than oxytocin, aka “the love hormone.” As Wiking, who is CEO of Copenhagen’s Happiness Research Institute, notes, whether with a person or a pet, the act of cuddling/hugging makes both participants feel loved, warm and safe—the very essence of hygge. This season is an ideal time to plunge into “hyggelig” as we celebrate in the company of those who are dear to us (both human and canine), sharing hygge’s key concepts of comfort, gratitude, pleasure and togetherness.

And with those concepts in mind, there are many ways for you to make a difference to the lives of dogs during this time of year. Here are a few ideas for you:

  1. Donate to a local animal shelter or to one in an area of the country that might not be well-funded. Check out their wish list, do they need leashes, towels, collars, toys, harnesses, dog beds or flea medication? Get your dog park friends to pitch in too.
  2. Foster a shelter dog or sponsor one—most shelters have sponsorship programs.
  3. Bake up homemade cookies for the shelter workers and treats for the dogs.
  4. Purchase a commemorative calendar from a shelters or rescue group.
  5. Donate dog food/treats to a homeless shelter accommodates pets.


Article first appeared in The Bark, Issue 92: Winter 2017