Why Do Dogs Like to Cuddle So Much?
Snuggled on the couch watching your favorite Netflix show and who's tucked right up against your leg with his head on your lap? None other than your canine companion, we imagine. If you're lucky enough to have a pet that likes to cuddle, there's nothing better for dog owners than nestling in at night with their pup.
Just like you, the number one reason dogs like to cuddle is that they love you. "Because dogs have a pack mentality, they consider you as part of their close-knit group, meaning they want to show you their affection and love," says Dr. Zac Pilossoph, a veterinarian with Healthy Paws Pet Insurance.
Dr. Pilossoph likens dog cuddling to dogs meeting at the dog park. First, they smell one another to get a feel for their new friend and generate a memory of them. Then if they like each other, they cuddle in and rub up against each other to show their affection and friendship.
While dogs are obviously different from humans, including how they show affection, we kiss and hug, for example, while they don't really understand those behaviors so much and instead prefer to rub and cuddle up against you. Of course, if you have a dog who showers you with kisses, you know some do enjoy that habit too.
The other reason a young dog may cuddle relates to how young puppies turn, twist, and roll around on their back displaying respect and subordination. If you have a young pup, you may see him do this frequently, which is another version of the cuddle. In his mind, he's showing you respect, subordination, and affection.
Is cuddling part of your dog's personality?
Just like cats, well, maybe not as independent-minded, each dog has its preference and tolerance for cuddling. Some are total cuddle bugs, some take a shine to a little cuddling and prefer their own cozy spot on the couch or their dog bed, while others, eh, they can take or leave cuddling thank you very much. They'd rather gaze out the window for birds or take a nap.
"We as humans have bred certain breeds to be more of a house dog versus a protective dog and the level of affection and "cuddle-ability" has a general, but not direct, correlation," says Dr. Pilossoph. Simply put, every breed is different and dogs that have a long history of family-friendliness may be somewhat more likely to cuddle because humans have influenced that through breeding practices. So, yes, it is sort of a personality trait.
However, this is not guaranteed and there are outliers. Many dogs who you consider as large, outside guard dogs, love to cuddle and lay on your lap (ouch) and a few lapdogs in the mix couldn't care less about cuddling.
There are certain breeds that have a reputation for being good cuddlers. For larger breeds, you may see Golden Retrievers, Newfoundlands and Great Pyrenees listed among big cuddlers. As for smaller breeds, Pomeranians, Malteses, and Cavalier King Charles spaniels are typically pretty cuddle-loving. But remember, there are exceptions.
Dr. Pilossoph warns owners not to choose a dog breed based on a dog's natural predilection to cuddle. A dog's preferences can change over time for a variety of reasons including unexpected heath issues or behavioral problems.
"It is also important to keep in mind that cuddling can lead to other things with young dogs, like zoomies or aggressive behavior. Zoomies are when dogs wildly zoom around zipping back and forth or in circles around the yard or over the coffee table. So read the room and notice if your dog is relaxed when you're cuddling or if she's getting hyped up.
Oh, and skip hugging. Some psychological data suggests that dogs don't see hugging the way humans do and aren't really onboard for it. In fact, they could see it as aggressive or being restrained and may respond negatively.
As always, consult your vet with questions and concerns about your dog's behavior.