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Why Do Dogs Like to Cuddle? Facts & FAQ

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

woman cuddles dog

Have you ever gotten greeted by a dog that wants to jump all over you and give kisses, or a therapy or emotional support dog? What about the cautious ones that bark ferociously and seem to want to bite your head off? Like children, no two dogs are alike. Knowing your dog’s personality and temperament will help you determine the type of cuddling they prefer—if any at all.

Many dogs, regardless of their personality, choose who, when, and how they like to cuddle.
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What Is Cuddling?

Cuddling for a dog includes many types of affection. Sleeping against them on the sofa, giving a belly or butt rub, or hugging and kissing their face are ways of showing your pet affection. Whether it’s a pat on the head as you’re walking by or a 20-minute snugglefest, dogs and humans love to cuddle one another. It just feels right.

dog helping human
Photo credit: 947051, Pixabay

Why Do Dogs Like to Cuddle?

By nature, dogs are pack animals and like to cuddle for a few reasons.

  • Bonding: Dogs use cuddling to bond and show love and trust with their humans or other animals.
  • Warmth: Dogs use cuddling to get warm and cozy.
  • To feel good: When cuddling, dogs’ brains emit oxytocin (a hormone that makes them feel good).

Young dogs may get excited by cuddling. For instance, if you grab their face and smooch them in an upbeat way, this may lead to excitement and running around in a playful manner.

With some dogs, cuddling can lead to protective aggression toward other people or animals approaching or being nearby.

Your dog may be a compulsive cuddler, or they may be a touch-me-not. Whatever the preference, together, you will become familiar with the times and forms of cuddling that create a bond between the two of you.

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Why Do Humans Like to Cuddle with Dogs?

After a long day, cuddling up with your dog is the absolute best! We snuggle with our pets because we love them, or do we? We may cuddle our pets to show love and affection, but there are other reasons we like to hug our pets that may not be obvious to us. Here are three facts about cuddling that you may not be aware of.

  • Like dogs, cuddling strengthens your bond with your pet and releases oxytocin (a feel-good hormone) and can reduce sadness, anxiety, and stress.
  • Cuddling your pet reduces cortisol (the stress hormone), helping you to feel happier and more relaxed. Some studies suggest that it can lower the risk of having a stroke.
  • Your dog deserves a loving relationship that leads to a lifetime of respect and loyalty for both of you.
dog laying close to a sleeping man
Photo Credit: Jamie Street, Unsplash

Knowing if a Dog Wants to Cuddle

According to Stanley Coren, a psychology expert, 81.6% of online photos he reviewed showed dogs that appeared stressed, anxious, or uncomfortable getting hugged by their owners. It’s important to let your dog give you a cue that it wants to cuddle.

Signs a dog is uncomfortable and needs space:
  • Snarling or showing teeth
  • Growling
  • Appearing tense
  • Keeping its distance
  • Pinning its ears
  • Weight shifting

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Cuddling a Strange Dog

It seems that when people see a dog, they want to pet it and give it attention. If a dog is friendly and social, they will eat it up! There are some, however, that may feel threatened or anxious and may not want to be touched by a stranger. Asking the owner if you can interact with the dog is the safest way to go. Only then should you attempt to engage with a strange dog.

Signs a Strange Dog Wants Attention From You

  • Leaning against or into you or loosely wiggling their body
  • Relaxed face and eyes
  • Mouth appears soft and hanging open

You can continue to show affection to the dog if they are exhibiting a relaxed, friendly behavior and appears to be enjoying the affection.

person reaching out to dog
Photo Credit: Jarmoluk, Pixabay

Do All Dogs Like to Cuddle?

Other than personal accounts from owners, there are no studies or research comparing a tendency toward cuddling amongst dog breeds.

These breeds include:
  • Labradors
  • Pomeranians
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Chihuahuas
  • Pugs
  • Newfoundland
  • Maltese
  • Shih Tzus

Again, dogs like to cuddle at certain times and in various ways. There’s no specific breed that is the least or most affectionate. It just depends on the dog.

Pet Therapy dog visiting hospital
Image credit: Monkey Business Images, Shutterstock

What About Therapy Dogs? Do They Cuddle With People?

Therapy dogs are usually household pets that visit patients at hospitals, nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities. They are known to help improve the mental health of the patients. Therapy dogs also assist in psychological therapy. They assist in improving anxiety, mood, social skills, and depression. They provide companionship, comfort, a distraction to uncomfortable situations, and improve the development of relationships within the process of therapy.

Sometimes, these dogs are in schools to aid in stress and reduce anxiety. Universities and colleges sometimes hold events called “Therapy Fluffies” (use of therapy dogs to help students de-stress) during mid-terms and final exams and “Paws to Relax”, a program used to help students cope in situations like car accidents or suicides.

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Dogs give us so much joy and happiness. With an eagerness to please, love that is unconditional, and loyalty like no other, it’s no wonder that we refer to them as “man’s best friend.”  Whether it’s a household pet, a dog you meet at the park, or a therapy dog, the research suggests so many benefits associated with cuddling a dog. Then, of course, there’s just the sheer joy of it!

Featured Image Credit: Albina Glisic, Shutterstock

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