While you're swiping for your future lover or missing your boo while they're on a work trip, let's talk about your #1 cuddle buddy and how they really feel about your year-round cuddle sessions!
Do Dogs Like to Cuddle?
Just like us, dogs are social animals who show affection and love through physical contact. When they were puppies, they slept snuggled up with their mom and siblings. As adults, they rely on physical proximity and grooming to build bonds with their packmates and say “I feel safe around you.” The day you brought your pup home, you became their pack, and they bond with you just like they bond with other dogs—including by cuddling.
Although many dogs are naturally cuddly pets, not every dog wants to be smothered in hugs and kisses. Some dog breeds tend to be more inclined to cuddling (looking at you, lap dogs), but each dog’s unique personality will actually dictate how much they like to snuggle. Some usually snuggly pugs might prefer a hands off relationship, while a stereotypically standoffish shiba inu may be convinced they were born to be a lap dog!
Pay attention to your dog’s body language when you’re going in for a cuddle to see if they’re enjoying it as much as you are. A little observation of their nonverbal cues can reveal what types of affection make your dog the happiest. For instance, while humans love hugs, many dogs find them uncomfortably restrictive and would prefer a nice belly rub snuggled up by your side.
Make sure to advocate for your dog’s preferences with other people, too! Young children are especially prone to running directly into a dog’s face and giving them attention which might make them very uncomfortable—leading to so-called “behavior problems” when your dog tries to maintain their boundaries. Knowing your dog can help them have more positive interactions with new people and build their trust in you as you stand up for their comfort.
There are some dogs who just aren’t cuddlers, and that’s okay (and a great excuse to add a new cuddly dog or cat to your pack). While you might be bummed to miss out on the cuddle sessions you were hoping for, you can still build a beautiful relationship with your dog by showing your affection in their doggy love language—whether that’s play time, long walks, or plenty of treats.
The Benefits of Cuddling Your Dog
For the dogs that do love cuddling, you and your pooch are in luck! There are serious scientific benefits to kicking back on the couch with your pup on your lap.
Cuddles Build Bonds
Studies show that cuddling releases oxytocin—sometimes called the “love hormone”—for humans and dogs alike! Oxytocin is the same hormone that’s related to our instincts to take care of a child and the bond we have with our loved ones, and you and your dog build that same connection when you snuggle up. That’s just one of the many reasons you have such an unshakable bond!
Cuddles Soothe Stress
Cortisol is a hormone that plays a major role in feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression (oof). Studies show that just 10 minutes of petting a dog can drop your cortisol levels, meaning that cuddling your dog can help you find some moments of zen when you’re bogged down with stress. There’s a reason dogs make such good therapy animals!
Cuddles Improve Your Health
The powerful combination of increased oxytocin and decreased cortisol (and all the joy your dog brings to your life, of course) might just be partially responsible for the health boosts dog owners experience! Sharing your life with a dog has been linked to lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and a lower chance of developing heart disease. That means if anyone asks, you can say you’re staying in and cuddling your dog for your health.
It turns out a little physical touch can go a long way to helping you and your dog feel loved—and provide a whole bunch of physical and mental health benefits to boot. Isn’t it nice when science supports what you were definitely going to keep doing anyway? You can spend a little extra time snuggled up with your pup tonight and feel good doing it.