Those moments when our dogs choose to be right next to us, the times when our dogs initiate closeness. So why do dogs like to cuddle?
Dogs Like Cuddling Because It Provides Warmth
The biggest clues when it comes to figuring out why dogs love to cuddle with us is the definition itself: ‘to cuddle is to hold close for warmth or comfort or in affection.’
If you’ve ever seen a puppy pile you know how adorable it is. But besides being the cutest thing ever it makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint. Puppies snuggle with one another to keep warm. When you get cold you can snuggle up under a blanket or put on some extra layer, for our dogs it’s not that easy.
Cuddling with humans was an important part of canine domestication. Early dogs helped us hunt and alerted us to danger, but we also helped each other out by cuddling and keeping each other warm. In fact, the term “three dog night” refers to those really cold nights when humans had to cuddle up with 3 dogs to keep from freezing to death.
Cuddling Provides Affection
But cuddling isn’t just about warmth – it’s also a way to show affection. Cuddling, and showing affection in general, is one way in which our dogs strengthen their bond with us. Researchers have even found that bonding with their owners is more important to dogs than it is to other pets. (sorry cat lovers)
The long evolutionary relationship we’ve had with dogs has reinforced many of the traits we see today in our pet dogs. We have a very intimate bond with our dogs, and that feeling seems to be mutual. There’s a special bond between humans and dogs, and it’s demonstrated by the amount of affection we show one another.
The Science Behind Dogs Cuddling
Cuddling is also a great stress reliever. Petting and talking to a dog for just a few minutes has been shown to increase oxytocin levels in both dogs and humans. Oxytocin, often referred to as the love hormone, is associated with social bonding and trust. New research found that human-dog interactions can elicit the same positive hormonal response that mothers have with their infants.
Researchers suggest that the strong ability of dogs to bond with humans played a crucial role in their domestication. The theory is that in the wild the dogs that were able to bond with humans were the ones that received human care and protection. And yes, much of that bonding surely included cuddles.
Why Do Some Dogs Cuddle More Than Others?
So why do some dogs like to cuddle more than others? Well, genetics is certainly one part of it. Some dogs have been bred to be independent and less affectionate, while others are bred for the opposite.
Certain breeds such as the Maltese, Pomeranian and Yorkshire Terrier have been bred to be lap dogs. Lap dogs are small enough to be held in our lap and to have a temperament predisposed to do so.
But there’s more than just genetics at work. Some dogs are just more affectionate than others. Some dogs don’t cuddle much, if at all. My previous dog Carter had a funny way of showing affection. He was a total velcro dog (followed me around everywhere), yet he wasn’t fond of cuddling. At least not when touching was involved.
He’d get up on the couch with me, but he’d stay a few inches away. I called it his ‘personal space’ issue. Now when bad weather was on the way? He’d jump into my lap in a heartbeat. So he’d still come to me for comfort when he was afraid, but daily cuddles weren’t his thing.
Dogs have their own unique personalities, and not all of them are super cuddly or affectionate. Dogs are just like people in that way; some people love hugs, and others are a little more standoffish.
Why Your Dog Cuddles Less in the Summer
Some dogs don’t like to cuddle because of the heat. Laika loves to cuddle, but there’s a definite slow down on cuddle time in the summer. Our dogs have a higher body temperature than we do, and it’s harder for them to cool down. Cuddling produces a lot of heat, so when it’s really hot out your dog might not cuddle because they’re just trying to keep cool.