How Do Dogs Choose Whom To Snuggle With?

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My dog is a small 10.5 pound mini-pinscher and papillon mix who loves a bit of cuddle time. My boyfriend and I learned early on that her favorite spot is to snuggle in the center of your legs when you sit in butterfly pose — feet together, knees bent, legs open. When she sees this position as we sit on the couch and read or watch TV, she's like a magnet to that spot, which gives her the perfect amount of room to ball up and snuggle.

However, with our dog, and with lots of dogs, right before she settles in, we notice a conundrum. She looks at both me and my boyfriend, sitting in the optimum position, trying to decide who to cuddle with. And that got us wondering — what goes through a dog's head at that point, when they're making the decision to snuggle? Is there a reason why dogs prefer one cuddle buddy over the other? Or is it totally random?

No matter whose lap they choose, there's no denying that dogs love to cuddle.

While we definitely love that our dogs often snuggle, and we get a lot of joy from it, cuddles actually come from a practical place. Dogs cuddle for warmth, because they are feeling chilly. While we might put on a sweater or snuggle under a blanket, our dogs use us as their blanket.

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Dogs also cuddle as a way of showing their affection for us, and we definitely feel that from them. This is why it feels so rewarding to have your dog come up to you unprompted and snuggle right up. But if you're in a family, you may notice that sometimes your dog seems to prefer one snuggle buddy over the other, and we want to understand why that is.

Dogs sometimes choose their favorite cuddle person based on early socialization and chemistry.

From birth until about six months old, puppies are in heavy socialization mode. They absorb everything, and some of the things they are exposed to at this early stage will set a pattern for life. So if you cuddled with your puppy at this early time, chances are your dog will always love to cuddle with you.

As with humans, dogs can also have chemistry with a specific person. Somehow they understand each other on a fundamental level. While this may be how they initially choose their favorite humans, others can definitely work their way into a dog's affections with the right behavior.

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Because dogs cuddle to show their close bond with their humans, they will often snuggle with the human they are most bonded to.

Bonds between dogs and their people can't always be forced, but for the most part, dogs bond with the humans who take care of them, positively influence their lives, and offer them affection in return. If you're looking to deepen the bond with your pup, physical affection is key. Petting, playing, and cuddling can all help strengthen that bond with your dog. And when they start to associate you with physical affection, your dog will usually continue that pattern by seeking out cuddles.

Dogs make a lot of their decisions based on positive associations.

We train our dogs to do what we want using positive reinforcement. They sit when asked, and they get a treat. They do their doggie business outside, and they get a treat. But as part of this process, we are conditioning their brains to make choices that they think will get them treats or other positive things. Dogs' brains start to develop an emotional response to that positive association, so their brains want more of it. That's why usually, dogs choose to cuddle with the person whom they share the most positive association. That person may be someone who trains them and gives them treats, plays with them, spends the most time with them, or feeds them.

As their human who would like some more cuddle time, you want to be a positive influence in their life. If you feel like they aren't moving in your direction for cuddles, then you can make a little snuggle time with you even more appealing. Place a favorite blanket of theirs next to you. Offer up a toy or something to chew. Eventually, your pup will learn that cuddling with you means a pretty awesome day. Don't worry, their positive associations will linger even after you stop bribing them for cuddles. Because pretty soon, the sight of you on the couch will trigger a positive emotional response, without the added treats or rewards.

Getting your dog to cuddle with you more often usually requires that your dog already loves cuddles.

However, not all dogs are cuddlers, so if your pup isn't, know that they show affection in other ways.

Though cuddling is a common way that our canines show affection, it isn't the only way. Some dogs just don't like snuggling up that close with their human. If that's your dog, you probably won't be able to "teach" them to snuggle. Instead, focus on some of the other ways that your dog shows affection. Maybe it follows you everywhere or sits in its bed whenever you're in the room. Other dogs show affection by wagging their tail, jumping on you, licking, or even smiling at you.

Chihuahua dog is a happy smile.
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So even if you aren't your pup's go-to snuggle spot, don't fret! We bet you still have your canine's undying love and affection, which are the emotional snuggles that we all need from our pets.