How Do Dogs Choose Whom To Snuggle With?

Woman holding her pet dog
Snuggling is one way that dogs show their love.
credit: Sally Anscombe/Moment/GettyImages

Dogs show their love for us in many ways. One of the best is when our dogs snuggle right up next to us on the bed or sofa, and even rest their head on our lap. As pet owners, we definitely love that our dogs often choose to snuggle with us for warmth and comfort. But why do some dogs snuggle with some people and not with others?

It's been said that dogs choose their owners. And perhaps it's true. Psychology Today reported on a study in which dog owners rated their dogs on five personality traits. The study, published in the journal Applied Animal Behavior Science, reported that the dog owners rated their dogs as having similar personalities to themselves in all five of the personality traits measured.

How do dogs choose?

The Animal Channel gave some info on how dogs choose their favorite person. They said that's its a complicated mix of factors including early socialization and positive associations with the person. When a dog is socialized from birth to 6 months, this period influences their behavior towards humans for the rest of their lives. The people that spend the most time socializing the puppy during this crucial period are the ones that the dog is likely to want to snuggle with.

If a dog has come from a shelter or from another home, they may have already gone through their socializing period with other people. They may need more time to develop a snuggle-worthy bond with the new people in their lives.

Dog cuddling dominance

In a video interview, dog trainer Cesar Milan stated that dog cuddling and dominance are related. He says that when a dog is in a state of dominance, they're not really good cuddlers. He said that a leader likes to be by himself, while a dog who is a follower is more likely to want affection. He suggests that ignoring the dog more often can make him seek out his owner more often, which could make him want to snuggle more.

Dogs sleep cycle

If it seems like your dog sleeps all day, that's not too far from the truth. The American Kennel Club explains that dogs spend about 50% of the day actively sleeping — that means the average dogs spends 12 to 14 hours of the 24-hour day sleeping. Thirty percent of their time is spent awake but lying around, and only 20% of their day is spent being active. If your dog is cuddling you at sleep time and not anyone else in the house, it could simply be because your dog's sleep cycle matches up with your own.

Dogs are naturally pack animals and they love to sleep with their pack. In the wild, the more tightly they sleep, the better, because snuggling together offers warmth and protection. If your dog considers you the leader of the pack, he will likely want to sleep close to you.

Dogs that don't cuddle

The question is less about dog breeds that don't like to cuddle than why a particular dog of any breed may not like to cuddle. Mercola says that rather than being a sign that he is rejecting you, it could mean that he does not like the way you are cuddling him. In one study of 28 dogs who were petted in nine different ways, most of the dogs showed signs of being uncomfortable when petted on the top of the head or paw.

If you're trying to pet your dog on top of the head, instead try scratches at the base of the tail, shoulder, or chest. Mercola suggests considering if pain or some other issue such as an injury is causing a dog who formerly liked to cuddle to not like to cuddle anymore. Some dogs prefer to be near you but not sit right next to you, and a dog with this personality may not like cuddling as much.