American author Dean Koontz says, "Petting, scratching, and cuddling a dog could be as soothing to the mind and heart as deep meditation, and almost as good for the soul as prayer."
Anyone who has ever loved a dog would likely agree. And it turns out that our dogs love us just as much, if not more than we love them. Cuddling is one of the many mutually enjoyable ways to show your love, and canine studies prove that dogs like cuddles as much as we do.
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Whether you cuddle with your dog on the sofa watching TV, while you slumber or during a break in obedience class, it's a sweet moment to be savored with your furry best friend.
How long have humans and dogs been snuggling?
The science of cuddling and other forms of contact with our dogs is the intriguing subject of scientific research. Although dogs have lived alongside us for 18,000-32,000 years, only recently are our human-canine relationships under such intense scrutiny. New studies about dogs are popping up everywhere from Yale and Duke University to centers exclusively devoted to ongoing canine research such as The Center for Canine Behavior Studies spearheaded by the renowned, pioneering veterinarian and research scientist, Dr. Nicolas Dodman, dubbed the "fur-and-feathers Oliver Sacks" by the New York Times. Canine testing runs the gamut from evaluating dogs' intelligence and analyzing their emotional life to diagnosing and treating their human-induced neuroses.
When it comes to researching the affection between the two species, studies show that dogs like petting more than our verbal terms of endearment. They also like cuddling for a couple of good reasons. Aside from the affection and attention, cuddling releases the "love hormone" oxytocin, which acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain and is produced in virtually all vertebrates. This feel-good neuropeptide imparts feelings of not only love but also empathy and trust. It is a vital ingredient in social bonding in all animal species.
Cuddling with humans means evolutionary success for dogs.
Dogs are quick studies of human behavior, and they learned many thousands of years ago that interacting with people benefited them. Cozying up to humans provided dogs with warmth, shelter, food, and protection. Dogs also proved themselves indispensable to humans by keeping us warm and safe at night.
To even further the human-canine bond, dogs developed their uncanny ability to gaze into our eyes with that unmistakable "look of love," which not even their brilliant ancestor, the wolf, has mastered. Then to seal the deal, dogs invited human affection such as verbal praise, petting, belly rubs, ear-scratching, and cuddles. This has been the dogs' recipe for success in a nutshell.
Do some dog breeds prefer to cuddle more than others?
Like people, dogs are individuals, and not everybody loves hands-on affection. Unique personalities aside, dogs are also ruled by genetics that play a quintessential role in their behavior and temperament. Bred by human design to be independent and think for themselves, dogs such as the barkless, African basenji, elegant Russian borzoi, stubborn Korean jindo, and hardworking Alaskan malamute don't expect a lot of attention and may not relish a cuddle. Consider a dog's genetics, individuality, and the undeniable influence of environment and learning, and you'll see how one dog can be a touchy-feely cuddler while another is standoffish and reserved. There's plenty of other ways to show your love, so if your dog isn't game for a cuddle, skip it.
But for more demonstrative dogs, cuddle away! While lapdogs like the Yorkshire terrier, Maltese, pomeranian, papillon, and toy poodle may crave a cuddle, many gentle giants like great Danes, Newfoundlands, and mastiffs are also born for cuddling. What more can anyone ask? Bright eyes, a tail that happily wags, a perpetual grin, unwavering loyalty, unconditional love and boundless enthusiasm for life all wrapped up in a furry package that loves to cuddle!
Do dogs like hugs?
The art of the cuddle is a comfy, loose snuggle and arguably not a "hug." The recently maligned hug is a restraining cuddle that limits the dog's movement and which many dogs dislike.
Dogs often initiate an authentic cuddle, a warm dose of reassurance for him and you, and an instant, natural stress-reliever.
Dogs may not like a snuggle in hot weather.
Dogs are like furry hot water bottles with a body temperature between 101-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. That extra couple of degrees is warmer than our 98.6 degrees, which makes a cozy difference on a cold, winter's night under the stars. No wonder dogs snuggled their way into our hearts and beds throughout the ages. But this warm edge may make cuddling a seasonal sport. You may find that your dog is not so cuddly on a hot, summer night. But her loving cuddles on a frosty winter morn more than makes up for the summertime cuddle shortage.
Like many of life's simple gestures and pleasures, there's more to cuddling your dog than meets the eye. This delightful human-canine embrace is an art form that is firmly rooted in science throughout history.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
- MIC: Brain Scans Reveal What Dogs Really Think About Us
- Puppy Leaks: Why Do Dogs Like to Cuddle
- Scientific American: Is the Gaze from Those Big Puppy Eyes the Look of Your Doggie's Love?
- Psychology Today: Is That a Dog in Your Bed?
- The Washington Post: Your Dog Can Make You Feel Better, and Here’s Why
- Psychology Today: Oxytocin Pair Bonding
- Rover: The 11 Least Affectionate Dog Breeds
- Meet Your Dog Book: L.E.G.S (Learning, Environment, Genetics, Self)
- Vet Street: The 13 Cuddliest Dog Breeds
- Center for Canine Behavior Studies: About
- Center For Canine Behavior Studies: The Animal Ownership Interaction Study
- Cell Picture Show: Voice-Sensitive Regions in the Dog and Human Brain Are Revealed by Comparative fMRI
- Country Living: