Why Does My Dog Like To Cuddle?
[Updated Guide]

Aaron Rice Expert Dog Trainer
Written: January 17, 2022

Dogs are highly affectionate animals who have been bonding with us humans for thousands of years. 

Whether your pet is a tiny Jack Russell or a 75lb German Shepherd, there’s nothing better than a good snuggle with your dog after a long day at the office. Dogs are always happy to see us, and even happier to give us a warm, comforting embrace when we arrive home. 

But why do dogs like to cuddle so much? Are they merely showing affection, or is there something else going on? To help answer that question, we’ve conducted a deep dive into the behavior of our four-legged friends. Dogs, who are descended from older canines such as the wolf, are highly social animals who are highly responsive to the non-verbal communication and body language cues that we are constantly emitting. 

Let’s take a look at the behaviors of our oldest friends and find out how they staked their place as the world’s most popular human companion.

Dogs Like to Cuddle to Show Bonding and Affection

Dogs are social animals that thrive on bonding with their human owners. As mammals, they are extremely protective over their families and regularly engage in cuddling sessions with them to help demonstrate their affection. 

A cuddling session releases oxytocin, known as the love hormone, into your dog’s system as they are cuddling you. In ancient times, cuddling was essential in providing adequate body heat to sustain long, cold nights out in the elements. Whilst most dogs don’t have to worry about this anymore, the penchant for cuddles (and the need for oxytocin) remain to this day. 

Dogs are also highly loyal animals. Research has shown that dogs cuddle their owners to express feelings of gratitude, love, appreciation, and loyalty. Your dog may not be able to vocalize their appreciation of everything you do for it, but a good old hug is definitely an acceptable substitute

There’s also an evolutionary element to a dog’s affection. As the canine’s status increased with humans, only the most loyal and hardworking dogs were showered with praise, food, and attention. As generations passed, the animals became more and more conditioned to behaving well, working hard, and snuggling up with their masters at the end of a workday. 

Your pup is subsequently hardwired with thousands of years of affectionate and loving behavior. They are born wanting to forge loving relationships with humans and will demonstrate affectionate behaviors with those that they know and trust. 

Why Do Some Dogs Like to Cuddle More Than Others?

Whilst dogs are certainly not as independent as cats, certain breeds will still be more aloof than others. Much like us humans, dogs are products of their environments, and their tolerance for cuddles will vary depending on the individual. 

Working dogs tend to be raised in much different environments than lap dogs, for example, and may not be as prone to jumping on your knees as you sit on the sofa each night. Other dogs may enjoy cuddling for only a brief amount of time before seeking their own space again. How you raise your dog will be a huge deciding factor in whether or not they enjoy a prolonged cuddling session. 

Dogs Cuddle More in the Winter

Ever wondered why your dog loves snuggling you so much during the cold winter months? Well, that’s because of the significant amount of body heat that’s generated when they huddle next to you

However, this causes a problem for your pup during the summer. As dogs have a higher internal and external temperature than us, cuddling becomes uncomfortable for dogs, and they often retreat to cooler parts of the house in order to chill out

How Do I Encourage My Dog to Cuddle More?

If you wish that your dog was more cuddly, there are a few things you can do to encourage the behavior. Remember that changing your dog’s habits will take time, and some dogs may resist your plans at first

It’s important, then, to reward cuddly behavior. Studies have shown that a dog’s brain responds far more positively to praise than food, so be sure to shower your pup with affection once it starts cuddling you. Over time, they will associate cuddles with praise, and they will begin to become less standoffish as the nights go on

However, it’s vital that you do not force the issue. Dogs can be incredibly stubborn, and it may take some patience before they learn to become a first-class cuddler. Keep in mind that affection is a two-way street – you have to show affection to your dog before they reciprocates! Dogs are always keen to impress their owners, so encouraging cuddling behavior should, hopefully, be met with enthusiasm and eagerness. 

Final Thoughts

Dogs have been by our sides for thousands of years. As the world around us has changed beyond recognition over the centuries, our enduring relationships with canines remain as solid as ever. 

Dogs will always be by our sides, ready to welcome us home with a warm and loving embrace.