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Why Do Dogs Love to Cuddle? Exploring the Reasons Behind Canine Affection

Why Do Dogs Love to Cuddle

As much as we enjoy snuggling with our furry friends, have you ever stopped to wonder why dogs love to cuddle with their human companions? Dogs have an innate ability to warm our hearts and provide comfort. 

Their fluffy fur, wagging tails, and affectionate behavior make them the ultimate cuddle buddies. Even when they stink and are in desperate need of some doggy deodorant, we can’t help but allow a few snuggles.

In this article, we explore the science behind canine cuddling and the benefits it provides for both dogs and humans. Clive Wynne’s Dog Is Love gives insight into why and how our pups love their humans and want to cuddle.

Why Do Dogs Love To Cuddle?

Dogs are known for their loyalty and affection towards their owners, and cuddling is a way for them to express their love and affection. Dogs view their human companions as family and pack members and seek emotional connections through physical affection.

Cuddling is an essential part of human interactions. Several studies have shown that physical contact between humans increases the release of the hormone oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone.” This hormone plays a crucial role in forming emotional bonds and helps establish trust and social connections.

But did you know that cuddling is not just important for humans, but for dogs too? In fact, recent research has shown that dogs also experience an increase in oxytocin levels when they cuddle with their owners. It also explains why dogs get so excited when their owners arrive home and rush to greet them with cuddles and tail wags.

Bonding and To Show Affection

Dogs have all kinds of behaviors to show that they love us, and cuddling is one of them. They’re hard-wired to stay physically close to their loved ones, as we can see from wolves and wild dogs.

Moreover, cuddling helps to reduce stress levels in dogs. Dogs are sensitive animals and can experience anxiety and stress, especially when they are separated from their owners. Cuddling helps to alleviate these feelings by providing a sense of security and comfort. 

Cuddling Releases All These Happy Hormones

Oxytocin is a hormone that is released in response to physical touch and social bonding. When dogs cuddle with their owners, they experience an increase in oxytocin levels, which helps to strengthen the bond between them. This hormone is also responsible for creating a sense of well-being and happiness, which is why dogs are often so content when they are cuddled by their owners.

Furthermore, oxytocin plays a crucial role in socialization. Dogs are social animals, and they rely on physical contact to establish social connections and hierarchy. When dogs cuddle with their owners, they mimic this behavior and view their owners as valuable pack members. 

This behavior also serves as a calming influence, as dogs release hormones such as serotonin when they cuddle. This hormone helps reduce anxiety levels and provides a sense of security and comfort.

The Pack Mentality and Socialization

The pack mentality is an essential aspect of canine behavior. In the wild, dogs live in packs and rely on each other for survival. In the wild, as we can see in ancestors like wolves, canines of the same pack sleep together, and cuddling mimics this physical proximity. 

This is also why your dog has other behaviors like laying on you, and It’s because you’re their pack, and they act accordingly. Although the concept of alphas in dogs has been debunked, dogs do engage in submissive or appeasement behaviors such as nibbling your ears or licking your nose

Socialization is a crucial aspect of pack life, and physical touch plays a significant role in establishing and maintaining social connections. When dogs cuddle with their owners, they are mimicking the behavior they would exhibit in the wild, establishing a social connection and hierarchy within their “pack.”

The Comfort of Physical Touch

Physical touch is also essential for dogs’ well-being. Like humans, dogs have sensory receptors all over their bodies that respond to touch. When their owners stroke or pet them, they experience a sense of pleasure and comfort, especially when they get a good belly rub.

The Warmth and Comfort

Cuddling also provides dogs with warmth, which is essential, especially in colder climates. It is no wonder that dogs seek out physical contact with their owners and enjoy cuddling so much. Even if they’re not cold, the warmth from their owners uplifts their mood, much like the warmth from sunbathing.

They Feel Safe Around You 

Behaviors like cuddling and even others like staying by your feet show that your dog feels comfortable and safe around you. While dogs protect us, we also protect them. Enhancing physical proximity by cuddling is your dog’s way of feeling more protected.

Cuddling can also help alleviate anxiety and stress in dogs, especially during unfamiliar or unsettling situations. 


Dogs crave attention and affection from their owners, and cuddling is a way for them to receive them undividedly. It makes them feel valued and cherished, strengthening the emotional bond between dogs and their owners.

Do Dogs Like It When You Cuddle Them?

Do Dogs Like It When You Cuddle Them?

How dogs feel about cuddling varies by individual, so it’s crucial to know your dog well to know if they like it. However, most dogs love to be cuddled and receive physical affection from their owners, especially if they initiate the cuddling session.

Cuddling can provide dogs with a sense of comfort, security, and bonding, explaining why they would like it. Reading your dog’s body language will help you know if they like it when you cuddle them.

Some signs that your dog doesn’t particularly like cuddling include:

  • Licking their mouths constantly
  • They are stiff when you cuddle them
  • Shaking 
  • Pinning their ears back
  • Averting their gaze
  • Showing the whites of their eyes

When people ignore these early signs that a dog does not want to be touched, the dog may escalate to biting or nipping, as in this video:

The Benefits of Cuddling for Dogs and Humans

Cuddling has several benefits for both dogs and humans. It is a wonderful way to express love and affection towards your furry friend and can strengthen the bond between you two.

Stress Relief and Emotional Support

The release of oxytocin, also known as the “cuddle hormone,” in both dogs and humans is beneficial in providing emotional support and reducing stress levels. This hormone is released when dogs and humans cuddle, creating a sense of happiness and well-being. It helps form emotional bonds between the dog and owner and provides a sense of security and comfort.

Studies have shown that cuddling can also help reduce anxiety and depression in both dogs and humans. It can create a calming effect and promote relaxation, which is especially beneficial during times of stress or uncertainty.

Strengthening the Bond Between Dog and Owner

Cuddling is an excellent way to strengthen the bond between a dog and its owner. It creates a shared experience and fosters a sense of trust and connection. When you cuddle with your dog, you are showing them that you love and care for them, which can help build their confidence and sense of security.

Additionally, cuddling helps in enabling the pack mentality and the dog’s role as a loyal companion. By cuddling with your dog, you are acknowledging their importance in your life and showing them that they are a valued member of your family.

Health Benefits for Both Parties

Cuddling also has health benefits for both dogs and humans. It can help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease. It also helps increase dopamine levels, which is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in pleasure and happiness.

For dogs, cuddling can help alleviate joint pain and stiffness, as well as promote better sleep. It can also boost their immune system and improve their overall well-being.

For humans, cuddling can help reduce stress levels and improve mood. It can also help promote better sleep and reduce the risk of developing depression.

Why Do Some Dogs Like To Cuddle and Others Don’t? 

Why Do Some Dogs Like To Cuddle and Others Don’t? 

Not all d enjoy cuddling equally, explaining why different dogs may or may not like to cuddle. Some breeds are known for their affectionate nature, while others may prefer to keep their distance or express their love in other ways.

Breeds Known for Their Affectionate Nature

Breeds such as Golden Retrievers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and Labrador Retrievers are known for their cuddly nature. They enjoy physical contact and seek out their owner’s attention and affection. 

However, a study including over 2000 dogs and 18,000 dog owners found that breed is a poor indicator of individual behavior. This means that even breeds that traditionally love to be affectionate may not, and the less affectionate ones may love to cuddle. 

Dog Breeds That May Not Like To Cuddle

On the other hand, breeds such as Basenjis and Shiba Inus may not be as cuddly and may prefer to keep their distance. This behavior is typical of more independent dog breeds, who may view physical affection as a sign of submission.

Factors That Influence a Dog’s Cuddling Behavior

The way a dog is raised and its individual personality play a significant role in its cuddling behavior. Dogs who were not socialized as puppies may be fearful and anxious and may not enjoy physical contact. Similarly, some dogs may have experienced trauma, leading them to become fearful or aggressive toward physical contact.

How to Encourage Healthy Cuddling Habits

Cuddling can be a great way to bond with your dog, provided that it is done in a healthy and respectful manner. Sometimes, either you or your dog are not really up for cuddles, and it’s important to respect each other’s boundaries. 

Here are some tips to encourage healthy cuddling habits:

Creating a Safe and Comfortable Environment

Create a safe and comfortable environment for your dog to cuddle. Provide a comfortable bed or blanket, fresh water, and ensure that your dog is adequately fed and exercised.

Positive Reinforcement and Training

Use positive reinforcement and training to encourage healthy cuddling habits. Reward your dog with treats and praise for good behavior, and limit physical contact if your dog shows signs of discomfort or aggression.

Respecting Your Dog’s Boundaries

Respect your dog’s boundaries and be mindful of their body language. If your dog shows signs of discomfort or anxiety, it’s essential to respect their boundaries and avoid physical contact until they are ready.

Why Do Dogs Love Cuddling At Night?

Dogs may love cuddling at night because it helps them feel safe and secure, provides warmth, and promotes relaxation and bonding before bedtime. Perhaps a nervous dog wants a bit more comfort after a long day of day, also manifesting in other ways like restlessness and panting

Additionally, dogs are generally more receptive to physical affection and social interaction during quiet and calm nighttime hours. If you let your dog sleep in your bed, the night also gives them a chance and time to get some snuggles.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Dogs Like Being Hugged?

Experts agree that hugging can be stressful for dogs because it makes them feel trapped. Some dogs may enjoy being hugged, while others may find it uncomfortable or even stressful. It depends on the individual dog’s personality and past experiences, making reading body language essential. 

Why is My Dog Extra Affectionate Lately?

Sudden affectionate behavior can mean that your dog is a bit anxious or stressed and needs your comfort. You may also be going through a physical change, like having a baby on its way or an illness, and your pup wants to be there for you.

Why Do Dogs Love Cuddling in the Morning?

Dogs give you extra cuddles in the morning because they’re excited to see you after a long night apart. This is especially true if your dog is crate-trained or spends the night in another room.

Final Thoughts 

Cuddling is an essential part of the bond between dogs and their human companions. It provides emotional support, reduces stress levels, and strengthens the connection between dog and owner. By understanding the science behind canine cuddling and respecting your dog’s boundaries, you can create a healthy and loving environment that encourages physical affection and emotional connection.


Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.

Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

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