Dogs like to cuddle, whether it be with you on the course, the bed or even just sitting together on the floor. It may seem a little odd, but it’s also rather endearing. The question though is why do they do it? It seems like such a human thing to do, after all. Did they pick this behavior up from us or is this natural for all animals?
If you look at the wild counterpart to the domesticated dog, you will see that dogs will often times sleep together, especially in the winter. However, they will do this more than just when they are cold, or when they are sleeping.
All animals enjoy companionship to some extent. Dogs, as pack animals, crave affection and attention and are constantly looking for closeness with their pack. Cuddling is not a human learned trained, but it is instinctual. Their desire to give and receive affection is what makes them man’s best friend and a favored companion to all ages.
The act of cuddling for dogs is similar to what it is for humans. A sign of love and affection. They are wanting to cuddle with you because they care about you. They simply want to be close to you, and while it may sometimes happen at inopportune times such as when you are trying to sleep, they are merely showing affection.
It may also be a defensive or protective measure. There are many stories of dogs who will cuddle close to their owner when they are hurt or injured. EMTs often find dogs next to their owners when they arrive to help out. Most of these dogs do not attack the EMTs who arrive to help, which indicates that it might also, in these cases and in general, be a comforting gesture.
It would make sense that these dogs who are by their owners are trying to comfort them, as not only is it proven that companionship comforts people when they are upset or hurt, but specifically pets do so in more cases than not. Even if you are not injured, but merely upset, your dog may sense this emotion and seek to calm you.
Cuddling up to you and sharing their body warmth, and very often allowing you to pet them, in doing so, they hope to make you happy. “Studies have shown that having a dog makes you a happier, healthier person.” Says Richard, a Vet Tech in Herriman, UT. “It is probably because they do offer comfort.”
While their wild counterparts are not as prone to cuddling as the domesticated dog is, it is possible that this is because they have picked up on not only our own need for affection, but our willingness to give it. Domesticated dogs are often permanently in the puppy stage, and even in the wild, puppies are showered with affection of the rest of the pack. They are commonly cuddling with their pack mates for any reason, at any time.
Because we treat them like puppies in other aspects of their life, they see cuddling as something that they can still do at any time. When we are willing to cuddle back, this reinforces the idea, and it trains them to continue to do so. It is not a bad thing, however, if your dog wants to cuddle.
Though it can sometimes be frustrating if you are not the kind of dog owner who wants your dog on the furniture or sleeping on your bed, or they have grown too big for this behavior. Though this is instinctual, it is possible to train the behavior away entirely. If you reward the dog for staying in their own bed instead of jumping into yours, they will learn that sleeping in their own bed is the correct behavior and gets them the affection they want.
Whether you enjoy the behavior or it annoys you at times, cuddling is a sign of affection in dogs, just as it is in humans. Simply enjoy it and the knowledge that your dog is doing it because they care about you just as much (if not more) than you care about them.