Why Does Your Dog Want to Cuddle With You? (or not)

Two of our grandchildren have wonderful canine companions loved by the entire family. Bella and Drago are more like members of the family than mere pets, to be honest. When asked, “Why does your dog want to cuddle with you?”, they immediately came to mind.

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Bella, a West Highland Terrier is a dynamic diva weighing almost 14 pounds. She joined the family as an enticement for Emma to quit sucking her thumb.


Drago, an English Mastiff, is a gentle giant weighing in at about 160 pounds. He was “Rescued” by the family at about 9-10 weeks of age as a failed foster dog.

Although both Bella and Drago will cuddle with any member of the family, they do have their favorites, as do most dogs. Emma loves to carry, dress and sleep with Bella but her mother, Danielle, is Bella’s favorite!

Drago is an equal opportunity cuddler but is very protective of Emma. Dogs are, generally speaking, cuddlers. The question is, why do they want to cuddle with you?

cuddling enhances mood

In Reflection

Thinking back, I recall that some of our dogs nearly always chose the same person for their cuddle time and others did not. They tended to go back and forth between a couple of family members for their hugs.

We often wondered what went through their minds when making that decision. This was especially true when two or more of us were trying to entice them to come to us instead of someone else.

Besides who might hold their favorite treat, was there something special about one of us that made them choose us? Was it just happenstance?

No matter who they choose, there’s no denying that dogs love to cuddle up with their favorite human.

There is no denying that we enjoy it when our dogs cuddle up for a good snuggle. It is easy to attach human emotions and thoughts to our dogs to explain their actions. Attributing human traits to an animal is called personification.

But, in reality, as much as we love them and as smart as they are, they are canine and we are human. Again, the question remains, why does your dog want to cuddle with you?

When it comes to cuddling, however, dogs enjoy a good snuggle up session for many of the same reasons that we do! Some based on their love and affection for us and some for more practical reasons.

Some similarities with our children

Three of our five children actually slide their feet under the sibling seated next to them on the couch to warm up. Alternatively, they warm up under a blanket or add another layer of clothing to keep warm. Even though dogs have their own furry coat, they may get chilly as well and cuddle to get warm.

The very best cuddles come from the spontaneous affection shown when our dogs initiate the hugs themselves. They put a smile on our faces when they greet us with tails wagging upon our return home from an errand.

A cuddle is especially welcomed and appreciated when or dog picks up on our being sad or upset over something. Occasionally, they seek a hug when they are frightened or anxious themselves. Some emotions are clearly shared by dogs and humans with anxiety, fear, and love being among the most common.

On what basis do they choose their favorite person for cuddling?

Early socialization and chemistry are two of the most important factors determining who a dog is most likely to choose as their favorite cuddle partner. Similar to human babies, the first six months of puppyhood is when basic socialization takes place, setting many patterns for life.

This means that if you, or another human, cuddled with them during that time, they will enjoy cuddling the rest of their lives. If it happened to be you cuddling with them in these early stages, odds are that you will be their go-to human for cuddles later on.

Chemistry and making a bond

Just like with people, there is often special chemistry between a dog and their human companion. The bond between a dog and a specific human companion is not always understood. Again, like with humans, the heart understands what only the heart can understand.

Don’t despair if you are not the one your dog first runs to for a hug. With a little effort, you can earn your dog’s affections.

Dogs often snuggle with the human to which they are most bonded.

Bonds between dogs and their people cannot, and should not, be forced. In general, dogs bond with those who take care of them.  If you can somehow make their lives better and offer them affection, they will form a loving bond with you as well.


Physical affection is the key to strengthening the bond with your dog.

Physical interaction in its many forms can help strengthen the bond you have with your dog. Eventually, they will connect your playing, petting and cuddling them with affection. Most dogs then continue that pattern by seeking out hugs and cuddles.

Dogs make more of their decisions based on positive associations than on negative ones.

Dogs are easier and better trained to do what we want by using positive reinforcement instead of negative ones. In other words, the carrot is more effective than the stick.

They quickly learn basic obedience commands or to do cute tricks when asked. For this, they get a treat. An important part of this process involves conditioning their brains. We are teaching them to make choices based on positive associations.

This is true for both humans and dogs.

Both human and canine brains develop an emotional response to positive associations. Eventually, they crave more of it. This is why most dogs choose to cuddle with the human being with whom they share the most positive associations. The person who trains them gives them treats, plays with them, spends the most time with them, or feeds them is the one they most often choose for affection.

So, Now That You Know “Why Does Your Dog Want to Cuddle With You?”, There is Another Question

Now that this question has been answered, are you happy with the amount of cuddle time your dog is willing to share with you? If not, do you at least have a better idea as to why they are not more affectionate with you?

Would you like to increase the cuddle time with your dog? If so, there are some things you can do to change the status quo, the way things currently stand.

What You Can Do To Increase Your Cuddle Time

If you would like more cuddle time with your favorite canine, you need to be a more positive influence in their life. There are ways you can make snuggle time with you more appealing.

  • Include their favorite blanket, toy, or treat with cuddle time. Don’t be concerned about using these things in the short term. The benefit of these positive associations will last much longer than the bribes. Before you know it, seeing you in your favorite cuddle place will trigger a positive emotional response, without the added treats or rewards.
  • dog with toy wants to play
    come play with me!


Getting your dog to cuddle with you more often is easy if your dog already loves to cuddle. Increasing the positive associations and the opportunity to cuddle is usually all it takes.


Not all dogs enjoy a good cuddle session so they show their affection in other ways.

While cuddling is the way that most of our canine family members show affection, it isn’t the only way. Not all dogs are comfortable snuggling up that close with any human.

If your dog falls into this category, unless he is very young, you are unlikely to be able to “teach” them to enjoy snuggling. I have seen exceptions to this rule but it took a lot of effort and a fair amount of time.

You may wish to focus on some of the other ways that your dog may demonstrate his love for you.  Does he follow you everywhere you go or react enthusiastically when you enter the room by wagging his tail or appear to smile at you?

Whether or not you are your dog’s first choice for a good snuggle, this does not mean that he does not love you. He may demonstrate his undying love and affection in other ways that better fit his personality or early socialization.

It is all up to you.

You may or may not wish to make the effort to strengthen the bonds of physical affection. At least, now, you know the answer to the original question posed:

Why Does Your Dog Want to Cuddle With You?

You may be interested in the answer to another question:

“Who was the one being rescued, the man or the dog?”. The answer can be found via the link below to an article addressing this topic at


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As Wife, Mother of 5, and Nana of many more, I have known and loved many dogs who were treasured members of our family. My education, experiences in showing, breeding, and developing pedigree-based breeding programs for others gives me a strong background upon which to base articles of interest to most dog lovers. However, it is my great love for dogs that gives me the passion to share them with other dog lovers.


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