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Spending an evening cuddled up on the couch with your dog is the perfect way to bond and unwind with your furry buddy at the end of a long day.
But not all dogs are immediately very cuddly and some dogs may not seem to like cuddling at all, much to the frustration of their uncuddled owners.
Luckily, most dogs just need a little bit of help realizing that cuddle time is actually great!
So how do you get your dog to cuddle with you?
To get a dog to cuddle with you, you first need a relationship with them that involves trust and physical contact. Building that trust and showing them that they can enjoy physical contact may take time and patience. Cuddling, even with dogs, is intimate, so communication and participation from both of you are key.
Think about cuddling with your dogs the same way that you would think about hugging or embracing a loved one, family member, or close friend.
After all, your dog is sort of all of those things bundled into one, right?
Cuddling is a very intimate thing for you and your dog to do together. Just like with a person, the relationship has to be just right and both of you need to be in the mood for cuddling in order for it to be positive for everyone.
Just like with people, cuddling takes a very strong relationship in order for you both to what to cuddle with each other.
But, just like with people, given the right person, circumstances, and mood, almost everyone loves cuddling sometimes.
So even if your dog doesn’t immediately take to cuddling with you, there are a lot of things you can do to build up your relationship get your dog snuggled up on your lap and no time.
I mean come on, look at this guy. Who doesn’t want to snuggle up with this ham?
Why Doesn’t My Dog Want To Cuddle With Me?
Before I get started spouting off action items for you to take to get your dog cuddling with you, it’s important to take a step back and understand that we aren’t trying to teach your dog a new trick like sitting or rolling over or curbing a bad behavior like barking or marking.
Cuddling is a behavior your dog has to choose to engage in. Sure, you can drag your dog over to you and hold him on your lap, but unless he’s into it, it’s not really “cuddling” and it’s not really good for your relationship. Just like you wouldn’t want to force deep eye contact on your dog, you wouldn’t want to force them to cuddle.
That means that the goal here cannot just be “get my dog to cuddle with me,” even if that’s what you really want.
Instead, the goal here needs to be “get my dog to want to cuddle with me.”
Maybe your dog is just ignorant of the behavior (have you ever seen them cuddle before?). Or maybe they don’t want to feel restrained, or they don’t trust or like you as much as you think they do.
Or maybe they’re just too hot and want to stretch out in a cooler part of the house!
There are dozens of reasons that your dog may not currently be cuddling with you. Frankly, there are too many possibilities for me to try to unpack and pinpoint from this side of the computer.
But in the end, so long as you are patiently, positively, and with an open mind, building a relationship with your dog, following the steps below will almost certainly help in any situation.
How To Teach Your Dog To Cuddle
With the background information out of the way, let’s take a closer look at the steps you can take to make cuddling more appealing to your pup.
Pick Your Moment
When trying to convince your dog to cuddle with you, make sure that you choose a moment that is conducive for cuddling.
This is particularly important in the beginning when teaching your dog that cuddling is a good thing that they should look forward to and seek out.
Forcing your dog to cuddle when they are not in the mood can easily turn them off to the whole concept of cuddling.
If, while you are trying to convince them to cuddle, they resist over and over and over again, it may just be that they are not in the mood and you should try again at a different time.
What you’re looking for is the right combination of their desire to have physical contact with you and also a low energy status.
The right time depends a great deal on your particular dog. Late at night when your dog is sleepy may be a good time, but many dogs do not want to cuddle when they sleep and some don’t want to sleep in the same bed with their humans at all.
Just make sure that you are paying attention both to their desire to be touched and also their energy in order to find the sweet spot for cuddle time. You’ll also want to consider the environment and avoid any smells your dog may not enjoy. That includes things like artificial fragrances, incense, and other aromas.
Use Calming Energy
This may seem obvious, but I’ve seen so many people lose control of their dog simply because they didn’t come to the situation with the right energy.
Dogs are extremely in tune with our emotions, picking up on our feelings even when we may not be consciously demonstrating them.
This means you won’t be able to hide your feelings from them. If you’re angry or energetic or frustrated, they’ll be able to tell, and they may decide “yeah, now’s not the time to fall asleep in her lap.”
Be happy but relaxed, calm but not sleepy. Use a low, slow voice when you speak. Just generally be your best stereotype of a hippie and your dog will probably love it.
Communication Goes Both Ways
Remember, your goal needs to be “how do I get my dog to want to cuddle with me,” not “how can I get something from my dog that they don’t want to do.”
You can’t force intimacy, so you need to build that up by constantly communicating with your dog. That means picking up on their cues even more than you expect them to pick up on yours.
If your dog doesn’t want to cuddle, don’t make them! If they want to play, fine, let them. If they want to play with you, it’s up to you whether or not you want to engage with them.
After all, you’re in the mood to cuddle, not to play.
Recognize that your dog is constantly putting out signals that you can recognize that will help you better understand their mood, their wants, and their dislikes.
Once you unlock those lines of communication, working towards a common goal becomes much simpler.
If you’re struggling with this step, I highly recommend Dr. Ian Dunbar’s book on Dog Behavior. He’s an expert at identifying dog behaviors and explaining how to interpret them, and his book is packed with helpful information that can help you communicate cuddle time with your dog.
Start With Pets
Don’t expect them to take the little spoon position once you do convince them to try to cuddle.
Start small, just with an occasional pet or scratch while they sit or lay near you.
Many dogs don’t like prolonged contact at first, but most dogs like a good scratch behind the ears.
By starting small with the occasional pet and scratch, you get them used to hanging out with you while getting some physical relief.
You may even find that they start inching closer for more themselves.
Watch For Good Spots and Bad Spots
My dog loves having her tummy scratched but if I touch one of her back feet, she shoots me a look that could kill and hightails it away from me.
I’m not sure why she’s so finicky about having her back legs touched, but it’s just something that I’ve discovered over the years and it’s not so hard just to avoid them and keep her happy.
The point of cuddle time is for it to be nice for everyone, so watch out for your dog’s favorite spots and make sure you’re focusing your attention there.
But more importantly, be sure you avoid touching them in places that make them feel uncomfortable or vulnerable.
For most dogs, this is around their paws, butts, and crotches, but it’s different for every dog.
So long as you’re paying attention, these spots should be easy to….spot.
This is supposed to be fun!
You have to teach your dog to love to cuddle, and that means motivating them to learn.
Positive reinforcement is known to be the best way to condition, train, and teach dogs (people too, by the way).
So make sure that you’re rewarding your dog with lots of love, scratches, treats, whatever their favorite things are so that they know that they are good, they are loved, and it’s OK to keep trying.
Most dogs, including mine, love a treat so I like keeping these freeze-dried chicken treats by Simply Nourish in a baggie by the couch. They have almost no odor and they’re just a clean, simple treat that you can give your dog as a reward for cuddle time without it crumbling everywhere or stinking up the living room.
Start With Keeping Them Close
Alright, so the stage is set. You’re in a good mood, your dog is relaxed and looking for love, but there’s one problem: they’re waaaaaay over there on the other side of the room.
Obviously, paramount here is keeping your dog close enough for you to touch. You may not be able to go right to snuggling, so in the beginning, settle for just keeping them close by you.
Let them sleep on the other end of the couch while you reach out every now and then for a scratch.
If that’s too much, bring their dog bed close by your feet and let them spend the evening hanging out there.
The idea here is to get them used to proximity and spending time with you, so start by keeping them near you.
Oh, and if you only have one big bulky dog bed, you may want to pick up a more portable one like this one from Canine Hardware. Simple, comfy, affordable, but most of all, easy to place anywhere in your house. Something like this can help make the transition from sleeping alone to cuddling up with you much easier for your dog.
Gently Restrain But Never Force
It is very important that you do this carefully, so pay attention!
Left to their own devices, your dog may never come around to cuddle with you on their own. Instead, they’ll spend their time doing all kinds of other “dog things” like licking the bed or searching the floor for anything left behind.
However, by enticing them with positive reinforcement and taking it slow, you’ll be able to get them to want to edge on over to you and make whatever else they were doing a little less appealing.
But you may find that you need to break the seal and physically move your dog closer to you.
When you do this, you may find that they resist some – that’s OK.
To get them to understand that cuddling is nice, good, and something worth seeking out, you may need to get them cuddling with you the first couple of times, and that may mean picking them up, plopping them on your lap, and holding them there till they chill out some.
Do not force your dog! Don’t hold them down while they resist, but gently hold them close to you and try to convince them that the contact is positive.
It may cause them a few seconds of discomfort or confusion. You should be able to diffuse that negativity very quickly. If not, let them go and try again later.
But you may need to push their limits just a little bit in order for them to have their first few experiences with cuddling. So long as you’re careful, it shouldn’t be any different than any other growing pains.
A huge success factor here is going to be how often you cuddle with your dog.
Say you try one day. You’re positive and all the other stuff, and you hold your dog close to you. He freaks out for a second but kind of sort of relaxes, takes the scratches, and wanders off.
Do it again! Do it later that day if you can but at least do it again tomorrow.
These little training sessions that you’re doing with your dog need to become your dog’s new normal condition, not a series of strange encounters that keep happening.
You don’t want to overwork or overstress your dog, but you need to keep re-engaging them in cuddle time over and over again, constantly pushing them a little bit more, so that they become used to it and understand how it fits in their life.
If you only try once a week, you’re very likely going to make your dog dread these training sessions.
Slowly Move Towards More
Slowly, very slowly, you’ll need to evolve those “close proximity pets” to full-blown “cuddles.”
This is probably the most difficult and most important step when teaching your dog to cuddle.
It’s one thing for your dog to sit at your feet getting his head scratched all night long, but making the right next step and the right time is crucial to getting you where you want to be.
Once your dog is comfortable with the situation, it’s time to change it up. If they’re good with chilling on the floor in their dog bed but don’t like being on the couch, move their dog bed onto the couch.
They probably won’t like it at first, but after a week or so they probably won’t even mind it. This means now it’s time to push them again!
Next, move their dog bed over to you, or remove the bed entirely and convince them to lay in the same spot on the couch.
Once they get used to that, move them or yourself closer. Before you know it, you guys will be all over each other.
Just be patient and keep slowly inching closer and closer towards your goal.
Counter With Energetic Activities
Your dog has four fast legs for a reason! Most dogs are very energetic and, if they could choose, would much rather spend the day running, jumping, and swimming than they would cuddled up binge-watching Netflix with you.
Make sure that you’re getting your dog plenty of exercise and really engaging with them in an active way in between cuddle sessions.
Making sure your dog is well exercised ensures that they are tired and have all of their jitters out and the end of the day. This makes cuddle time much more approachable.
But more than just tiring them out, you’re engaging with your dog in fun, multifaceted ways. This strengthens your relationship and builds trust, which are key ingredients in a cuddle person/dog relationship.
Considering trying a new activity with them like agility or dock diving during the day.
While it may seem counterintuitive, activities like this will help bring you and your dog closer together.
Show Some Respect!
I see a lot of people who treat their dogs like accessories in their life, and it irks me to no end.
Your dog is an adult animal, not an accessory. They have volition and a sense of self that deserves to be respected. Showing respect begets respect back, and your dog should be treated with respect.
Don’t make them do things they don’t want. Don’t rob them of their dignity or make them feel like they are just there to make you feel comfortable when you feel like it.
If your dog doesn’t want to cuddle, work on it with them but don’t think you are entitled to their bodies just because of who they are.
Don’t Overdue It
Similar to the above, you don’t want to come on too strong. Think of your dog like you would any other person in your life.
Even a well-intentioned person who you care about would get on your nerves if they were always trying to convince you to cuddle.
Give them a break and some space. It takes time to incorporate new expressions of love and affection into a relationship, and you and your dog have lots of time together to work on it.
Just don’t act like a spaz and push it too much.
Leave Them Wanting More
Words of wisdom from some of the greatest showmen ever!
Remember, our goal is to make your dog want to cuddle with you, not just tolerate your handsyness.
So stop before they get tired of you. Better yet, stop scratching them or cuddling with them right before they are totally satisfied.
By doing this, you’ll help to coax your dog into coming back and asking for more. This gives you the chance to mix things up a bit.
A dog who comes back to you looking for more scratches will be more tolerant of you laying them down or holding them close, so long as you keep giving them the reward that they are looking for.
Temper Expectations When It Comes To Cuddling
All of the above are excellent ways to improve your relationship with your dog and to help get them more used to physical contact.
By repeating the above steps, most dogs will eventually come around to cuddling and may even initiate a cuddle session by lovingly buying their head into your lap!
But not all dogs.
Just like with people, everyone has their own “things” and you may just have a dog that doesn’t ever “like” to cuddle.
That should be ok with you. It maybe won’t be the spooning snuggle fest of your dreams, but maybe you can both learn to be OK with expressions of love that work for both of you.
Walk into this with an open mind and high hopes, but remember that cuddling isn’t a trick that your dog will do on command.
You’re building a relationship, so don’t put too many expectations on the poor pup.