Patches loves to cuddle. He nuzzles against you every night, and you enjoy his affection. He’s your loyal companion and loves being by your side. You wonder if dogs have always been like this. You also wonder if Patches’ cuddling affects you in any way. You are not embarrassed by admitting that you look forward to your cuddling time with your pooch. You have also heard stories that elderly people with pets tend to live longer, but you have never quite understood why. You also wonder why is Patches so affectionate towards you? Does it benefit him in any way? These thoughts cross your mind as Patches snoozes soundly against your leg.
The Root of the Behavior
Dog’s cuddle to get warmth, to bond, and because it releases chemicals that make them feel good. Cuddling goes back to earlier times when dogs needed body heat to keep warm. They kept warm with each other and with other humans. Cuddling also takes place right away between puppies and mothers. The mother comforts her pups and protects them. At the beginning of a dog’s life, cuddling is a very basic instinct. Dog cuddling also releases a hormone, oxytocin, the same hormone that is released during breastfeeding and childbirth. It has a calming and comforting effect, and it has been shown that only three minutes of cuddling between a dog and its owner increases oxytocin in both humans and dogs. This proves that dog’s cuddling is not only beneficial for the dog but also for humans.
Researcher Gregory Berns’ book, ”How Dogs Love Us”, argues that dog cuddles after meals equate a strong love between humans and dogs because this shows that your dog does not view you as just a feeding machine. Gregory Burns also conducted an experiment on dogs to see how they feel by scanning their brains in an MRI machine. He found that 20 percent of the dogs reacted more positively to praise than food. In other words, if Patches is cuddling with you after his evening meal, you two share a very strong bond. Additionally, it has been shown that dogs that receive affection actually perform better on tasks. Believe it or not, there are some downsides to cuddling. Dogs tend to love cuddling in their owner’s beds. They enjoy the comfort of sleeping by their masters, but dogs tend to carry many types of critters and bacteria that you probably don’t want in your cozy sheets. Also, there are certain types of cuddling that dogs do not appreciate, such as giving them bear-type hugs. Actually, it has been shown that hugging dogs may cause anxiety and negative behaviors. So make sure you pay attention to Patches’ reactions when it comes to your cuddling at home.
Encouraging the Behavior
Most of the time, cuddling can be encouraged. You and Patches hanging out on the couch with him resting his head on your lap while you watch TV is probably good for both of you, but you may want to rethink excessive hugging and allowing Patches to sleep in your bed. One study that was carried out by Dr. Stanley Coren, a canine expert and professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, looked at photos of dogs being hugged. Dr. Coren found that in 81.6 percent of the photographs the dogs displayed signs of anxiety. Only 7.6 percent of the photographs showed dogs in good spirits, and 10.8 percent showed undetermined reactions. Another study by Dr. Lois Krahn, a sleep specialist at the Center for Sleep Medicine at the Mayo Clinic’s Arizona campus, examined the effects of sleeping with dogs. He concluded that “sleeping with an animal companion in the room can be comforting...for some owners.” He says that it could be soothing, although he does not touch on what living organisms dogs can carry into the bed. Krahn also states that dogs can hinder some owner’s sleep by their awkward positioning. So it really is up to you to decide what is best for you, Patches, and your bed.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Cuddling with your dog seems to benefit you and Patches in many ways. It releases a feel-good chemical for you both that can actually lead to calmness and performing simple tasks better. Not to mention, cuddling also helps you and your dog stay warm. Still, be aware of how you cuddle your dog and make sure to lay off the bear hug cuddles that could actually irritate poor Patches. And be aware that Patches could carry some unwanted bugs and bacteria into your bed if you two like to snuggle at night. Brucella Canis and salmonella are two illnesses that have been contrived from dogs sharing beds. Forget the names, just know that they are nasty!
It is no secret that Patches has a strong bond with you. He is probably one of those dogs that even cuddles with you after eating, and we have learned that that is an intense form of canine love. For the most part, your health has also benefited from Patches’ love, but be aware of that bed and the stuff your innocent Patches may have on him. This may make you want to cuddle during the day, but get out the dog bed for Patches at night. He will still get enough puppy love to get those oxycontin levels rising.