Pet parents and dogs have a special bond that often involves physical touch. We love to pet our dogs, and most of them enjoy it just as much. But what about those dogs who don’t seem to like cuddling? It might come as a surprise, but not all dogs are fond of petting. Whether it’s a gentle stroke or a deep-tissue massage, these touch-averse dogs prefer to skip the physical contact.
Living with a dog that doesn’t enjoy cuddling can be challenging, especially when we want to show them how much we love them. We may wonder if our dog loves us or if they know that we love them when they move away from us on the couch. Well, rest assured, your dog isn’t abnormal if they aren’t a stereotypically cuddly dog. They simply have other ways of showing their love. And the good news is that a few lifestyle adjustments can help your dog learn to appreciate pats and cuddles, and maybe even ask for them!
What Causes a No-Cuddle Dog?
It’s easy to assume that every dog enjoys petting, but there are several reasons why a dog might not appreciate cuddling. These reasons include:
- Previous abuse: Some anti-cuddling dogs may have been mishandled in the past. Dogs that have faced physical discipline or rough treatment due to outdated training techniques may become terrified of human hands.
- Pain: Dogs with undiagnosed pain or injuries are likely to be wary of touch. Joint issues, strains, sprains, and even growth spurts can make petting painful for dogs. Consulting a veterinarian can help determine if your dog is dealing with pain.
- Wrong technique or body part: Sometimes, petting aversion is due to operator error. For example, a small dog may not enjoy rough rubbing on their head and ears, while a bigger dog might find fluttery pats annoying. Some dogs may prefer shoulder massages over rear-end scratches.
- Born this way: Just like some people don’t want hugs, there are dogs that simply don’t enjoy up-close-and-personal touching.
Signs That Dogs Don’t Like Petting
Cuddle-averse dogs can express their dislike in obvious ways, like walking away when someone reaches for them or ducking their head as if expecting a swat instead of a snuggle. However, these dislikes can also manifest in subtle behaviors called “calming signals.” These signals are easy to overlook but can provide valuable insights into a dog’s feelings.
For example, if you notice your dog leaning away or licking their lips when you pet them, it’s possible they’re not enjoying it. They may also avoid making eye contact or take a few steps away to reduce the intensity of touch. Some dogs even lick the person petting them, which may be mistaken for affectionate kissing but is actually an attempt to make the person stop touching them.
Can Your Dog Become a Cuddly Dog?
With a gentle approach and patience, even non-cuddly dogs can learn to appreciate touch and maybe even come to love it! The key is putting your pup in control and following their signals. Here are the steps you can take:
Follow Your Dog’s Signals for Physical Contact
Instead of assuming your dog enjoys what you’re doing, pay attention to their body language for clues. For a few days, reduce all physical contact other than necessary behaviors like putting on the leash. It’s not easy to hold back from loving up on your dog, but this step shows that you understand their preferences.
Observe whether your dog initiates physical contact during this stage, such as brushing up against you or placing their head beneath your hand. If they don’t, continue withholding casual petting but find other ways to connect, such as verbal praise and play.
Try a Pet Test and Pay Attention to Your Dog’s Reaction
After refraining from petting for about a week, try a “pet test” to gauge your dog’s feelings about physical contact in that moment. Give them a few gentle rubs on their chest or shoulders for about three seconds, then stop and observe their reaction.
If your dog wants more, they’ll likely move closer, lean against you, or paw at you. If they’re still feeling hands-off, they won’t ask for more and may just stand there or even move away.
If your dog signals that they want you to continue, try another brief petting session. Remember to keep these initial sessions short. Your dog’s acceptance of touch doesn’t mean they’re ready for a prolonged full-body massage.
Observe your dog’s reactions during petting, and try to finish before they ask you to stop. Vary where and how you touch them, as different dogs may have different preferences.
Honoring Your Dog’s Need for Space
Even the snuggliest dogs may not want to be touched all the time. Stressful situations, like a visit to the vet, can make any dog less likely to enjoy touch. As a responsible pet parent, it’s essential to understand your dog’s preferences and honor them.
Remember that, despite remedial training, your dog may never become a fan of snuggling up. But that doesn’t mean anything is wrong with them or that they love you any less. Understanding your dog’s likes and dislikes and respecting them is one of the best ways to be their advocate. There are countless other signs that your dog loves you, such as a happy tail wag when you come home or the way they always keep their eyes on you. The affection is there; your dog just has a unique way of showing it!
By: Victoria Schade