When you're a dog owner, no matter what kind of mood you're in when you come home after a long day, chances are your four-legged friend is there waiting for you with the perfect reaction. While dogs certainly seem like experts at reading our body language, it's harder sometimes to decipher theirs. If your dog is suddenly all over you, is it just her way of saying, "I love you," or is there more to it? If you've ever wondered why your dog is being extra cuddly, you might be surprised to learn some of the unexpected reasons for that behavior.
While dogs are known for being loyal, affectionate creatures, it's worth noting that some breeds are just more cuddly than others, like lap dogs such as the Chihuahua or the Pomeranian, according to John Woods, pet behavior expert and founder of All Things Dogs. "These dogs will just cuddle up next to their owner; it's just in their nature," says Woods in an interview with Romper.
However, if you have a more independent breed, and their cuddling seems out of character, it could be a sign that something else is going on. Here are six reasons why your pooch might be more snuggly than usual.
1. They're Getting Older Or Have An Age-Related Condition
If your pooch was rambunctious during his puppy years but has increasingly become more and more of a cuddle hound, it could simply be a sign of aging. Dogs can become more affectionate as they lose the excess energy from their youth, according to Wag.
However, if your dog is older and is being more clingy than usual, it could indicate a possible age-related condition.
"If your dog is going blind, deaf or is suffering from age-related mental problems, he may become clingy as a coping mechanism," explained The Nest.
It's important then to distinguish whether your dog's actions are due to the natural mellowing that comes with age, or if he or she is becoming more dependent on you for other reasons.
2. They Might Have A Medical Issue
A dog might not be able to tell you when something doesn't feel right, but they can show you through their actions, and that can take the form of cuddliness or clinginess.
"Any change in behavior can be suggestive of a health issue or concern. If your typically aloof dog is following you around or lying across your feet, watch for other signs or symptoms of ill health. Is he more lethargic than usual? Are there any changes to his eating or toileting habits? Seek veterinarian attention and share your concerns," advises Woods.
If your dog just isn't acting like himself, it's always worth a trip to the vet to figure out the cause.
3. They Sense You Might Be Sick
Dogs’ acute sense of smell enables them to detect some pretty subtle physical changes in humans. Call it their so-called "sixth sense" in action.
“We have 5 million receptors in our noses, dogs have 200 million,” Jeff Werber, Ph.D., president and chief veterinarian of the Century Veterinary Group in Los Angeles, said in an interview with Health. “Dogs can detect when a seizure is coming on, when a person is hypoglycemic, and they can detect cancer and fear, so there’s certainly scents they can pick up on.”
If you're laid flat by the flu, your dog might start acting like the ultimate bedside companion. "When I’m sick, my dog stays right by my side, as if holding vigil until I recover," said Katelyn Schutz, CPDT, with Wisconsin Pet Care.
If your dog is staying close, and exhibiting other peculiar behavior, he could be trying to tell you something important. There have been plenty of reported cases of dogs alerting their owners to what ultimately is a cancer diagnosis, like this one: "One evening in November 2011, I was at my computer when Mia leapt on to my lap and nuzzled into the flesh at the top of my left breast. She closed her eyes and licked furiously," said Emilie Clark, who was later diagnosed with breast cancer, in an interview with HomeoAnimal.
4. They Know You've Got A Baby On Board
Because of the keen sense of smell mentioned above, dogs might be able to detect a change in your scent when you're pregnant, according to Animal Planet. So if your dog is more cuddly than usual, it just might be time to take a pregnancy test.
"Once a sensitive dog realizes that change is happening, he may react with some changes in behavior," explained Pedigree, which noted that one of those behavioral changes can be an "increased affection for — and protection of — the pregnant woman."
And when you're further along in your pregnancy, there's really nothing better than having your dog nuzzle his head on your bump.
5. They're Trying To Cheer You Up
If you're feeling down, your dog might be able to sense that too, and respond with some welcome cuddles.
"Dogs will mirror our emotional states, so if we are feeling sad or anxious and they mirror these emotions, it would stand to reason that they would become more affectionate or clingy as they want to feel better too!" says Woods. "Science aside, all pet owners will fondly remember that chin appearing on your lap at the end of a stressful day!"
What's more, a study in Japan found that staring into your dogs eyes can raise both you and your dog's oxytocin levels. And since oxytocin has been dubbed the "love hormone" that's a very good thing.
6. They're Trying To Get A Reward
Dogs are pretty darn smart, so if you respond positively to their cuddles once, they might just put that behavior on repeat.
"Some breeds will cuddle because they’ve learned something good happens when they do. We are happy, so [we] praise [them] or we interact with them," explains Woods.
So enjoy all that good cuddly time with your favorite furry friend.