Updated: Jun 13
Humans have this quirky thing with dogs. We want to get on the ground and coochie-coo and tickle and schmuzzle and cuddle them. We want to pick them up and squeeze them. We want to ruffle their ears. We want to hold their faces in our hands and shake their cheeks.
It’s called cuddle aggression. It’s something that humans feel in relation to babies and baby animals. I feel it. You feel it. It’s normal to feel it.
While it’s normal for us humans to feel cuddle aggression, it is not normal for dogs to be the recipients.
We think it’s cute, or that it’s good for bonding, or that our dogs like it.
But I’m going to say something that many people won’t like (gulp):
Acting out the cuddle aggression is none of those things. It’s not cute. It’s not good for bonding. Our dogs don’t like it.
Dogs - even the fluffiest puppies - do not know that they are cute. That’s not something that they, as the descendants of wolves, are concerned about. We humans bred them to look cute to us, but they don’t think of themselves as cute. Tickling them to let them know how cute they are is not a message that will get through to them.
Dog’s bond by playing, hunting, and resting together. A period of play is followed by rest. Among adult dogs in the same pack, most interactions are quite calm. Even with the cutest of puppies, mother dogs are calm and patient, with the odd playful interaction here and there. Wen we tickle and shmoozle our dogs, we aren’t bonding the way adult dogs would bond, or even the way a mother dog would bond with a pup; we would be more closely emulating a puppy - and then we wonder why our dog doesn’t listen to us!
Now you might be thinking, “Ok Elaine, then why does my dog seem to like it? Why do they come up for more?” Here’s my theory.
When we tickle and coochie-coo our dogs, we give them energy. We energize them. We give them so much energy they don’t know what to do with it. All that energy can come out in dysfunctional behaviours. And at the same time, the dog gets addicted to that hyped up energy feeling. They crave it like a drug. It’s not good for them, they don’t particularly enjoy it when *properly* given the option to partake or not, and yet they seem come back for it, whine for it and demand it. And like a drug, when you give it to them, they seem to like it.
Let’s do a service for our dogs: let’s pet our dogs like adults. Let’s notice our cuddle aggression, laugh about it a little bit, and then have calm, soothing interactions with our dogs. Let’s help our dogs regulate their energy, rather than dose them with way too much addicting hyper energy that they don’t know how to handle. Let’s have solid play sessions with our dogs followed by calm rest.
If we did this, we wouldn’t find that our relationship with our dogs suffers one bit. On the contrary, our dogs would look to us with more trust, respect, and appreciation.
Here’s to You and Your Dog!
P.S. I totally suffer from cuddle aggression too! I want to smzoozle dogs and puppies as much as the next person, so I’m writing this as a reminder for all of us, myself included!