As I waited on a couch in a bicycle shop, Lucy, an affectionate Vizsla I hadn’t met before, molded her body to mine. Lucy’s unbridled affection was endearing; no amount of nearness was too much. This was new to me. After all, my German Shepherd views strangers with suspicion, not as potential cuddle buddies. And while she guards my doors, she’s usually near me rather than on me. (A caveat: Dogs are individuals; we can certainly find a cuddle-crazed German Shepherd or a Vizsla who prefers personal space.)
We humans may mistake a dog’s need for physical contact as indicative of his love for us. But a dog’s desire for direct physical contact doesn’t necessarily equate to his level of loyalty or love. While some breeds thrive on physical contact, other devoted breeds don’t require nearly as much cuddling. They may show love, and enjoy receiving love, in different languages, such as staying in your proximity, guarding your house, sharing eye contact, sleeping next to you, or following your directions.
Let’s hear from a few of these breeds on their snuggle quotient.
1. Tibetan Terrier
Thousands of years ago in the Himalayan Mountains, we were bred by holy men for camaraderie and minor watchdog duties. We were deemed treasures, given as gifts to bring good fortune. You may notice our distinctive protective double coat and flat-like paws. We needed the coat for the cold and the paws for traction in the snow. Some history suggests we may have done some herding, too — we may have been functional as well as friendly!
I’m no classic lapdog, but I will sit on your lap from time to time. Mainly I thrive on connection. That sometimes means I follow you from room to room to keep tabs on your activity. While I appreciate human company, I’m a terrier and may evidence an independent nature. My desire is to bond with you, not necessarily cling to you.
2. Anatolian Shepherd
We were developed in Turkey to guard livestock from predators. Sometimes we’d work without human direction, but sometimes we’d watch sheep alone for long periods in remote locations. Kudos to us for not eating sheep on those long solitary stretches. We’re instinctively protective, genuinely faithful, and we watch over our family with passionate devotion. Of course we enjoy physical affirmation from our people, but we’re far too dignified to cast “cuddle me, please” pitiful expressions like some other (unnamed) breeds.
3. Alaskan Malamute
We’re the largest sled dog, known for hauling heavy loads for the Arctic’s Inuit tribes. We were expected to make independent judgment calls in our work, such as evaluating ice conditions to discover the safest route. We welcome affection but we’re far from demanding. People tend to notice we are both playful and affectionate upon invitation. So if you’d prefer company rather than being continually nudged for pats, we may be your breed of choice. Today we maintain our sense of autonomy. That translates to: I’ll graciously give and receive affection from loved ones, but I won’t whine if you don’t cuddle me.
Centuries ago in Germany, we were bred for a serious job: hunting badgers and hole-digging vermin. Showing both the scrappiness of terriers and the tracking ability of hounds, we have an unusual body shape that facilitates our hunting. Our short legs, for example, allowed us to fold them easily to move through tunnels. These days we’re renowned for loving our family, but not hanging on their legs begging for a pat. After all, we’re small but bred for work, not 24-hour embracing. We’re half playful and half serious, devoted yet not overly dependent. Now there’s likely a Dachshund out there reading this who dies without constant affection, but I hope he doesn’t comment. We already have to deal with the hot dog stereotype. Isn’t that enough?
5. Irish Wolfhound
Now, I petitioned to be on this list, since I’ve seen us on other websites as “overly affectionate” or the like. Pshaw. We’re gentle giants, highly responsive, and loving. But we’re also dignified, adept hunters, and individualistic. A breed with ancient origins, we were developed to pursue wolf and elk. I’d prefer to see us on the “gentle giant” or “best hunter” list rather than the “begs nonstop for hugs” list.
That doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy affection. We adore family; we just don’t expect continuous cuddling. And while I love to chase prey, I also adore nap time. If you want to snooze next to me, feel free, if you can fit. After all, I’m the tallest dog breed, and I weigh more than 100 pounds.