5 Ways Cuddling on the Couch Can Help Keep Your Dog Healthy


We used to have a rule that dogs aren’t allowed on the furniture. It was a grand effort to keep shedding hair confined to the floor, and allow the people of the house a place to sit. (At one time, we had as many as six dogs. That’s a sofa-full!) Our French Bulldog Louie has inspired me revise all the rules, however, and he and I share couch space daily.

While snuggling on the sofa the other evening, I was playing with his feet. He isn’t particularly fond of having his feet touched, so I try to desensitize him by gently touching and petting them. It was then that I noticed one of his nails had curled under and was digging into his pad. I felt so awful about this, especially remembering that he’d been limping the last day or two on that leg. I thought it was his arthritis flaring up. I had just bathed him the day before, and always trim nails at bath time. This nail, however, was short and looked normal from the front. The back of the nail, however, had grown longer than the front (weirdest thing ever) and curled around. I couldn’t see it when he was standing on his feet.

Chalk one up to cuddling on the couch! I’m so glad I caught that errant nail, and was able to take care of the problem without vet intervention or serious damage to Louie’s foot. And I’m so glad we snuggle so that I have the opportunity to get a close-up look at my dog in a relaxed setting.

1. Paw massage

The next time you’re cuddling with your best furry friend, do a check for things like wayward nails. The dewclaws (if your dog has them) are especially prone to growing long and curling around.

Cuddling with Louie allowed me to catch a wayward toenail. (Photo by Karen Dibert)
Cuddling with Louie allowed me to catch a wayward toenail. (Photo by Karen Dibert)

2. Kisses

You may also notice things such as stinky breath. Dog breath is never anything you’ll want to inhale appreciatively (except puppy breath because OHMYGOSH), but you’ll know if something is off if you do. Seriously bad breath can be a sign of an infected tooth or even severe allergies that are causing sinus drainage. A quick sniff as your dog gives you a kiss can be a good thing on occasion.

3. Purposeful pets

As you run your hand  over your dog while watching TV, be on the lookout for bumps that shouldn’t be there. Especially on long-haired dogs, you may not see a bump with the naked eye. A quiet evening on the couch together can make you more aware of what is going on under that hair, and give you a hint of the condition of his skin. Red rashes, hot spots, bald patches, bumps of any size… these can be detected as you give a belly scratch while watching a movie together.

4. Eye contact

Have you gazed into your dog’s eyes lately? Louie looks me in the eye when I have treats ready for him, but otherwise his gaze is focused on the chicks in the incubator, whatever the kids are doing, his tennis ball collection… When he’s cuddling beside me on the couch, I have the perfect opportunity to gaze fondly into his eyes. (Even if they are mostly closed as he naps beside me.) This is when I usually notice if his allergies are flaring, because I can clearly see the red-rimmed eyes under the hair.

5. Ear check

Louie’s ears are the very large stand-up kind, and I get a great view inside them when we’re cuddling. I know immediately when he needs them cleaned, which sometimes needs to happen between baths as he’s prone to lots of ear wax. If your dog has floppy ears, take a peek inside when you’re snuggling on the couch. He’ll appreciate the checkup disguised as an ear scratch.

After sharing the sofa with Louie, I can’t imagine why I didn’t snuggle with dogs previously. I’m just going to call it good pet parenting, because there are so many benefits from it. Wouldn’t you agree?

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