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Updated: May 14, 2018

Welcome to Ask the Dog Blog!  This is your one-stop solution for all dog-related questions.  In this series, our awesome family submit their burning questions to us about their dog.  Each week, we will pick the best question that was submitted, and provide our best answer here at Ask The Dog Blog.

Our first question comes to us from Tala in Dubai.  She asks, "When lying down near me, my one year old labradoodle stretches his limbs out and places them against my leg/arm as if part of a hug.  Do dogs make these gestures to express affection or is he just stretching and I am in the way?"

Great question Tala!  Don't we all wonder what is going on inside our dog's crazy head once in a while?  We all want to know whether our dogs truly love us, or whether they simply see us as a reliable food source.  Fret not Tala!

According to modern science, experiments suggest that dogs really do feel strongly about that human-canine bond.  For example, in a 2015 study, Dr. Gregory Berns, a leading neuroscientist in the field of canine cognition, published evidence that dogs experience a strong positive emotion when presented with the scent of their human parent.  In the study, they monitored the dogs' brain with fMRI technology, and presented a variety of scents to the dogs.  Only the familiar scent of the human parent activated the dogs' caudate nucleus, which is the part of the brain that is activated when we anticipate things we like or enjoy very much.  Thus, dogs have a strong emotional connection to the scent of their human.

A similar connection exists with a physical touch.  That is why so many pets enjoy being "petted."  Researchers have observed increasing levels of oxytocin in dogs when they come in close contact with their human parents, either through petting or cuddling.  Oxytocin is a key hormone that plays a role in pair bonding.

Thus, to answer your question Christina, yes, dogs do feel an innate emotional connection to the human touch.  If on a regular basis, your labradoodle comes and lays near you, and stretches out his limbs to touch you, he is likely showing affection and establishing an emotional connection to you!  Do not worry about being in the way of his stretching.  He is very likely trying to show affection and emotion towards you and better yet, it is probably a very cute gesture!

On a more practical note, your labradoodle could also be trying to make sure you don't scurry away without him noticing.  For instance, if your labradoodle likes to be in close proximity to you as you walk around the house, he basically likes to follow you around.  When you finally sit or stop to rest, he would like to rest as well, and lays down next to you.  By stretching his paw and touching you, it gives him an easy way to know when you are about to move.  He doesn't even have to look at you.  As soon as you get up to walk around, he'll know, and he can do the same to follow you again.  In other words, it's his "hack" for making sure you don't scurry away unnoticed.

Thank you Tala for your question!  We would love to hear more from our readers.  If you ask a question to our Ask the Dog Blog, you have a chance of being chosen as our question of the week.  Each week we will pick one question to answer, and as a "thank-you" for submitting an awesome question, we will send you a small gift!  We look forward to hearing all of your dog-related questions.

Much Love, Much Laughter.



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