Caress, fondle, pet, cosset, cuddle, dandle mean to show affection or love by touching or handling.
Caress implies an expression of tender interest (as by soft stroking or patting) or of affection ordinarily without undue familiarity.
Fondle implies doting fondness and frequently lack of dignity; it usually suggests attentions (as hugging or kissing) more obvious and less gentle than caressing.
Pet, sometimes, and cosset imply special attentions and indulgences including more or less fondling.
In recent use pet more often stresses flirtatious or amorous fondling and sometimes suggests undue familiarity.
Cuddle chiefly suggests the action of a mother or nurse in drawing a child close to her breast to keep it warm, happy, and quiet.
The term may be extended to other attentions which imply a desire to protect and keep warm and contented.
Dandle suggests playful handling of a child (as by moving him up and down lightly on one's knee). In its extended use dandle usually implies toying with especially in a playful but pampering manner.