Updated - Aug 11th, 2023
- Dog owners are the center of their pooch’s world — every lick, tail wag, and wiggle is their way of showing it
- Science has proven through investigating our dogs’ brains and oxytocin levels that they show several signs of love for their pet owners
There’s nothing better than getting home after a long day and being greeted by your dog. As your heart bursts with love for your tail-wagging best friend, you might be wondering if your dog feels the same.
The answer is a resounding yes! You are the center of your dog’s world.
But beyond those excited tail wags, how do our dogs show us that they love us? Their body language can tell you a lot if you know what you’re looking at. Here are some common ways dogs say, “I love you!”
1. Your dog is excited to see you
That happy wagging tail and butt wiggle is your dog displaying affectionate behavior. If your dogs are like mine, I can step out to grab the mail and they will greet me when I return, as if I’ve been gone for days. Wiggles and tail wags let us know they are happy to see us, no matter how long we were away from them.
2. Your dog licks you
There are lots of studies about why dogs lick people, but the general consensus is that dog licks are a sign of love – aka doggy kisses! From an ancestral perspective, we know that wolf puppies will lick their mom’s mouth when she returns to the den to get her to feed her pups.
Other people believe dogs like the smell and salty taste of our skin. Either way, when your dog insists on licking you, it’s likely a sign of affection.
3. Your dog insists on your physical contact
Dogs love to be around their family members all the time. Herding us, lying next to us, the “lean”, laying on our feet, and the need to join us on the couch for some TV watching cuddles or some belly rubs, are all ways our canine companions feel closer to us.
Like their ancestors, physical touch with those they deem significant is an act of respect and affection. When your dog drives you crazy, insisting on always being close enough to touch you, they are showing how important you are to them.
Keep in mind that some dogs prefer not to cuddle or want a lot of physical contact from you. That’s perfectly okay because each dog has its own way of showing affection. Maybe your dog just wants to sit next to you, or even is content to just be in the same room with you. The key to their comfort level is watching for relaxed body language.
Some dog breeds are more affectionate than others, but there will still be cues letting you know how much they love you. For example, they may share a favorite toy with you rather than wanting to cuddle.
4. Your dog stares at you
Humans will stare into the eyes of someone they love. Dogs will do that as well. Making direct eye contact with you, with relaxed facial expressions (body language clue here), releases oxytocin, the love hormone, into their brain, giving them a feeling of well-being.
Not all stares are a sign of affection though, so reading your dog’s body language is important. But when your dog stares at you with slightly squinted eyes and a relaxed face, that is love, true love.
5. Your dog smiles at you
Some dogs will smile with their mouths, curling their lips up and showing you their pearly whites. Others will smile with their eyes and facial expressions. If the body is relaxed, ears are perked and they’re making eye contact, that’s another way dogs show love and affection.
Studies have shown dogs will respond and even pick up our moods in response to our facial expressions. When we smile at our dogs, they will pick up on our happiness and respond accordingly. If we are angry, upset, or depressed, our dogs can sense it from our facial expressions and body chemicals and will “catch it” or mimic our moods.
This is true for yawns too. Have you noticed your dog will yawn after you yawn? Yawning is contagious for dogs too!
6. Your dog follows you everywhere
Dogs are incredibly social animals. Following you around the house or waiting for you if you’re behind a closed door, for example, are all ways they show you they’re comfortable with you and feel safe.
Sure, it may be annoying when your dog is constantly underfoot as you go about your day, but your dog is showing you great respect and love by needing to be in your presence.
Separation anxiety is a real thing for our fur-babies and this is one way they make sure you won’t leave their side.
When dogs interact with someone they love, their brains release oxytocin, the love hormone. So not only does your dog want to be with you because they love you, it makes them feel good, too.
7. Your dog wants to sleep with you
Your furry friend’s ancestors slept together in dens, snuggling with each other to feel safe and warm. Your dog likes sleeping with you for the same reasons. That cuddly co-sleeping atmosphere helps both of you ease anxiety, depression, and, for many, provides a feeling of safety.
Some pet parents, veterinarians, and animal behaviorists believe sleeping with our dogs interrupts both you and your dog’s sleep, or can add to allergy symptoms, or risk injury to you or your dog. But for many of us, that snuggly pooch is hard to say no to when it’s bedtime.
By saying yes, and welcoming your pup onto the bed, not only are you making them feel safe, letting your dog sleep with you can ease your anxiety, offering you comfort and safety as well.
8. Your dog checks on you
This is a behavior my lab takes very seriously. She constantly checks on me, especially if I’m sleeping or happens to sneeze. She will get up and come check on me, even waking me up if I’m sleeping sometimes, just to make sure I’m okay.
If this happens to you, it’s your furry security guard making sure everything is okay before they can go about their day or go back to sleep.
Dogs sleep a lot during the day. At night, they have periods when they are alert and most likely to check their surroundings (and you) to make sure all is well with their world.
How do we know these are signs of love?
Doctors and scientists have performed several studies to look into dog behavior and affection. One study goes as far as looking into dogs’ facial expressions upon reuniting with their owner. This study proved that of all species, dogs are the closest with humans than any other!
A scientific journal called Current Biology has released several studies that back up the true love our canine friends feel for us. They look into things such as tears when reuniting with humans, voice recognition through fMRIs, and even how love can lead to more effective dog training.
You are your dog’s whole world
There’s a popular saying among dog lovers, “Your dog might be just a small part of your world, but to them, you are their whole world.” If you understand that, you’ll understand the devotion and love your dog has for you.
However your dog shows love and affection for you, never doubt how important and loved you are, and never take it for granted, because, to quote another famous saying “Dogs aren’t our whole lives, but they make our lives whole.”
Do dogs feel loved when you kiss them?
Dogs don’t inherently know what a kiss means. But, overtime, they will associate a kiss with you giving them love and affection. Some dogs – especially those who may have had a less-affectionate past – may not love to be kissed. Be sure to look for positive reactions from your fur-baby to make sure it isn’t stressful for you or your pooch.
Does my dog love me or the attention?
While it may be true that several humans can elicit happy and loving reactions from your pup, not all attention is the same. It has been proven that dogs tend to gravitate towards their owner more than others. Between excessive playtime, feedings, and snuggles, your dog develops a close bond with you. So it’s safe to say that your dog loves both you and the attention.
Do dogs have separation anxiety?
Dogs can definitely have separation anxiety. Time can feel very long for dogs and some struggle more than others when left alone. However, signs of stress shouldn’t be too severe. If you notice they are, reach out to your vet.