Does Your Dog Love You? Just Look for These 30 Signs
Have you ever wondered how your dog feels about you? While they can’t exactly tell you they love you, they most assuredly do, showing it through various behaviors, some of which are obvious and some of which are surprising.
Which of these signs of love and affection does your dog display?
Your dog yawns right after you do.
Have you ever woken up in the morning and yawned only to have your dog yawn, too? Recent research has shown that this is how dogs do show empathy and an emotional connection to their owners.
Dogs have been man's best friend for at least 14,000 years. Behaviors like contagious yawning appear to evolve from the necessity of coordinating activities and furthering our species-to-species bond.
What the Experts Say About Dogs Yawning
Teresa Romero, an animal behavior researcher at the University of Tokyo, said, "This attachment can shape the dog’s responses in a way similar to humans, that is, to be more sensitive to a familiar yawn than to a stranger."
That’s right. They do not do this with strangers.
Your dog stares at you — a lot.
A dog that looks you in the eye is most likely showing you love. Just as we do, dogs look us in the eye to express their affection toward us. This mutual staring contest releases oxytocin, or the "love" hormone in your pup.
We feel it, too. Just like when a new mom looks at her baby, we release oxytocin when we look at our "furever" family members.
What the Experts Say About Dogs Staring
Laurie Santos, the director of the Yale University Center for Canine Cognition, confirms that dog staring is a good thing. "Looking into one another’s eyes can increase hormones associated with social bonding."
We already know these bonds form between human mothers and babies, as well as couples or friends who make eye contact. Dogs are the closest species to humans, so it only makes sense that they would pick up on these cues.
Your dog has a 'helicopter tail.'
Have you ever seen your dog wag his tail like a propeller? When they do this, it's because they’re so very happy to see you.
If you add factors such as treats, toys and a little of his favorite banter, they’re bound to do it even more. Just think of the “helicopter tail” as the equivalent to a human smile.
What the Experts Say About 'Helicopter Tail'
Patricia McConnell, animal behaviorist and author of "The Other End of the Leash," believes the circle wag is the sign of an extremely happy dog.
"I see it on dogs who just adore a particular person, and I’ve seen on Luke and Will [her dogs] when we finished up a great session of herding, and we both were equally proud of ourselves," she said. "I can not remember ever seeing it on a dog who appeared to be anxious or potentially aggressive, either defensive or offensively."
Your dog leans against you.
When a dog leans on you with all their weight, it should be pretty obvious they need to be close to you. Sometimes, it's because they’re afraid of something, like a thunderstorm or fireworks and they need the protection of the alpha in their pack. Other times, they may just need affection and attention.
While some claim these are dominance behaviors, it really varies from dog to dog — only you know if your pup is being snuggly or acting out in another way.
What the Experts Say About Dogs Leaning on You
"Dog With Blog" founder Abhishek Joshi states that dogs have enjoyed a closeness with their pack leaders for thousands of years: "Dogs are pack animals, descending from the wolves, and yet centuries of domestication [haven’t] let the proximity-seeking nature go away.
I always find my dog leaning against me or putting a paw ever so gently on my foot, seeking attention or affection. In a way, a dog leaning on you is akin to dog hugs. If you weren’t standing, perhaps your dog would be cuddling or resting against your back."
Your dog brings you a toy he can’t live without.
As you are the leader of the pack, your dog may bring you a toy to please you and ensure they’re safe within that pack.
They also may be simply trying to get you to play with them. Whatever the reason, giving you their toy is an affectionate act for someone that they hold in the highest regard.
What the Experts Say About Dogs Bringing You a Toy
Perhaps they want to show their trust by allowing you to care for something they value so much, even when it's broken.
According to vet tech and Beacon College anthrozoology instructor, Michelle L. Szydlowski: "Some dogs will show their affection for you and faith in your intelligence by bringing you items that need 'fixing.'"
Your dog gives you a toothy grin.
A dog’s happy, open-mouthed smile, which can last for some time can be a sign of great affection toward their owner, but the reasons for this are multi-layered. When dogs see us smile, they often smile back because they are relaxed, happy and hoping to appease the leader of their pack.
Some researchers say our dogs are actually mimicking us when this happens, as it does not happen toward other dogs or animal species.They also flash their pearly whites to get humans to react positively by laughing, giving them treats or showing them general affection.
What The Experts Say About a Dog's Toothy Grin
Behavior consultant Kim Brophey of Dog Door Behavior Center in Asheville, North Carolina, says that dogs excel in swaying us.
"Dogs are masters at human behavior observation and manipulation. That’s their niche," Brophey explains. "Their ancestry and experiences have informed them on how to be effectively charming."
Your pup is a snuggle bug.
Dogs cuddle for a variety of reasons. They do it to stay warm, to bond with you and because it releases oxytocin, which comforts and calms them.
Studies show that three minutes is all it takes to for the love hormone to surge in humans and dogs. Imagine what a few hours on the couch can do.
What the Experts Say About Snuggles
According to animal researcher and author Gregory Berns, snuggles right after dinner show an even more obvious sign of love between you and your dog because they do not see you as simply someone who provides food.
Your dog sleeps near you.
A dog that sleeps near you considers you a member of the pack and does so with its loyalty, trust and protective instinct.
Even if they don’t sleep directly on your bed, they may take up their nightly position on the floor next to you.
What the Experts Say About Dogs Sleeping Near You
Dr. Stanley Coren, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of British Columbia, states how your dog sleeps is also telling, especially if they are a cuddler.
"The tendency that many dogs have to cuddle when they sleep is a holdover from when they were puppies. ... As dogs mature, sleeping that way against another living thing merely becomes a sort of learned feeling of comfort held over from puppyhood."
Your dog checks on you frequently.
If you can’t even take a bath without the dog staring at you while you do it or if your pup is underfoot while you go about your business in the house, it’s the sign of a strong bond between you.
This sometimes comes with months or years of reinforcement, but when they know where their happiness emanates from, they will continue to want to be around its source.
What the Experts Say About Dogs Checking on You Frequently
However, knowing when to give them a little alone time will prevent them from having separation anxiety.
"Bonding with your dog is good for you," says veterinarian acupuncturist, Dr. Rachel Barrack of Animal Acupuncture in New York City. "Just make sure that in the process you do not limit the dog’s social interactions with other dogs and people."
Your dog rubs their face on you.
Dogs rub against things to mark their territory, and you are your dog's territory. A dog’s scent glands are in its face, so when your pup does this, they are basically marking you with their scent, which lets other dogs know to stay away.
It's also the way they say, "Hey, don’t forget about me! I'm right here!"
As if we could!
What the Experts Say About Dogs Rubbing Their Face on You
According to Jennifer Mayer and Dr. Deborah Custance from the Department of Psychology at Goldsmith’s in London, nuzzling is another way of showing empathy.
The scientists exposed dogs to group of people who pretended to cry or hum. They found the dogs could distinguish between the two sounds and tried to comfort the human participants they thought were crying by nuzzling them.
You are as lickable as a lollipop.
Licking is an instinctive behavior in dogs, but when your dog licks you, it could be because you taste good or because they are showing you love.
This food-seeking behavior is also a ritualized greeting. Wild dogs are known to lick pack members to welcome them back to the pack.
What the Experts Say About Dogs Licking You
According to certified applied animal behaviorist Dr. Mary Burch, "Licking can be a sign of affection. It might also give a dog a feeling of security and comfort, just as the dog had when licked by its mother in the litter."
Your pup gives you their paw.
Dogs mimic our behaviors in many ways, and if your dog gives you their paw, that’s their way of reciprocating their love since they can’t say, "I love you."
After all, you show them affection by petting them, and they are essentially returning the favor.
What the Experts Say About Dogs Giving You Their Paw
DogLab consultant and Texas veterinarian Sara Ochoa, DVM says, "Just as dogs adore belly rubs, they also seem to understand that their people like to be touched as well, and since they love us, they want to make us happy."
Dogs can tell when you need emotional support.
There aren’t as many emotional support animals as there are dogs and with good reason. Dogs, more than any other species, know when a human, particularly their human, is hurting.
Research shows that when you cry, your dog also feels distressed and will do what they can to try and help you feel better.
What the Experts Say About Dogs Providing Emotional Support
Julia Meyers-Manor, assistant professor of psychology at Ripon College, says that a dog's behavior in reading our emotions has become instinctual over time.
"Dogs have been by the side of humans for tens of thousands of years, and they've learned to read our social cues. ... Dog owners can tell that their dogs sense their feelings."
Your dog sleeps facing away from you.
While it may just be a comfortable position for your dog to sleep facing away from you, it is also said to be a sign of trust. They trust their surroundings and, by extension, you.
They are just that relaxed in your presence and are also guarding you, even during their slumber. By sleeping this way, they can better face any incoming threat.
What the Experts Say About Dogs Sleeping in Your Bed
"Dog Whisperer" Cesar Millan states that it is generally fine to have your dog sleep in bed with you, but make sure to set some boundaries.
"It is perfectly natural for a dog to sleep with other pack members, and it is also a powerful way to bond with your dog. But don't forget the rules, and limitations. It's your bed—not your dog's."
Your dog knows your name.
There is scientific evidence that your dog not only knows your scent and knows what you look like, but they also may know your name if they hear it enough.
And they will even show excitement when they do hear it, even when you’re not present.
What the Experts Say About Dogs Knowing Your Name
Psychologist and dog researcher Stanley Coren states that dogs have the intellect of a 2 1/2-year-old toddler. Depending on the dog and their ability, this can range from a few hundred to a few thousand words.
As your name is associated with positive behavior, it stands to reason that they would feel positive emotions when hearing it.
Your dog gets jealous.
While this isn’t the best trait for a dog to have, often if a dog’s owner shows they are distracted by another person or thing, their fur friend will act out.
While plenty of pet parents have witnessed this behavior firsthand, science has also confirmed it.
What the Experts Say About Dogs Getting Jealous
Scientist Amalia Bastos of the University of Auckland in New Zealand conducted a study on jealous dogs and said that they "exhibit jealous behavior when their human companion interacts with a potential rival."
Your dog knows when you’re coming home before you do.
You and your pup have such an incredible bond that they know when your workday is over before you even walk in the door. Because both species have been living side by side for thousands of years, your dog has learned to pick up on daily cues, like your car pulling in the driveway.
Your dog may also be able to tell when you’ll come home by your scent. As it fades over the course of the day, they know it's time for you to return.
What the Experts Say About Dogs Picking Up Daily Cues
According to author, Alexandra Horowitz, "A potent combination of two forces leads to a dogs’ abilities. The first is the distinctness of our smell to our dogs. The second is the ease with which dogs learn our habits. It might be that the odors that we leave around the house when we leave lessen in a consistent amount each day."
Your best fur friend cries when they see you.
If your dog cries when you come home, it may not seem perfectly normal, but your pup is just expressing how excited they are to see you, particularly as you are the pack leader.
They also know that you will return the love they’re so clearly exhibiting. Think of these as happy tears.
What the Experts Say About Dogs Crying
While a dog's cry can alert you to anxiety or pain, often, they just want your attention, according to Dr. David Dilmore of Banfield Pet Hospital.
"Your dog may start whining if he’s looking for you to give him something, from attention and a belly rub to playtime or food," he said. "Some dogs will also whine or whimper when they are excited. This can happen when they see you pick up their leash or someone new comes to visit."
Your dog body slams you.
A body slam is just another way your dog shows their excitement when seeing you. Dogs learn from an early age to jump to lick their mother’s face in an attempt to ask her to drop the food or get her attention.
What the Experts Say About Dogs Jumping on You
As you are the pack leader, you have essentially taken the place of your dog's caregiver. While jumping up on you is a sign of how much affection your dog has for you, you may not want to encourage this behavior, especially if you have a big dog.
According to VCA veterinarian Debra Horwitz, "Dogs that jump up can also cause injury or scare the visitor. The visitor’s reaction to the dog (whether it be fear or retaliation) would then serve to make the dog anxious about further visitors coming to the home."
Your pup sleeps with an article of your clothing.
Your dog associates your scent with comfort, love and protection. What better way to get it than by sleeping on your laundry?
If you don’t mind, sleeping with one of your shirts can help your dog feel safe and secure when you’re not around or when they are afraid of something.
If it does bother you, however, you can retrain your dog to sleep on other things with your scent, like a pillow or blanket.
What the Experts Say About Dogs Sleeping on Your Clothes
Veterinary consultant Amber LaRock states that a dog's need to be near their chosen human is too strong to ignore.
"Whether your clothes are clean or dirty, a dog can always smell our scent with their powerful noses," said LaRock. "Sleeping in our clothes may be their way of connecting with you."
Your dog sighs around you.
When your dog sighs, especially if their eyes are partially closed, that usually means they’re happy. Perhaps you’ve given them a treat or a belly rub or just taken them for a walk and they’re eager to relax at your feet.
Whatever the case, the sigh usually lets you know of their pleasure, but make sure to note its context.
What the Experts Say About Dogs Sighing
According to veterinary surgeon Dr. Joanna Woodnutt, "Dogs are highly emotional beings, just like humans [and] there are times when they need an outlet to express those emotions. Sighing is one such outlet."
Your dog calmly watches you leave.
When your dog watches you walk out the door without carrying on in a stressful manner, it means they inherently trust you and know that you’ll come back.
A dog that freaks out when you leave, of course, also loves you, but doesn’t have that same trust and, in fact, may be exhibiting signs of separation anxiety.
A calm dog is a well-adjusted, happy pet.
What the Experts Say About Separation Anxiety
If your dog does suffer from separation anxiety, that doesn't mean they don't love you.
Helping them to remain calm when you leave is all about creating new patterns of behavior over time, according to Becca Wood, owner of West Virginia's Almost Heaven K9 Training.
"The dog will not wake up and just decide to be calm and relax," said Wood. "This is a skill that must be taught and then practiced daily."
Your dog raises their eyebrows when they see you.
A dog that raises their eyebrows only does so when they see the person or people they love. Dogs have learned over the centuries that they can communicate through facial expressions (puppy dog eyes, anyone?).
When they raise their eyebrows, it means they recognize you, are excited to see you and are also happy you have recognized and showed affection toward them in return.
What the Experts Say About Dogs Raising Their Eyebrows
According to University of Portsmouth comparative psychologist Juliane Kaminski, when a dog lifts their brows, they trigger our instinct to nurture.
"Expressive eyebrows in dogs may be a result of humans' unconscious preferences that influenced selection during domestication," said Kaminski. "When dogs make the movement, it seems to elicit a strong desire in humans to look after them."
Your dog responds to your voice with a head tilt.
One of the cutest movements dogs can make is when they tilt their heads from side to side.
They do this for many reasons — to see our facial expressions better, to hear us more clearly (not as much the words, but the tone of our voices), to exhibit expectation ("Did I hear the word 'walk' or 'chicken’?”) and to gauge our emotional state.
This attempt at understanding how we feel is their way of showing empathy toward us.
What the Experts Say About Dogs Tilting Their Heads
VCA Animal hospital doctors Ryan Llera and Lynn Buzhardt state that "when a dog cocks his head to the side, he is trying to hear your words, understand what you are saying, and let you know that he is concentrating on you."
Your pup does a little dance on two legs when you arrive.
If you’ve ever seen your dog hopping or dancing on their back legs when you enter the room, your dog is simply overjoyed to see you.
This is how they show affection, want attention and want to get closer to your eye level.
What the Experts Say About Dogs Dancing on Two Legs
While this is adorable behavior and may happen from time to time, training a dog to move only on their hind legs more often than not can hurt the dog, states Dr. Patrica Alderson. It's best to let the dog move naturally.
"If it’s chronic that they’re on their legs like that, then it’s not a natural posture for a dog to be in, so it does produce more wear and tear on the joints. This can lead to muscle and joint disease."
Your dog is happy to share their dinner with you.
A dog who shares his food with their owner is showing that they know you well enough to know that you’re not going to eat it. In fact, they trust you enough to know that it’s going to be as safe with you as it is with them.
Consider it a gift, even though they’ll probably eat it at some point in the future.
What the Experts Say About Dogs Sharing Their Food
The dog walking company Wag! states that this gift is "a big vote of confidence from your dog to you when he brings you his food. He's trusting you to keep his provisions out of reach of any prowling predator who might come along and steal it. "
Your dog shows you their belly.
When your dog shows you their belly, of course, they want a belly rub, but this also shows you they’re comfortable enough to expose themself fully around you.
Dogs protect their vital organs, which are in their bellies, but a dog that rolls on their back is a dog that trusts you deeply. They feel safe, and the belly rubs don’t hurt, either.
What the Experts Say About Dogs Showing You Their Belly
Veterinarian Dr. Margaret Gruen, who studied at the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, states: "Dogs expose their bellies as part of a submissive display, sometimes during play, and with people they are comfortable with."
Your dog sniffs your crotch.
While this isn’t the most desirable behavior, your dog has stronger scent glands than you can possibly imagine. Sniffing your crotch is just a way to say "hello." It’s a friendly, affectionate greeting.
What the Experts Say About Dogs Sniffing Your Crotch
Professor Stanley Coren tells us that dogs do this to gather information about us.
"In humans, the apocrine glands are found only in certain areas of the body, with the highest concentrations in the armpits and groin area, so dogs try to sniff these areas for the same reasons that they sniff the genital regions of dogs."
Just think of it as a handshake (but a lot more awkward).
Your dog chews or runs off with your dirty shoes or socks.
As we sweat, our dogs find comfort in our scent. Our shoes and socks can sometimes smell a little extra, and while we don’t like it, they can’t get enough of it.
Like the clothes they may sleep with, chewing or hoarding our footwear just makes them feel closer to us.
What the Experts Say About Dogs Playing With Your Shoes and Socks
Mary Jean Alsina, a professional trainer and the owner of The Canine Cure in New Jersey states that dogs also chew socks because doing so gets our attention.
"Dogs also may find when they grab socks, they get chased. Thus a game ensues, and this can be very rewarding."
Your dog dreams of you.
When you see a dog who appears to be running or barking in their sleep, you may be curious as to what they're dreaming about. Some experts believe that your pup is probably dreaming about you.
What the Experts Say About Dogs Dreaming
Dr. Deirdre Barrett, a clinical and evolutionary psychologist at Harvard Medical School explains what dogs may be dreaming about.
"Humans dream about the same things they’re interested in by day, though more visually and less logically. Since dogs are generally extremely attached to their human owners, it’s likely your dog is dreaming of your face, your smell and of pleasing or annoying you."