Dogs are man’s (and woman’s) best friends. If you’re an ardent dog owner, you’ll agree that these fiercely loyal and extremely intelligent creatures can make adorable companions. But how can you tell if your dog truly loves you and not just faking the excitement to have a bite of your delicacies?
Dogs express their emotions in a variety of ways, ranging from subtle expressions to obvious adoration. So, sometimes it can be difficult to differentiate between negative and positive expressions. Fortunately for you, this comprehensive guide highlights important tips on how to tell if your dog loves you. But first, let’s learn a few behavioral characteristics of dogs.
Dogs Consider Us a Family
The bottom line is that our dogs love us unconditionally. But sometimes, they can express it in weirder ways. A recent study showed that canines respond more strongly to the smell of a known, loved human as opposed to the smell of an unfamiliar human or dog, or even a familiar dog.
In the study, a group of dogs was trained to remain calm in an MRI machine, while different scents were introduced and their brains monitored. The study focused on a part of the brain referred to as the “caudate nucleus” that is linked to positive expectations. The results indicated that when the dogs smelled the scent of a loved human, the olfactory reward center illuminated.
A similar study found that when both dogs and humans are subjected to a set of voices and non-vocal stimulation, dogs responded effectively to emotionally-laden human sounds in a similar manner that humans did. This indicates that dogs respond to human vocal emotion in the same way humans respond to emotions. Happy sounds, in particular, stimulate the auditory cortex of humans and dogs in a similar manner.
In simple terms, dogs interact with human caregivers in a similar way that babies respond to their loving parents. When your dog is worried or frightened, he/she will run to you in the same way a toddler would run to his/her parent. This is a unique character that other domesticated animals such as cats or horses don’t exhibit. A frightened cat or horse will typically run away from the threat and not to you.
Like Kids, Dogs Learn from Us
Dogs learn socially from each other, but studies show that they even learn better from humans. It’s mostly because humans play a more important role in the social structure of dogs. Your pooch can actually acquire contagious behaviors such as yawning from a human family member, and humans can also catch yawns from their pups.
Dogs Communicate with Humans in Subtle Ways
Dogs are incredibly connected to their human owners, and many people agree that dogs often feel guilty and express guilt if they rub you the wrong way. However, some scientists believe that dogs don’t express guilt but rather exhibit a depressed attitude when they’ve done something bad like tearing apart your expensive carpet. They simply want to prevent you from punishing them harshly. Either way, dogs often display a submissive behavior to ask for forgiveness for their wrongdoing. And, interestingly, it works.
Most dog owners are less likely to punish or scold their dogs when they behave in a “guilty” manner. So, while your furry friend may not be able to feel guilt, they are capable of communicating to you in a subtle manner that they would rather not be punished. Typically, your dog will know when you’re mad by simply observing your facial expression. This is why it’s important to tie a reward to a happy face as opposed to an angry face. Dogs can also pick up on human vocal cues, indicating that dogs are more aware of our social interactions than we may have realized.
Your Dog Snubs Those Who Snub You
For dogs, it turns out that the enemy of their human owner is their enemy. A recent Japanese study revealed that dogs refused food from persons who snubbed their owners. When the dogs in the study observed a stranger helping their owner, they later accepted food from the person.
But, when the dogs observed people they didn’t recognize refusing to help their owner, they refused to take food from them. Additionally, the dogs were willing to accept food from a neutral individual who did or did not help their owner. If you notice your dog exhibiting loyalty to you and rejection to your enemies, it’s a pretty good indication that your dog loves you.
Dogs Experience Love Like We Do
It may not be possible to determine exactly how your dog feels, but dogs usually have the same hormone, oxytocin, as humans. It’s the same hormone that is responsible for the feelings of love and affection that we feel between human partners, parent and child, and between human and dog. Scientists believe that dogs experience emotions in a similar way to a two-year-old child.
How to Tell if Your Dog Loves You
Just because you own an adorable pooch doesn’t mean that they truly love you. Some of the ways that dogs express love, such as wanting to be close to a loved one, are the same as humans. However, other expressions of love are unique to canines. Your dog can often show you love in ways you may not even notice. Here are some clear signs that your furry friend feels the same way about you as you feel about them.
1- They are excited to see you
Nothing soothes better than warm greetings from a loving pup whenever you arrive home. Many dogs are excited to meet new friends, both humans and other dogs, but greetings from a dog who loves you are totally different. If your pup goes crazy when you walk into the house, it’s a positive sign that they care. Your dog will also learn your routine and wait by the main door when they anticipate your arrival. Knowing that your dog cares about nothing else other than the fact that you’re about to arrive home can reassure you how much they love you.
2- They maintain eye contact with you
Dogs sometimes exude love with their eyes. If your pooch spends a lot of time contentedly staring at you, it is a positive sign that you are their favorite person. Your dog will try to grab your attention by barking or pawing at you, signaling that they want to engage with you and look to you as the person who will provide them with everything they need in life, including baths, dog food, and play.
3- They ask for cuddles
Dogs can ask for affection from you in several ways. Your dog may roll over for belly rubs or rub their head on your lap to let you know they need some scratching of their head or ears. Whenever your dog asks for affection, you can tell that they are seeking out love while also feeling loved. Additionally, your dog may lie with their back to you, showing total love and loyalty to you. It’s like saying it’s you and them against the world!
4- They want to stay close to you
If your pooch obsessively follows you wherever you go and is upset any time you leave home, they may be experiencing separation anxiety, which is a very unpleasant state for someone in love. If, however, your pup does not seem to be overly anxious whenever you leave home but chooses to be close to you whenever it is convenient, it’s a sign that you are your dog’s favorite person.
5- They want to play with you
Just like kids, dogs learn, bond, and develop trust through play. If your pooch wants to play with you all the time, it’s a sign that they want to build a relationship with you. Your little hairy friend might be driving you crazy by stealing your stuff and constantly trying to get you to play and chase after them. Strive to give them more engagement since love is a relationship that requires work on both sides. Scheduled regular playtime to ensure that your pooch doesn’t bother you between playtimes.
6- They always want to touch you
When your dog makes physical contact with you, oxytocin is released, giving them physical comfort. Physical contact soothes your pooch’s anxiety since they love and trust you and feel safer when touching you. If your furry friend is always leaning on you when standing or lying very close to you, you can feel confident that they adore you.
7- They Pee When they See You
As surprisingly as it sounds, your dog peeing on you whenever they meet you after sometime is not a sign that his potty training is regressing. Dogs, especially young puppies, may pass a little pee when they get overexcited. Sometimes referred to as submissive urination, this little accident is typically a compliment. It shows that your dog knows you’re in charge!
8- They Bring You their Favorite Toys
If your dog can trust you with his favorite toy, he doesn’t just mean he wants to play. Although wanting to play is still a sign of puppy love, presenting his most prized, most beloved possession to you is a true sign of honor.
9- Tail Wagging
Tail wagging is the most conventional way that dogs express happiness. However, tail wagging has also been proven to be a sign of affection towards humans. A relaxed dog will more likely wag his tail, and a relaxed dog typically feels good about his owner. But you need to keep in mind that when the dog’s muscles remain stiff while the tail continues to wag, it could be a sign that your dog is angry or annoyed.
Did you know that dogs are more likely to yawn simultaneously with their owners than with strangers? Yawning can be a sign of empathy, so when your pooch yawns right along with you, it could be a sign of affection.
11- Lifting Their Eyebrows
If you often pay close attention to your dog’s facial expression, you may have noticed that your pooch lifts his eyebrows (especially the left one) when he sees you. Those adorable eyebrow wiggles are a sign that your furry friend is happy to see you.
If you’ve ever caught your dog smiling at you, it probably wasn’t your own imagination. And your pup wasn’t just trying something random with the corners of his mouth! Studies show that a dog’s open, relaxed mouth is an indication that they are feeling happy and affectionate.
13- Stealing Your Clothes
It’s obviously annoying to have to chase your pooch down the hallway as they constantly run away with your socks or underwear. However, you might feel differently when you learn that this kind of thievery is actually a sign of adoration. Dogs explore the world through scent, so if they love you, they’ll love your smell too! To cling on to that smell, they may steal your stuff, such as clothes, shoes, etc.
14- Recognizing your Name
A dog that loves you will certainly recognize your name — and be visibly excited when someone calls your name. If your dog often jumps with excitement to hear your name, it could be a sign they love you. It’s no surprise that pets learn and master their names too, but intelligent dogs also respond to the names of their favorite humans.
15- Bring Items That Need Fixing
Dogs can show love and trust by bringing you broken items that need “fixing.” It’s their unique way of saying they trust you to solve problems. For example, your dog may bring you a dead animal or a broken toy and whine for you to “solve the problem.”
16- Herding their owner
Some dog breeds, such as border collies and Australian shepherds, are known for their herding tendencies. If your dog tries to keep your family members, especially kids, from wandering off on their own, they could be exhibiting a herding behavior. Herding is a special way of showing affection for the ‘pack.’ For example, if someone in your family steps off the sidewalk, some dogs may herd the wayward member back onto the track and to safety.
17- Getting Agitated when you lie down
If you haven’t trained your dog to share a bed with you, they might get agitated when you lie down. If your dog loves you, they might freak out if you play dead or lie down to take a nap. Some dogs will lick your face and head desperately if they think you are unresponsive or unconscious. Although this kind of behavior can make it difficult to get any rest, it’s a sure sign that your pet loves you. Try keeping your concerned dog out of the bedroom while you sleep.
18- Offering a shoulder to cry on
If your dog can notice when you’re struggling with something and need comfort, it could be a sign they care. Whenever you feel low, your dog might lie on your lap and offer the needed comfort. Researchers claim that most dogs are quite in tune with their owners’ emotions and will usually respond if they sense something isn’t right. A loving dog will find a way to cuddle up to you, rest their head on you, and generally find a way to stay close to you during difficult times. If you aren’t sure of your pooch’s adoration, try faking sobs and see how they react!
Build the Bond with Your Pooch!
Are you worried that your hairy companion doesn’t love you as much as you wish they did? Don’t fret, there are a few things that you can do to build a stronger relationship with your pooch. The same way not all people get along easily, not every dog owner and his pet is a match made in heaven. Even if you and your pup are an odd couple, you can still learn how to get along and build a stronger bond together. Here are some simple tips that can help you develop love with your furry friend.
- Train. You may have assumed that you can seamlessly develop a cordial relationship with your dog without training him or her, but the opposite is true. Training helps develop communication and a good relationship between you and your dog. It encourages your pet to trust you to help them make critical decisions about what to do next. Once you train your dog to take certain instructions such as “sit,” “out,” “eat,” etc, you’ll both reduce ugly confrontations and develop a loving relationship.
- Play. If you don’t often have fun playing with your dog, make an effort to introduce playtimes. It’s a give and take, so both of you should enjoy the fun as you solve problems and explore nature together. Experiment with different dog toys and see what works best for both of you.
- Show affection. Your dog will most certainly seek your attention, but you should as well take a deliberate step to seek their affection. If you only reward your pooch with affection when they come looking for it, they may soon become demanding and needy. Make time every day to cuddle your pooch, brush and groom them, brush their teeth, and generally offer affection.
- Be consistent. Inconsistency can quickly damage the human-dog bond. Your furry friend needs to know what the rules are and what to expect from you and other family members. Providing food and playtimes at consistent times every day will keep your pet from pestering you for attention.
- Be patient. Finally, a deep bond can’t be developed overnight. If your pup has experienced abandonment, neglect, or trauma, it may take him even longer to bond with you. If you notice that your dog is detached or indifferent, keep trying. Sometimes, it can take a while for your dog to fully open up to trust and love you. Keep offering love and affection consistently and your dog will eventually open up in time.
Although dogs can’t put their love into words, they have countless ways to show they care. From subtle body language to extreme display of affection, your pooch is probably showering you with affection in plenty of surprising ways you might not have known before. Hopefully, the hints we’ve covered here have opened your eyes to how much your pup adores and trusts you. As we always recommend, strive to reward your pooch with some healthy bites whenever they take your instructions or after play to strengthen your relationship and enhance trust.