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How Do I Know If My Dog Loves Me? 5 Simple Signs to Look For - PawSafe
Dog Behavior

How Do I Know If My Dog Loves Me? 5 Simple Signs to Look For

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

how do I know if my dog loves me

In the quest for how to know if our dogs love us, countless subtle yet profound cues give you a peak into the mysterious canine mind. I mean, who wouldn’t want to know if their dog is head over paws in love or just tolerates us for their snacks?

Dog body language can speak volumes about their emotions, and there’s plenty we can learn by observing them closely. This article explores how your body movements, facial expressions, and behavior show a strong bond with your dog. Of course, every dog is different, so it’s essential to take their personality into consideration.

As we discuss these signs of affection, we’ll help you understand your dog’s unique way of expressing their feelings towards you. Dr. Clive Wynne, a behavioral Neuroscienctist, psychologist, and author of  “Dog Is Love: Why and How Your Dog Loves You,” shares your sentiment. Dr. Wynn states that sometimes he understands his dog gaze lovingly just because he wants dinner, but he’s convinced that it goes beyond that.

Having a clearer picture of how your pup feels about you will help you strengthen that special bond even further. Be sure to check out our article on how do dogs show affection for a low down on all those quirky things canines do that just scream,” I love you.”

In an interview with The Washington Post, Clive Wynne summarized canine affections beautifully. He said:

“I’m not saying human and dog love are identical. I’m just saying there’s enough similarity between how dogs form strong emotional bonds and how people form strong emotional bonds that it’s fair enough to use the love word.”

When decoding what a dog feels toward you, many owners knowingly or unknowingly fear anthropomorphism. This is ascribing human qualities to animals, which is not only plain inaccurate but has been shown to be detrimental to their well-being. In this case, anthropomorphism would be translating what we define as human love onto our pups.

Luckily, evidence shows that dogs thrive on companionship that is almost human-like in quality.

Let’s dive right into where you stand with your dog.

5 Signs Your Dog Loves You Back

1. They Have Positive Body Language Around You

Body language is arguably one of the most important ways to truly know your dog. As owners, it’s essential for us to understand our dog’s body language to know if they’ve bonded with us. Let’s discuss a few basic dog body language signs that indicate affection and are signs that a dog is happy:

  • Wagging tail: A wagging tail is the most obvious sign that our dog is happy. It’s worth noting that not all wagging is equal. A relaxed, loose wag that flows from side to side indicates happiness, while a stiff, fast wag with short strokes might signal anxiety. The tail can also be lowered but not tucked when the dog is relaxed.

Interestingly, the wagging direction is also something to take note of. Studies link left-side wagging to displeasure and concern, while wagging to the right typically shows happy feelings. 

  • Eye contact and relaxed mouth

Soft Gaze vs. Hard Gaze: A soft gaze, characterized by relaxed eyes and prolonged eye contact, often indicates that our dog is feeling content or seeking our attention and has been shown to boost oxytocin in dogs. Look for half-moon-shaped eyes, almost like the emoji. Their mouths are relaxed, almost like an adorable smile.

On the other hand, a hard gaze, where the eyes are wide open and staring intently without blinking, can be a sign of aggression or fear. If we notice a hard gaze, it’s best to give our dog some space.

Whale Eye: “Whale eye” is when the colored part of the dog’s eyes move to the side, showing a portion of the whites. The side eye, as many call it, is typically associated with anxiety or uncertainty and typically happens with yawning, lip licking, and pinned ears. So, be aware of subtle signs of this that means a dog is uncomfortable rather than loving.

  • Relaxed ears: The ears will be in a neutral position, neither laid back nor pointing forward aggressively.
  • Relaxed body posture: Happy, bonded dogs have a loose body posture that is neither tense nor frozen or lowered, which shows general content. Their heads are not lowered either.

Here are other clear affection signs  you might observe:

  • Licking you (an appeasement gesture sometimes also associate with being affectionate);
  • Playfulness; and
  • Sighing and Sleeping.

While understanding these body language basics, it’s essential to observe our dog’s behavior in different contexts. Watch for any changes to determine if they’re feeling love or anxiety. It’s also very easy to misinterpret body language, especially when wagging is involved.  Misunderstanding wagging tails is common problem.

For example, with the first dog in this clip, which is a pit bull, the chiropractor and commenters assume he’s happy because of the wagging and wants a hug. However, you can see him jump on the chiropractor to gain height over him. This is actually to tell the chiropractor politely to back off. The wags are fast and stiff, mouth tight, body stiff, ears pinned, and the dog gives him the whale eye. Mistaking this body language for a sign of love is how people get bit “out of no where.”

2. They Seek Physical Affection

One of the most evident expressions of a dog’s bonding is through physical contact. Dogs are tactile creatures that use cuddling, leaning, and gentle touches to convey their affection. It’s their version of a warm hug or a reassuring pat on the back.

Actions include:

  • Pawing at you;
  • Insisting on sleeping on your bed;
  • Cuddling;
  • Nuzzling;
  • Leaning and snuggling;
  • Licking and kissing; and
  • Looking for butt and belly rubs. 

Pro-tip: A simple trick to know if your dog wants to share some love is to pet them and then remove your hand. If they come closer, then they want to share more affection. If they don’t, it’s better to leave them alone.

These are their unique gestures of fondness and trust. PubMed Research shows that touch releases oxytocin in dogs, further motivating them to seek it more. However, make sure your individual signs that your dog enjoys these sessions or not. If they have signs like yawning, licking lips, lowering the head, pinned ears and tails, or the side eye, it’s best to stop.

3. They Love to Play With You

A dog’s unabashed enthusiasm for playtime is a heartwarming testament to their love and affection for their human companions. When a dog eagerly initiates games, whether it’s a spirited game of fetch, a joyous tug-of-war, or a simple romp in the yard, they’re not just in it for the fun; they’re actively seeking shared moments of joy and connection with you.

Playtime is not only a fun bonding experience, but it is also an essential aspect of your dog’s well-being. Paying attention to your dog’s playtime preferences and interaction during playtime can give you insights into how much your dog has bonded with you.

Fun fact: A dog plays more when you’re watching. Latest studies prove canine play is enriched by social interaction, even if the human is inactive and simply there. It is theorized that the reason for this is human presence makes the play more rewarding. 

Familiarizing with your dog’s toy preferences can help you understand their needs and show affection.

  • Soft toys: Dogs often enjoy cuddling with these after a play session.
  • Chew toys: They serve as a stress reliever and help in maintaining dental hygiene.
  • Interactive toys: These toys stimulate their mind and keep them engaged.

Tip: By rotating toys, you maintain your dog’s interest and create anticipation for their favorites.

By observing your dog’s toy preferences and interaction during playtime, you’ll get a glimpse of their appreciation for you. So, always cherish this time and enjoy every moment spent playing with your canine.

4. They’re Excited When You Come Home 

The helicopter tail wagging, the excited bounces, and perhaps even a few joyful barks all combine to create a spectacle of genuine happiness upon your return. This elation is a clear indication that, in your absence, they’ve eagerly anticipated your reunion.

Dogs are hyperdependent on smell, and their brain reacts to familiar scents, particularly from owners, an fMRI study shows. So, smelling you from a distance triggers this entire excited response. However, some people insist on waiting until the dog is calm to greet them to prevent jumping and to avoid reinforcing separation anxiety. 

5. They’re Empathetic to Your Emotions 

One of the most touching ways dogs express their affection is through their uncanny ability to be empathetic to your emotions. When you’re feeling low, your dog may nuzzle close, offer gentle nudges, or simply sit by your side, providing a comforting presence. On the flip side, when you’re overjoyed or excited, they share in the enthusiasm, often wagging their tails and joining in the positive energy. 

6. Barking and Whining

When it comes to communication with our dogs, barking and whining are common ways our pets express themselves. We need to pay attention to the frequency, pitch, and volume of their vocalizations to understand them better. For example, a high-pitched bark might indicate excitement, while a low-pitched growl could be a warning.

Dogs also use whining as a means of communication. They might whine when they’re in pain, feeling anxious, or seeking attention from us. It’s essential to observe the context in which our dog is whining to address their needs accordingly.

7. Keeping Watch Over You

A dog watching over you is a poignant demonstration of their protective instincts and deep attachment. Whether you’re lounging at home, working, or even sleeping, your dog positions themselves strategically to keep you in sight. However, remember that dogs can resource guard their owners, which typically manifests as aggression if someone or another dog gets close.

8. Following You Around 

A dog’s penchant for following you around is a charming and unmistakable sign of their affection and loyalty. Whether you’re moving from room to room or simply going about your daily routine, your dog’s constant companionship is a testament to their desire to be near you.

9. Sharing Their Quirks With You 

If your dog is always in a silly, goofy mood when around you, there’s a high chance you’re their favorite human. Dogs often reserve these special antics for their special humans, turning routine activities into moments of shared delight. It may be a quirky dance, having zoomies, or even funny facial expressions to show that they’re most comfortable with you. 

Healthy Habits for a Happy Dog

Developing healthy habits is essential for keeping our dogs content. In this section, we’ll share some simple habits that you can incorporate into your dog’s daily routine.

Exercise and Playtime: A stimulating and enjoyable way to bond with our dogs is through exercise and play. Regular walks, play sessions, and mentally engaging games will help keep them physically fit and mentally happy. If possible, mix up the activities to keep them engaged and excited.

Healthy Diet: Feeding our dogs a balanced and nutritious diet promotes overall well-being and helps maintain a healthy weight. Consult with your veterinarian about the appropriate diet for their breed, age, and size. Don’t forget that treats should also be healthy and given in moderation.

Training and Socialization: Early and consistent training helps develop a strong bond between us and our dogs. Proper socialization ensures that our dogs will feel comfortable and confident around other people and animals. Attend puppy classes or enlist the help of a professional dog trainer for guidance.

  1. Regular Vet Checkups;
  2. Grooming and Dental Care; and
  3. Providing Comfort and Security.

In addition to the habits mentioned above, there are a few other essential aspects of maintaining a happy and healthy dog:

Regular Vet Checkups: Annual vet visits for vaccinations and routine checkups play a significant role in preventing potential health issues. Keeping up-to-date with vaccinations and discussing any concerns with your vet will ensure that your dog remains in tip-top shape.

Grooming and Dental Care: Establishing a grooming routine, including regular brushing, nail trims, and dental care, is crucial for maintaining good hygiene. This helps prevent matting, excessive shedding, and dental problems, which can otherwise cause discomfort and health issues.

Providing Comfort and Security: Providing our dogs with a safe and loving environment fosters a sense of security, which contributes to their overall happiness. Offer them a cozy and comfortable space to rest in, and maintain a predictable daily routine to minimize stress and anxiety.

By implementing these healthy habits, we can create a strong bond and caring environment for our dogs, ensuring that they feel truly loved and cherished.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How can I tell if my dog is happy with me?

We can observe our dog’s body language for signs of happiness. A relaxed body, wagging tail, and playfulness are some indications that they are content. Additionally, dogs that are happy with their owners often follow them around and display a desire for cuddles or attention.

What are common signs dogs show when they’re affectionate?

When dogs are feeling affectionate, we may notice them leaning into us, laying their head on our lap, or seeking physical contact. They may also engage in gentle play, give soft kisses, or show a relaxed body and facial expression.

Why does my dog lick me so much?

Our dogs lick us for various reasons. They may be showing affection or grooming us as a bonding behavior. Additionally, licking could be a way for dogs to collect sensory information about us or simply enjoy our skin’s taste. It’s generally a positive behavior, reinforcing the bond between us and our pups.

How do dogs demonstrate their attachment to owners?

Attachment can manifest through our dogs following us around, seeking out physical contact, and displaying excitement when we return home. A strong bond can also lead to protective behaviors, such as guarding their owners or being attentive in new environments.

Are there any signs that my dog might not like me?

If our dog is showing signs of avoidance, such as moving away from us, hiding, or displaying aggressive behaviors, they might not feel comfortable around us. Additionally, excessive licking or yawning could indicate stress or anxiety. It’s essential to evaluate our interactions with our dog and make sure we’re providing a positive environment for them.

What are the most common ways dogs express love?

Common ways dogs express their love include wagging their tails, looking into our eyes, cuddling, and giving us kisses. Playful behavior and excited greetings when we return home are also signs of a loving bond. It’s important to remember that each dog is unique, and their love language might vary, so paying close attention to their body language and preferences can help us understand how they feel.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, forming a strong bond with our canine not only confirms their love for us but it also enriches both our lives and theirs. Nurturing a loving relationship is an ongoing process which requires patience, time, and understanding. As responsible pet owners, let’s strive to communicate effectively with our dogs and appreciate the affection they share with us every day. Every dog is different, so learning your dog is the best way to bond with them.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe

Author

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.