Welcome to the world of wagging tails, wet noses, and endless doggo devotion! If you’ve ever wondered if dogs can show affection or how to tell if your dog loves you, the good news is that dogs are easy to read. They express affection in multiple adorable, heartwarming ways. By learning how to read your dog’s personality, you can even strengthen your bond with them and help others in your family learn to do the same.
Signs Your Dog Loves You
How do dogs show affection? It’s all about body language! Your dog’s posture, demeanor, and behavior when they’re around you are hints for how they feel about you. The different ways dogs show affection are:
Enthusiastic tail wagging
You likely know that dog tail wagging is a primary indicator of their mood. When a dog is happy, their tail tends to wag side-to-side at a steady (or even fast!) pace. If their tail is low or between their legs, even if it’s wagging, it’s a sign that your dog is frightened or stressed.
All the licks
Affection is closely tied to feelings of trust and security, for both people and dogs. While there are several common theories about why dogs lick us, all of them are based on the general idea that if your dog licks you, it’s because they feel safe enough with you to do so. Those animal behavior experts who believe that dog licking is tied to affection theorize that it could hearken back to the sense of security dogs felt as puppies when they were licked by their mothers. So, the short answer to the question “Are dog licks a sign of affection?” is yes!
Animal behaviorists theorize that dogs cuddle as a pack behavior. When your pup cuddles with you, they’re telling you that you’re part of their pack.
But, just as not all humans are big cuddlers, not all dogs are either. They prefer different levels or types of cuddles. Some dogs may want to curl up on your lap or snuggle next to you on the couch or in bed. Others might prefer to lean against your legs or lie on your feet. And others may just be happy being near you without much physical contact at all. Take your cues from your dog. Even if it seems like they’re not snuggly, they probably are, just in their own way!
Comfortable, relaxed eye contact
You’re not imagining it if you think your dog is gazing lovingly into your eyes. Scientists have found that just as oxytocin (the feel-good hormone) is released when people who care for each other make eye contact, the same is true for humans and their canine companions. It could take a while for your dog to express affection this way; holding eye contact with a dog who’s not comfortable with you can be seen by the dog as an act of aggression. Read your dog’s cues. They’re good at letting you know how they feel!
A dog who feels safe and relaxed is playful. If your dog automatically brings you their favorite toy, drops something at your feet to play fetch with, or prances and jumps around happily, chances are pretty good that they adore you and are ready to play. A dog that feels unsure or unsafe won’t display this type of behavior. Of course, personalities differ, and some dogs are more playful than others. But if your dog is the playful type and they want to play with you, remember this: You’re one of their favorite people!
Where you go, they go
If life feels like one long game of “follow the leader” because your dog is following you from room to room in your house, then you can rest easy knowing your dog sees you as an essential member of their pack and they’re most relaxed when you’re nearby.
Strengthening Your Bond with Your Dog
If you’d like to build a stronger bond with your dog, there are several ways you can do so. The good news is that many of these tactics are just a standard part of being a good dog owner. And the rest? Well, they’re just fun! Consider a few of the following ideas for bonding with your dog:
- Grooming: Calmly brushing, bathing, and caring for your dog helps them feel more secure around you.
- Playing: Regularly play with your dog in the ways they enjoy most, whether it’s a game of fetch or hide-and-seek.
- Getting out together: Go for regular walks, as well as occasional outings or adventures, with your dog!
- Being a source of comfort: When your dog is frightened or stressed, comfort them by talking calmly and quietly, offering petting, and giving treats if they want them. This will build the bond by helping your dog trust you and feel safe when you’re around.