Anyone who has a pet knows how strong the bond between the two of you can be. For dog owners, coming home to our furry buddies is the highlight of our day. Our heart soars every time puppies get so excited to see us that they can't contain himself. But since most dogs do this, you may wonder, is this just a dog thing, or does my dog really love me? We asked some vets and dog behavior experts for the surefire signs that your dog really loves you. Keep reading for the answers.
Do dogs understand love?
Dogs are man's best friend for a reason. According to the experts, they understand and exhibit love for their humans. "While the concept of love as humans know it might be a tad complex for them, our dogs undoubtedly exhibit a deep-seated bond and affection toward their humans," says Dr. Sabrina Kong, DVM and veterinary contributor at We Love Doodles. "Their understanding and expression of love manifest through loyalty, trust, and how they seek to share our space, engage with us and contribute to our well-being."
"Research suggests that dogs have a range of complex emotions and cognitions like us," adds Philip Tedeschi, human-animal connection expert with Rover. "Studies of the canine brain suggest that dogs remember their 'human family,' and that these memories activate the same part of the brain used by humans to register affection or love."
5 signs your dog loves you
You know that your dog can love, but how can you tell she loves you and isn't just faking it for treats? Here are what the experts say are the biggest signs your dog loves you.
1. She gazes at you
If you've caught your dog looking into your eyes and felt a deep sense of connection, you aren't imagining it. A gentle gaze is one of the biggest ways dogs say 'I love you.' "Dogs look for opportunities to make eye contact, or gaze, to solidify their bond with a person," says Tedeschi. "Gazing stimulates bonding and oxytocin, or 'the love hormone,' for a dog." That's right — oxytocin, the feel-good hormone that releases when you get a hug — is released in your dog's brain when she looks at you. Next time you catch her staring, know that she's giving you a hug in her own special way!
2. He nuzzles you
Has your dog ever pawed at you the moment you stop petting her in an attempt to get you to resume? If so, it isn't just that she wants pets — she wants contact with you because she loves you. "Gentle touching and nuzzling mimics the maternal affection dogs receive as puppies," says Tedeschi. "Touching also elicits the hormone oxytocin, which creates feelings of attachment and a sense of well-being."
Another way many dogs show love through touch is by leaning up against you. If you've ever been standing there, only for your dog to stand on your feet and put her entire body weight on you, almost knocking you over, it's a sign of love. "A dog leaning against you or resting their head on your lap is a sign of comfort and affection," says Ashley Reely, certified dog trainer and founder of Meraki Dogs.
3. She invites you to play
Many dogs show their love for you by inviting you to play. Accepting your pup's invitation to play fetch in the back yard is a clear sign to your pu pthat you love her, too. "Dogs use play to express friendship and love, so body language, like a play bow, is an invitation to share in a loving ritual," says Tedeschi. "If a person responds by starting to play, a dog gets the message of love."
Another way pups invite you to play is by bringing you their favorite toys. "When dogs bring you their toys, this can be seen as a gift or an invitation to play, indicating trust and a desire for interaction," says Reely.
4. He follows you around
Some dogs are velcro-pups: No matter where you go, the tip-tap of their toes is never far behind. Whether you're going to check the mail or just taking a quick potty break, your dog makes it clear she's with you for the adventure. Yes, dogs are curious about what you're up to, but it's mainly because they love you. "Dogs' tendency to follow us around, whether we're meandering through the house or embarking on outdoor adventures, is a sweet testament to their attachment," says Dr. Kong. It's also a sign of respect, adds Reely: "A dog that follows you from room to room often sees you as their pack leader and feels a strong bond."
5.She's excited to see you
As obvious as it seems, if a dog is really excited to see you when you come home, it's a definite sign that she missed you and loves you. The easiest way to tell if your pup is excited is by her tail. "A joyous wag of the tail, especially when it involves their whole body, often spells our dogs' happiness in our presence," says Dr. Kong. She may even greet you at the door with a wagging tail and her favorite toy in her mouth — a veritable double-whammy when it comes to doggie displays of affection.
What to do if your dog doesn't display these signs
If your dog doesn't exhibit these behaviors on a regular basis around you, don't worry — it doesn't mean she doesn't love you. "Dogs, much like us, come with a diverse range of personalities and emotional expressions," says Dr. Kong. "Some might be more reserved, shy or carry past experiences that instill a sense of caution in them." It's important not to force your dog into behaving any certain way, but there are methods for building a stronger, more open connection with your pup that allows them to show affection at their own pace.
1. Be patient
Allow your pup to be affectionate on her own terms. Maybe she simply prefers to show love in other ways, like barking at potential intruders (squirrels) to keep you safe. But imposing affection on her will only drive her away, so it's important to be patient. "Patience, tender love and care can often coax the love and trust from even the most reserved dogs, allowing the bonds of affection to blossom over time," says Dr. Kong. "Every dog is unique. Some might take longer to warm up, especially if they've had traumatic experiences in the past. Give them time and space," adds Reely.
2. Build up trust
Some dogs, especially dogs with difficult pasts, may not show affection because they have a hard time trusting humans. Show your dog she can trust you, and she will be more comfortable, and potentially, more affectionate. "Spend quality time with your dog, engage in play and offer treats," recommends Reely. "Over time, this can help foster a bond."
Cute videos of dogs showing their love
Check out these adorable videos of pups who want their owners to know just how much they love them.
1. A loving lean
This dog leans on her owner to show her how much she loves her.
2. A sweet reunion
This dog gives her dad the most adorable homecoming.
3. A quick hug
Sometimes, dogs' displays of affection are pretty obvious.
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