When you see your dog’s adoring eyes and happily wagging tail, it’s clear how much they love you, and there’s no doubt about how you feel about your dog. You express your love for them through your words and how you look after them.
But do dogs really understand how much their owners love them? It’s easy to imagine that they do, but knowing for certain would be nice!
It turns out that dogs do know of our great love for them. Here, we go over how you can tell that your dog not only appreciates but also understands how much you love them.
The 8 Ways to Tell if Your Dog Knows You Love Them
1. The Eyes
When dogs feel loved, they will show you love right back. One way that your dog does this is by staring at you for no discernible reason.
Dr. Brian Hare is a member of the Center of Cognitive Neuroscience and an expert in canine cognition.1 He says that when your dog stares at you like this, they are essentially hugging you with their eyes.
2. The Lean
When your dog leans against you, it indicates that they love and trust you. Strong physical contact like leaning on your leg or lying on your feet means your dog is comfortable with you and feels reassured that you’re there with them. A dog wouldn’t do this if they didn’t feel loved by you.
3. Herding Behavior
Not all dogs will herd their family, but herding breeds are more likely to start herding you and other household members. This behavior is their way of keeping their humans together so they are protected. This also tells you that you are part of your dog’s pack.
4. Body Language
Dogs may stare at you, lean on you, wag their tail, happily wiggle their bottom, and give you a lovely doggy smile.
When your dog brings you something like their favorite toy or blanket, it’s a clear sign of their love. They recognize that you do nice things for them, so they want to do something nice in return.
They might even bring you one of their belongings that needs fixing, which shows that they trust you enough to repair it for them.
Dogs that take a protective stance with their family are demonstrating their guardianship of their pack. Your dog may also guard you while you’re having dinner (if they aren’t giving you sad eyes as you eat).
When dogs sense that you’re unhappy and in need of a little TLC, they might attempt to comfort you. This is when you might get a full-body lean, or they’ll try to crawl onto your lap. When dogs feel loved, they are more likely to be in tune with your emotions.
An obvious sign that your dog loves you and knows that you love them too is physical affection. When your dog comes to you for snuggles, they consider you a part of their close-knit pack and will show you love that they know that you will reciprocate.
Science Tells Us Why We Bond With Dogs
Oxytocin is a hormone responsible for our bonds with our loved ones, though it is primarily known as the “love hormone” for its function in childbirth.
When you interact with your dog, the levels of oxytocin in your and your dog’s brains go up, which makes you both feel good. It can also happen during playtime and when you’re giving and receiving affection. This is how bonds are formed.
Basically, science can explain why it makes us so happy when we spend time with our dogs and why we both feel such a strong bond.
Top 6 Ways That You Can Show Your Dog How Much You Love Them
There are a few simple ways to leave no doubt about how much you love your dog.
1. Gentle Touch
Giving your dog gentle and soothing pets and strokes can convey your love for them. Pay special attention to their ears: Rubbing your dog’s ears helps release oxytocin because they contain nerve endings, making them feel great!
2. Talking to Them
Studies have shown that dogs can understand an average of 89 words and phrases, so there’s no doubt that they at least know their names. They especially enjoy it when you use your “dog voice” for them.
Spend time just talking to them, even if they don’t understand your words. You can even read something out loud to them; the sound of your voice is what makes them feel loved.
Walks are an everyday necessity for dogs, but we don’t always take the time to go for a leisurely walk or a hike with our dogs.
Spending time with your dog outdoors forces you to be more present rather than just watching TV and fiddling with your phone. Long walks with your dog can also help you form a stronger bond.
4. Training Sessions
Doing extra training with your dog allows you to interact more with them, and using positive reinforcement will also strengthen your bond.
Training helps form routines, and your dog can have their good behavior rewarded with treats, playtime, and verbal praise.
A dog leaning on you is like the dog version of a hug and their way of letting you know that they love and trust you.
Try leaning gently on your dog, as this will communicate to them that you love them back, which will develop into a deep trust between you.
6. Eye Contact
Making eye contact is a dog’s way of hugging you with their eyes, and you can do the same to them. In fact, raising your left eyebrow while gazing into your dog’s eyes is a sign of affection. Speak to them softly and pet them while maintaining loving eye contact.
However, direct eye contact with a dog that doesn’t know you well will see this as a challenge and a sign of aggression.
What You Shouldn’t Do
We sometimes do things with our dogs that we believe show affection but aren’t always welcome or a good idea.
- Hugs: While we might love hugging our dogs, most dogs don’t. Hugs can make them feel trapped, and they might construe it as a threatening action. Stick with leaning against your dog as a way to hug them, as they will appreciate this.
- Kissing: This is unhygienic for you both, and some dogs just don’t like it when you put your face close to theirs. Your dog leaning away from you and looking in another direction, licking their lips, and showing the whites of their eyes are all signs of stress. Don’t kiss your dog if you notice any of these signs.
- Treats: Treats should be used primarily for training and special occasions. Too many treats can lead to obesity. There are better ways to show your dog how much you love them.
Dogs show us how much they love us in unique ways, though they are perfectly normal for a dog’s pack. When you learn how to read your dog’s body language, you’ll be able to understand them better.
Dogs do seem to know how to read your emotional state, and if you want to show your dog how much you love them, your bond can only grow stronger.