What Is Your Dog's Love Language?


This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian, Dr Belinda Stancombe

Known as Man's Best Friend, dogs are one of the most loveable creatures on Earth. Endlessly loyal, loving and snuggly, they hold a special place in our hearts and families. While it is not hard for us to fall head over heels in love with our four-legged friends, it can be harder to determine how our pets feel about us.

To show their love and devotion, dog's communicate through love languages. Our vets have put together a guide to the 10 most common love languages that dogs use to show that they love us. Knowing your dog's love language not only helps you better understand their everyday gestures but enables you to show them the same love right back!

Eye Contact

When your dog looks at you, oxytocin is released in their brain. This is the 'happy' hormone, and is released when new mothers bond with their babies. This means that eye contact truly signifies your dog's love for you.

Interestingly, canines don't perceive eye contact the same way within their species. Eye contact between two dogs might actually be aggressive. When the whites of your dog's eyes aren't visible, it means they're especially comfortable around you.

Physical Attention and Proximity

While dogs may not enjoy constricting hugs, they do enjoy physical contact and close proximity to humans they share a bond with. In fact, physical contact is one of the most important bonding activities you can share with your dog.

If your dog follows you from room to room and seeks out physical contact, it's a sure sign they're bonded to you. You can strengthen your bond with quality, one-on-one time with your dog daily.

However, an excessive reliance on proximity to you which results in distress when you're separated is not healthy, and can indicate underlying anxiety. Separation Anxiety is a common problem in dogs, and can be addressed with proper training and Anxiety Aids such as Zylkene.

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Exposing Their Belly

Rolling over in front of you and showing you their belly means that your dog trusts you. The abdomen is a vulnerable area, so exposing it to you means that they feel comfortable around you. Your dog is also demonstrating that they are happy to be defenseless around you, as they feel loved and protected by you.

Synchronised Yawning

Ever noticed how you can 'catch a yawn' from another person? Incredibly, this same effect occurs with dogs - and moreso in connection with humans they are bonded to!

In a study from the University of Tokyo, dogs were found to be more likely to yawn in sync with their owners than with a stranger. The same study indicated that contagious yawning is closely associated with social skills and empathy. So, if your dog yawns right along with you, this is likely to be a sign of empathy and affection towards you.

Looking Back For You When Out Walking

When out walking off leash, your dog may look back at you to 'check in' and make sure you're nearby. This indicates that they want to stay together as a pack, and shows that your dog feels connected to you. If your dog makes regular, visual contact with you in new environments, it means you share a strong bond.

Similarly, a bonded dog is far less likely to run away. Bonded dogs tend to have a stronger recall response, and will make sure their person is close by.

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Excited Welcome Home

Of course, this isn't always an accurate sign of love, as some dogs will greet anyone with full-body tail wags and unbridled excitement upon entering the house. But if your pooch freaks out - in a good way! - when you walk through the door moreso than other people, this can be a clear sign of love.

Always be aware that over excitement (especially if it results in submissive urination) can be a sign of anxiety - particularly as it relates to separation anxiety. A 'normal' amount of enthusiasm is fine, but it may be worth investigating if your pup's reaction seems excessive.

Dog trainers recommend never encouraging hyperactive welcomes, and only greeting your dog once they've settled and are behaving in a calm manner.

A Love For Your Shoes and Clothes

When a dog loves a human, they also love their scent. Dogs have an incredibly powerful sense of smell, just as us humans have keen eyesight. Where we might keep a photograph of someone we love, dogs often seek out a 'souvenir' in the form of your scent. If your dog rummages through your shoe pile or dirty laundry basket for stinky socks, take it as a compliment!

However, stealing shoes and dirty clothes isn't always ideal - especially if your dog chews on them! To prevent inappropriate destructive behaviour, always make sure your dog has plenty of engaging toys or occupying treats.

Leaning Against You

It's easy to appreciate that a dog will only lean against a human they trust. I'm sure you wouldn't want to lean on someone you didn't know, or even someone you didn't like!

Whether you're sitting, standing, or lying down, if your dog leans on you, it means they feels safe, secure, and totally comfortable. A dog may lean into their human when they're feeling scared or anxious, but that only means they view you as their protector.

Sleeping Nearby

Dogs tend to sleep closest to people they feel a strongest bond with. Sleeping nearby indicates that your dog perceives you as part of their pack, and doesn't want to be separated at night. Dog packs naturally sleep together, so this behaviour is completely normal and shows a strong bond.

If you don't let your dog sleep on your bed, make sure they're comfy with a dog bed or crate that you can place nearby.

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Facial Expressions

Just like us, dogs reveal their emotions in their facial expressions. It can be hard to pick, but your dog may actually pull a certain expression on their face when they see someone they love.

In one study conducted in Japan using high-speed cameras, dogs were shown their parent, a stranger, a dog toy, and an item they disliked. When the dogs saw their parent, they would lift their eyebrows - particularly their left eyebrow. When they saw a stranger, less facial movement occurred, and movement was instead observed in the right eyebrow.

Ear position is also significant. When the dogs saw someone they knew well, they pulled their left ear backwards - but when seeing an item they disliked, the dogs would shift their right ear backwards.

So, if you want to know your dog's true feelings for you - watch closely for movement in the left or right side of their face next time you say hello!

Further Reading

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Common Pet Myths Debunked

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