How To Tell If Your Dog Loves You

LAST UPDATED 3 FEBRUARY 2023

This article was written by Pet Circle veterinarian, Dr Carla Paszkowski. Updated by 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, dogs communicate through their own special body language.

Our vets have put together a guide to the 10 most common ways that dogs 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!

1. 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 be aggressive. When the whites of your dog's eyes aren't visible, it means they're especially comfortable around you.

2. Synchronised Yawning

Ever noticed how you can 'catch a yawn' from another person? Incredibly, this same effect occurs with dogs - and more so 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.

3. Exposing Their Belly

Rolling over in front of you and showing you their belly means that your dog trusts you.

Animals in the wild do not sleep on their backs, as this puts them in an exposed position, with their soft belly revealed and feet in the air, they are vulnerable to attack. Dogs that choose to sleep on their backs or expose their belly feel very safe and comfortable with their surroundings. Exposing their belly to you, shows that they trust you completely and feel safe and secure in your presence.

4. 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.

5. 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 owners is not healthy and can be a sign of Separation Anxiety in dogs. If your dog becomes distressed when left home alone then they may benefit from training and some anxiety aids such as Calming Diets, Anxiety Supplements, Pheromones or Calming Clothing.

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6. 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.

When dogs make regular, visual contact with their owners in new environments, it means they share a strong bond. A bonded dog is far less likely to run away when out walking and in fact, bonded dogs tend to have a stronger recall response, and will make sure their person is close by.

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7. 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!

8. 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 more so 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 Separation Anxiety. A 'normal' amount of enthusiasm is fine, but it may be worth investigating if your pups 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.

9. 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 long lasting treats.

10. Sleeping Nearby

Dogs tend to sleep closest to the 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 dog crate that you can place nearby.

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Further Reading

Premium Pet Food: Is it worth it?

Your Guide To Worming, Flea and Tick Treatment For Dogs

Common Pet Myths Debunked

Dental Care For Dogs

Boredom Busters For Dogs

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