If you’re a new pet owner, you may not be familiar with a dog’s way of showing physical affection — even dog lovers will sometimes misread physical contact with their canine companion. Because our dogs can’t vocally deliver their expression of love, they do so in many different ways. From grand displays of affection to subtle body language, there are many surprising ways dogs show that you’re their favorite human.
In this article, we answer your question, “How do dogs show affection?”
How Do Dogs Show Affection?
Dogs have been a companion to humans for many thousands of years, and their history is closely related to that of our own. As such, humans and dogs have a better understanding of each other than any other animal on earth, and their instincts as pack animals are often shared with us. Below are a variety of ways that a happy dog might show its affectionate behaviors.
Your dog’s tail can communicate a wide range of emotions, such as fear, aggression, tension, or happiness. In general, the looser your pup’s tail is, the better; a stiff tail, for example, may indicate anger, while a tail tucked between its legs may suggest it’s scared. On the other hand, a wagging tail is a sure sign of love.
Licking Your Face
When a dog licks a human face, it could be for many different reasons, but most of the time, it’s to show love. It may also go back to their natural instinct to lick their mother’s faces to let them know that they’re hungry and want attention. Dogs may also groom each other through licking as a sign of affection when you’ve developed a strong bond together.
All dogs share a wolf ancestry, which are naturally social animals that live together in a family unit as pack members. As such, dogs have the same need to be social, and you have the most important role to play as the pack leader. Your pup will look to you for social development, guidance, love, and companionship.
Much like humans, dogs only extend natural eye contact to people which gives them a sense of safety and security — it’s also a way for dogs to show you love and trust. Sustained eye contact is also a useful tool for training and forming a deep bond with your pooch. Moreover, when your pup sees you, the brain releases oxytocin, a love hormone that allows for the creation of bonds between a mother dog and its puppies.
Just make sure you reinforce this sign of affection by spending time cuddling and playing with your furry family members.
Carrying Your Laundry
If you’ve ever seen your best friend carrying your laundry basket, it’s because your dog loves your scent so much. You might even notice that your dog digs up your dirty laundry — this is among the most common signs of affection that dogs know to express. While stealing your clothes isn’t great, especially for dogs that love to chew, just give them interactive toys to save your clothes.
Jumping on You
While it might be considered to be an unwanted behavior, jumping is one of the various ways by which dogs express emotion. Dog owners may not always appreciate it but jumping is actually a friendly gesture that dogs do to greet us after being away on a long day at work. Your dog hops to get to your face and lick it — something that they learned to do as puppies for their mother and is short of saying that they recognize you as their parent.
Leaning on You
For some people, it might be annoying when their dog leans on them, and the bigger the dog is, the heavier they are. However, this is a great way for dogs to show their love for you and is a way dogs communicate their need for attention. When they do this, be sure to spend some quality time with your pup and show your love for it.
When a dog offers you a broken toy, it’s they want you to fix it and trust you enough to do so. If your dog shares its favorite toy with you, this is a sign of dog affection, and may also bring you ‘gifts’ such as dead birds or rodents. It might seem gross, but don’t punish them; this dog language is the equivalent of giving gifts to humans.
Rather than being repulsed by it, be sure to reward or praise them for their good behavior and simply throw it away somewhere your dog won’t find it. However, if it’s alive, just release it or call the animal control hotline.
They Cuddle You
This form of physical touch can help to strengthen the bond between you and your dog. A dog feels its happiest whenever it spends time with the person they treasure the most. Even a little bit of cuddling is the best thing you can give to your dog, so make sure to always make time for some snuggling up on the couch while watching your favorite show.
For dogs, nose-nudging is a sign of love and is a way for dogs to show love for their pet parents. At the same time, it’s also a way for them to ask you to move out of the way or to get your attention. However, you’ll know it’s for affection when this gesture to followed by a hard stare or results in body contact.
They’ll Know Your Name
It’s no surprise that dogs can learn their own names, but did you know that they can learn yours too? Not only do dogs recognize our names, but they will also get excited when they hear it. The next time you notice your dog’s ears perk up when they hear your name, you’ll know that it’s one they recognize and love with their whole heart.
A dog’s expression of love isn’t limited to soft vocalizations and their face; a relaxed dog with a high degree of trust around you will often roll over on its back. This behavior may also be their way of asking for belly rubs and is a similar gesture to leaning on you. Your dog is pretty much saying that it loves you and trusts you a great deal.
Smiling at You
Maybe you’ve seen it before and thought you were going crazy — don’t worry, dogs can really smile! Dogs can mimic the facial expressions of humans and use them in the same way as we do, but different dogs will react differently according to how well they know someone. Perhaps this could be a new trick to teach your dog with the help of a professional dog trainer.
Dogs will often think of their owner as their safe place, so when your pooch follows you around, it probably feels secure with you. For your pet, you represent safety, a sanctuary that will give them peace and calm; but when you’re away for too long, your dog may experience separation anxiety. To avoid this, be sure to give them your presence and to give your puppy love when it needs your attention.
We all know that dogs are man’s best friend, and are highly loyal, intelligent, and lovable life companions; when we provide for our dog’s need for affection, they’ll surely do the same for us and more. If you’re wondering whether your dog loves you or not, you can be sure by observing the gestures listed above — just make sure that you don’t read into a negative expression they might have, and keep helping them through positive reinforcement. No matter what, you can be sure that your dog will be loyal to you as long as you give it gentle hugs.