Have you ever wondered how dogs show they love you?
While some displays of affection seem pretty obvious, even seasoned dog lovers sometimes misread canine cues.
Though they can’t put their love into words, dogs have an unexpectedly large number of ways to show they care. From subtle body language to over-the-top displays of affection, your pooch is probably showering you with love in many surprising ways.
Keep in mind dogs have been our constant companions for thousands of years. The history of dogs is closely tied to our own history, and no other animal shares as close a relationship with humans as dogs do. Dogs and humans understand each other (or try to, at least); their undying love and loyalty for us is why we keep them at our sides.
Here are 25 ways dogs show affection to humans.
They will wag their tail when they are around you
A dog’s tail communicates different emotions, including happiness, fear, tension or aggression. Generally, the looser a dog’s tail is, the more relaxed he or she is. When your dog is happy, he or she will wag their tail so hard it seems like their whole back end is wagging. This is a sure sign your dog loves and trusts you.
They follow you around
Dogs, especially young puppies, need to feel safe and secure. When your dog follows you around, you know he or she feels safe with you. You represent security, which makes your dog feel calm and at peace. As your dog gets older, this turns into a sense of devotion and love. It doesn’t occur to your dog to want to be apart from you. You are his or her place of well-being.
Read more: Why Does My Dog Follow Me Everywhere?
They will lick your face
Dog’s lick people’s faces for several different reasons, but much of the time it’s simply because they love you. Puppies will lick their mother’s faces as an instinctual way of telling them they are hungry and want to eat. Even after they grow out of the need to be fed by their mothers, dogs still maintain the licking instinct.
Dogs may also lick in a submissive way or it can simply be a grooming technique. Dogs groom each other as a gesture of intimacy when a solid bond is in place, so you can definitely take grooming as a sign of love from your dog.
They will jump on you
Jumping up on people is generally considered an unwanted behavior in dogs, and most dog owners train their dogs to not jump on people. However, most of us instinctively know jumping up is a sign of affection, so we often give our dogs mixed signals when they greet us with excitement by jumping up on us. Puppies learn to lick their mother’s face and eyes; which is why your dog wants to jump on you. He or she is trying to lick your face because he or she recognizes you as their parent.
Want some tips for teaching your dog to not jump on you? Check out this blog post 6 Steps to Keep Your Puppy or Dog From Jumping Up
They will want to roughhouse with you
Playing a little rough (roughhousing) is your dog’s natural way of showing affection. It’s not only healthy, but a necessary part of your dog’s social development. Roughhousing helps to form a bond between you and your dog. Of course, sometimes roughhousing can go too far. Be sure to teach your dog what behaviors are acceptable – no barking, biting or swiping. Keep it safe!
Read more: 10 Fun Games to Play With Your Dog to Prevent Boredom
They will be social with you
Dogs are technically a sub-species of wolves. Wolves are naturally social creatures who live in family packs. Dogs are similarly wired to be social. When the crucial role you play in your dog’s life becomes apparent to him or her, you become the “pack leader”. You are the most important individual in your dog’s life, and he looks to you for guidance, approval, companionship and love. Of course, your dog will be social with you in return.
They will be loyal to you
Dogs are known for their loyalty. Their loyal nature comes from their wolf ancestry. Wolves mate for life and will share in the responsibility of caring for and guiding their offspring. Living as part of a nuclear family unit is instinctual for your dog, which is why they are so loyal and such great family pets.
They want to sleep near you
In the wild, wolves in packs sleep curled up together. Dogs curl up with each other too. Since you are your dog’s best friend and family, it’s only natural they will want to sleep near you (and next to you if you let them). Whether or not this behavior is acceptable is a point of contentious debate, but the fact that they want to sleep near you shows a deep bond of love and trust.
Related: How to Choose the Best Dog Bed for Your Dog
They will watch over you when you’re sick
Dogs possess an instinct to care for their pack mates, just as wolves rely on the care their family provides. In the wild, wolves will often lick each other’s wounds and care for a sick family member. Their need to care for you shows they love you and want to watch over you, just as they would a member of their pack in the wild.
They will lean on you – literally
It can be annoying to have a dog wanting to lean on you, especially when you’re busy and they are getting underfoot. The bigger your dog the more of a problem this can be. In your dog’s mind, though, it’s a sign of affection. It’s a way of showing you love as well as asking for your attention. When this happens, take a few minutes to sit down and pet your dog, and show him or her you love them as well.
They will smile at you
Yes, dogs really do smile! If you’ve ever thought you’ve seen your dog smiling, you’re probably right. Dogs will mimic human facial expressions; a dog’s smile can signal love and affection just as human smiles do. In fact, research has shown dogs use many facial expressions the way we do, reacting differently to different people depending on how well they know them as well as desirable and undesirable objects.
They will sniff your crotch
I know how embarrassing and annoying this can be, but to a dog, this behavior is meant to be friendly. Your dog is greeting you in a friendly way, similar to how humans shake each other’s hands. It’s literally a “get-to-know-you” gesture, not only as a way of saying hello, but also a way of gathering information about you through scent.
They will recognize your name
While we know dogs can learn their own names, you might be surprised to learn they can learn yours as well. Not only can your dog recognize your name, but they will get excited when they hear your name spoken. If they hear your name and get excited, it means they think you might appear.
They will bring you broken toys
Dogs show trust in their owners by bringing them objects they want fixed. They are showing you their trust and faith that you will be able to fix it for them.
They will guard you while you eat
Dogs are protective creatures, even if there’s no real threat. Some dogs show their affection by guarding over you while they eat or relax. Guarding is a sign your dog feels they belong to your pack. Even though this may be a sign of affection, most veterinarians would discourage this type of behavior as it can lead to overly territorial or behavioral issues.
They may try to “herd” you
Sometimes herding breeds will try to herd you if they think you are wandering off on your own. It’s a way of them showing affection for their pack. Herding behavior is often more prominent in breeds that were originally developed to control livestock, such as border collies and Australian shepherds.
They will rub their face on you
Rubbing their face on yours is a common sign of affection. By rubbing their face on yours, they are marking you as theirs. Of course, if your dog seems to be rubbing their face on everything in sight, it might be a good idea to see a vet to make sure your dog doesn’t have a skin problem.
Related: What Every Dog Owner Should Know About Skin Lumps and Bumps in Dogs
They might get agitated when you lie down
Some dogs will get upset if they think their owner is unconscious or unresponsive. They may try to lick your head and face desperately in an attempt to “revive” you. Of course, this can make it difficult to get any sleep, so if your dog has this behavior you may need to make sure your dog sleeps in another room.
They will gaze deeply into your eyes
Prolonged eye-gazing is an attempt to bond with you. Some dogs appear to be driven to establish eye contact with you, which can be a marker of attachment.
They will share their toys with you
If your dog really loves you, he or she will often bring you their favorite toy. It’s their way of sharing their belongings with you and demonstrating their affection for you.
Along these same lines, dogs will present you with dead rodents or birds they may have killed or found. It may seem disgusting to you, but to your dog, it is a way to please and provide for you. Don’t punish them for this behavior; instead, praise them for a job well done. Then decide what to do with the critter. If it’s dead, make sure it’s placed in a safe place where your dog can’t get it again – an outside trash can is a good option. If the critter is still alive, decide if it is in good enough shape to be released. If not, contact animal control to handle it. Since wild animals may carry diseases (like rabies); be sure to keep your dog’s vaccinations up to date!
They will sense your sadness
If your dog senses you are unhappy, he or she may try to comfort you. Most dogs are very in-tune with their owners’ emotions and will often respond if something isn’t right. Dogs can innately sense when you are sad or struggling with something. They will often find a way to snuggle up to you, rest their head on you, or generally find a way to be close to you during these times.
They will cuddle with you
Snuggling can strengthen the bond between dogs and their owners, which is a great excuse to curl up on the sofa with your fur baby.
Just like humans, dogs use snuggling behaviors to grow closer to others. If your dog wants to snuggle, he or she is showing you they love you and want to be close to you.
They will nose-nudge you
Nose-nudging you is a sign of affection, a way for your dog to show they like you. It’s also a way they seek attention, or to let you know you’re in their way. You’ll know your dog is expressing affection if the nose-nudge is accompanied by a soulful stare, or leads to more body contact.
They will let out a deep sigh
Soft vocalizations like sighs and groans are signs of contentment in dogs. If your dog snuggles up to you and sighs, it means they feel safe and comfortable by your side.
They will roll over
Dogs will roll over on their back to show a high degree of trust and relaxation around you. Sometimes this behavior is also asking for a belly rub. The roll-over is similar to the lean; when your dog flops over and wags their tail, they’re telling you they love you and trust you – a lot.
Paying attention to the signs your dog loves you can help you recognize the deep bond the two of you have. I hope this article helps you gain a deeper understanding of the many ways your dog shows you he or she loves and is devoted to you, leading to a happier life together.
How does your dog show love and affection? Please share in the comments below.