On the lookout for signs your dog loves you? Well, search no further because you’ll find them all right here! The good news is, our canine companions are a little bit more forthcoming with their feelings than our feline friends are, so they’re pretty good at making their love for their humans crystal clear.
It’s worth noting that which love language your pet speaks can influence the way they show their love for you. So while one dog may bring you household items and toys as gifts to demonstrate their affection for you, others may prefer to curl up next to you on the couch.
And while the most affectionate dog breeds are very good at physical displays of love and admiration, if your dog holds back, that’s far more likely to be a sign of an independent nature than it is a lack of love. Unless your dog feels anxious or uncomfortable around you (and we’re pretty darn sure that’s not the case!) then you can rest assured that your forever friend loves you just as much as you love them.
To help make deciphering your dog’s love signals a little easier for you, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 most common ways that our canine companions express their love and devotion, from maintaining eye contact to following you around the house. Remember, every dog is different, but if your pup engages in any of the following, take it as confirmation that their love goggles are firmly fastened where you’re concerned!
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1. They seek physical contact
Does your dog curl up on the couch next to you when you’re reading or watching TV? Do they lie at your feet when you’re eating? Do they clamber onto your lap when you’re sitting cross-legged on the floor? Seeking physical contact is one of the many ways our canine companions show their love for us.
Sara Ochoa, a veterinarian and veterinary consultant for DogLab, says that rubbing their face on their owners is another way dogs show their love through being physical. "It's a common way to show affection. By rubbing their face on you, your dog is marking you as theirs," said Ochoa.
Dogs are much like humans when it comes to physical contact - they’re highly unlikely to want to be in close proximity to someone they don’t love or feel safe with. So if your canine companion is actively wanting to be near you, this is a great sign they feel secure and comfortable in your presence.
2. They’re excited to see you
Whether you’ve been gone for five minutes or five hours, one of the best parts of being a doggy parent is having that excited face greet you every time you reappear.
If your dog jumps up and down when you come home, starts running around excitedly, is wagging their tail, licking you, or brings you their favorite toy, these are all signs that your pup loves you and is thrilled to have you back.
Jamie Richardson, a veterinarian and medical chief of staff at Small Door Veterinary, says that merely hearing your name will be enough to get some dogs excited. "Over time, dogs learn to recognize human names. If they hear a loved one's name mentioned who isn't present, they'll get excited at the thought that they might appear," said Richardson.
3. They follow you around
For some of us, having a canine companion in the house is a bit like having a second shadow and being followed from room to room is always a good sign our pup is feeling the love. Checking in on you and accompanying you wherever you go is often a dog's way of showing they care.
But don’t take it as a bad sign if your dog doesn’t always trot along after you whenever you leave the couch and head into the kitchen. Some dogs are more independent than others, so if they’re not always by your side, it doesn’t mean they don’t love you.
4. They maintain eye contact
If you don’t like someone or they make you feel threatened or uncomfortable, then chances are you won’t be spending much time staring deeply into their eyes. The same goes for dogs - eye gazing is an attempt at bonding and something that all of us (humans and dogs alike) reserve for those we love.
"From the time they are puppies, dogs appear to be driven to establish eye contact with humans, which can be a marker of attachment," explains Rebecca Greenstein, a medical advisor for Rover.
When a dog looks into your eyes, its brain releases oxytocin, the love hormone that helps them feel connected to you. It’s important to never force your dog to make or maintain eye contact though, instead let it happen naturally when playing or cuddling.
5. They lick you
While not all of us appreciate a good face licking, a dog's lick is their version of a kiss and they usually dish out those doggy kisses when they’re either happy to see you or feeling worried about you.
Licking is one of the primary ways that dogs show their love and affection. It’s a natural action that they learned as puppies when they were licked by their mother and fellow litter mates. But don’t worry if your dog doesn’t lick you much, some didn’t receive as much licks as puppies and others just prefer to demonstrate their love in other ways.
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6. They bring you their favorite toy
Has your pup ever greeted you at the door with the latest object of their affection - a soft toy, a sock, a stick they’ve just found outside, or the piece of cardboard they’re currently in the middle of destroying? If they have, consider yourself very loved indeed.
"If your dog really loves you, they will often bring their favorite toy. This is their way of sharing their stuff with you and showing they care," said Ochoa. While you may not have any interest in their tatty toy that’s been slobbered all over, when you receive their gift, you receive their love. Oh, but just a word of warning - they’ll probably be asking for it back a few seconds later!
7. They smile at you
While they can’t quite smile in the same way that we humans can, many dogs often get pretty close. "[Pet] dogs can raise their inner eyebrows much more dramatically than wild dogs, and this sympathetic, adorable expression is thought to induce feelings of care and nurturing in their human owners," said Greenstein.
If your dog often pulls their lips back to reveal a wide, toothy grin, this is definitely a sign of love. You’ll likely find that the more you reciprocate by giving them a big, happy smile back, the more they’ll repeat the behavior.
8. They comfort you
Like our feline friends, our canine companions tend to be very in tune with our emotions and will often pick up when we’re in need of a little extra TLC. This concern for your wellbeing is an ultimate expression of love.
"Dogs can innately sense when you are sad or struggling with something. They will find a way to cuddle up to you, rest their head on you, or generally find a way to be close to you during these times," said Richardson.
9. They steal your clothes and carry them around
Frustrating as it may be, there’s a good reason your dog is constantly wandering around the house with your socks, shoes or scarf stuffed into their mouth - these items are covered in your scent.
While it’s probably not behavior you want to encourage, most of the time your dog isn’t collecting up your personal belongings to be naughty, but rather because the smell makes them feel closer to you.
Rather than telling them off, which feels like a rejection to them, try gently redirecting their attention towards one of the best dog chew toys to help them learn the behavior you expect of them.
10. They want to sleep next to you
You may prefer to use one of the best dog crates to keep your pup safe and secure during the night, but if you tend to let them have free reign of the house and they always end up in your bedroom snuggled up beside you, that’s a good sign that they love you.
"Gentle touching and nuzzling mimic maternal affection between puppies and their original dog moms. These physical activities induce the release of the feel-good hormone, oxytocin, in both species," said Greenstein.
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Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.