Whether you’ve had your dog since they were a pup, or adopted them later on in their lives – we all feel the same way: we want to form a strong bond with our animals and for them to love us as much as we love them.
So, do you know how to tell if your dog loves you?
Now, of course this isn’t an exact science, but there are certain traits an animal will display if they’re very comfortable or feel that you’re their human.
And in our minds, that translates to “I Love You.”
Plus, it’s just a little bit of fun!
How to Tell if Your Dog Loves You
Now, in my mind, when I lay on the floor with my pups and whisper sweet nothings in their ears, in my mind they whisper them back. I imagine them saying “Mommy, I love you too.”
Okay, let’s be real – she’s not actually doing that – let’s not get too wild over here. Or should we? Those may not be her words, but the feeling could be exactly that.
There are things that my dogs do that show their connection to me. And your dogs probably do them too!
Some of these are very subtle, and others are really hard to miss! Here’s how to tell if your dog loves you.
1. They follow you around.
Into the kitchen, outside, to the couch, into the bathroom… many of our dogs follow us all around the house. If you feel like you can’t make a move without your pup following, that’s often a good indicator of strong affection. And yes, while this can be a sign of separation anxiety in some dogs (and you’ll likely know if this is a symptom of that), for others it’s just a sign that they want to be near you.
2. They make eye contact.
Continuous eye contact is reserved for people you love, trust, and feel safe with – and the same goes for your dog. Most dogs reserve eye contact for the people they’ve bonded with And this is actually really good for both of you! Staring into each others eyes releases oxytocin – the love hormone – which improves mood and reduces stress, and has huge health benefits for both of you! It has even been shown, through numerous research studies, to have cancer fighting properties. Look for relaxed eyes and pupils that are normal size – that’s a comfort gaze – it’s the same one that babies have with their mothers. Now, remember that for many dogs, making direct eye contact can be interpreted as an aggressive action – so never force this, especially with a dog you don’t know. This oxytocin loop only happens when there’s already a connection (whether established or immediate – as with a newborn baby).
3. They want your affection.
Physical affection can be important for your relationship with your dog. We’re not saying you should pick up your dog and give it a super tight bear hug. Rather, pets, cuddles, leans, and maybe even gentle hugs are strong signals that you and your dog are truly bonded. And it’s mutual – letting them be with you, no matter where you are, shows them your love.
4. They recognize your name.
Over time, many dogs learn to recognize certain human’s names. And a good sign of affection is when that name elicit’s an excited response. Saying Mommy’s home or Daddy’s home in our house has the dogs running to the window with tails wagging.
5. They’re excited to see you.
Following on #4, if your pet is happy to see you when you come through the door – tail wagging furiously, crying, even peeing on the floor (not wonderful, but hey) – that again is a sure sign of love.
6. They bring you presents.
Now, we’ve had a number of cats in the past bring us “presents” from the backyard, but dogs will do this too. And usually those presents are nicer. Sometimes, if your dog brings you their toy, it literally just means “play with me” but sometimes they just want to share their favourite things with you – and you’ll often be able to tell the difference.
7. They love your smell.
If your dog likes to carry around or cuddle something of yours, something that smells like you, that’s often a sign of love. And it’s actually more than just a smell. These pheromones are actually hormones, and they help to establish a bond. For example, a lot of adoptive parents will use pheromone dolls to help establish connections with newborns before they’re brought home. These pheromones can help your animal feel safe and secure, and bring you closer to them, even when you’re not around. In fact, a 2015 study published in the journal Behavioural Processes found that dogs connect their owner’s unique smell to pleasure, and that dogs were more excited by their parents scent than by any other smell, including food.
Ok, check, check, and check. Love in the air – and we’re always happy to strengthen it – is there anything you can do to strengthen that love? You bet!
How to Strengthen Your Bond
I have two very important pieces of advice when it comes to building a strong bond with your dog: never skip the communication or time.
1. Communication is key. Now, it’s very important to tell your dog you love them 25 times a day (I know I’m not the only one…). But is that really going to strengthen your bond? Sure it will!! Most dogs like it when we talk to them, especially when we use words they understand and tones that peak their attention. And research shows that dogs pay more attention when they think that we’re talking to them! Talking to your pet, whether you’re just telling them they’re the best dog in the world or telling them what you’re cooking for dinner, will help build that lasting love.
2. Time is invaluable. The hands down best way to build an affectionate and loving bond is with time. That means giving them your time! Whether you’re walking, laying together on the floor cuddling, playing in the backyard, or just sitting together, your time is what matters to your animal. Having your full, undivided attention (no phones please) is really important to your animal. They WANT to connect with you on every level, and they want you to pay attention to them. To build a strong bond and create a loving relationship, take the time to show your pet you love them. Involve them. If you’re reading your children a bedtime story, bring your dog up and read to them too. They are a part of your family and want to be with you.
Now that you know how to tell if your dog loves you, see how many of these behaviours your pet exhibits, and do all you can to share your love, each and every day.