You’re treated to signs of affection from your dog every day. Exuberant tail wagging and slobbery kisses from forehead to chin are obvious ones. But some signs of affection are subtler and easily missed unless you know what to look for. Here are seven ways your dog “says” I love you.
How Dogs Show Love
1. They make eye contact.
In general, dogs don’t like eye contact. Prolonged eye contact is a sign of aggression in dogs that can spell trouble. So when your dog locks eyes with you for a few seconds it’s a clear sign he’s comfortable with you and confident you’d never do him harm. Keep in mind, few dogs will sustain eye contact beyond a few seconds, even with those they love.
2. They lean on you.
When you’re sitting on the couch and your dog leans his body weight against your legs—he’s showing his affection. Of all the cozy spots for your dog in the house, there’s no place more comforting than right next to you. Pressing his weight against you reassures him that you aren’t going anywhere as he rests or takes a nap. This is more common in large dog breeds than in toy breeds, who are routinely held safely in your arms or sitting cozy in your lap.
3. They snuggle with your dirty laundry.
If you have to check your dog’s bed or crate for missing dirty socks and T-shirts every laundry day, take it for the compliment that it is. Your dog knows your smell and finds comfort in it when you are out of sight. For a dog with separation anxiety, it’s helpful to consciously place a few items of unwashed clothes near him when you leave him home alone.
4. They lick your face.
Dog kisses usually mean exactly what you guess they do—your dog thinks you’re the cat’s meow. Licking is an instinctual canine behavior that soothes and deepens social bonds between mother dogs and their pups, and among littermates. When you become a member of your dog’s pack, he’ll lick your face to strengthen your relationship, whether you’re a fan of dog kisses, or you duck to avoid the slobber.
If your dog licks constantly and you wonder why, there may be reasons beyond devotion. Dog and wolf pups lick the mouths of their mothers to prompt regurgitation, so your dog may lick your face when he’s hungry. Frequent licking may also indicate your dog has anxiety and is self-soothing through licking. Finally, your dog may simply enjoy the salty taste of your skin.
5. They wag their tails.
A fast, full-circle wag that gets your dog’s entire backside involved is a clear sign he’s overjoyed to see you. But other tail wags can indicate hesitation, agitation, or even dog hostility. Depending on the circumstances, slow wags and stiff wags may indicate your dog is feeling anxious or he’s on the offensive.
6. They know when you’re sad.
Does your dog snuggle close when you are crying or sad and seem to understand there’s something wrong? As pack animals, dogs look out for each other in good times and bad. When you’re having a bad day, your dog instinctively wants to help you feel better.
7. They share their toys with you.
If your dog drops his favorite toys at your feet, bounds around, and looks at you expectantly, he’s telling you he wants to play. But when he drops his toys near you and walks off for a rest in his bed, let it warm your heart. Your dog is sharing his treasures with you—his favorite person.
Those are the undeniable signs of affection from your dog, but many also wonder if other curious canine behaviors indicate love and affection.
Why Does My Dog Rub Against Me?
Your dog rubs against you for the same reason cats rub against their people—he’s marking you as an important member of his pack. Your dog has scent glands in his face that, when he rubs it against your legs, leave behind a scent and let the world know you’re with him. Other reasons your dog may rub against you include simply that it feels good; it’s something akin to a massage; or he has an itch he’s trying to scratch.
Why Does My Dog Yawn When I Pet Him?
Depending on the context, dog yawns mean different things. If you’ve just come home from work and you’re petting him before taking him for a walk, he may yawn to release energy in excited anticipation. If you’re petting him at the end of the day on the couch or as he lays on his bed, he’s probably yawning because he’s tuckered. But contagious yawns in dogs—when a yawn is prompted by another dog or person’s yawn—may indicate empathy, according to 2013 research by the University of Tokyo. Dogs in the study were more likely to ‘catch’ a yawn from their people than from strangers, a phenomenon understood as an empathetic response in humans and other primates. If your dog yawns after you do, you know he considers you an important member of his pack.
Why Is My Dog Obsessed With Me?
Your dog looks you straight in the eyes, snuggles every chance he gets, wags his tail, and drags your shirts into his dog crate. Rather than obsession, these are clear signs of your dog’s unending devotion. You’re the person who provides him with delicious meals and dog treats, plays endless games in the yard with him, and travels with him in search of adventure. You mean the world to him. Just be sure to offer the simple signs of affection your dog understands in return, such as clipping on his leash for frequent walks or hikes, taking him to work with you, and, of course, snuggles, behind-the-ear scratches, and belly rubs— every day.