Does My Dog Love Me?
He loves me, he loves me not…
Dogs are well-known for craving the attention and affection of humans. But sometimes, we are the ones who desperately want to know what our dogs think of us.
“Does my dog love me?” you wonder wistfully as you gaze at your fluffy best furiend. “Does my dog know I love him? How do I say, ‘I love you’ in dog barks?”
Well, we can’t help you with that last one, but we can answer the question of, “Do dogs love their owners?” And we’re sure you’ll be relieved to know that the answer is a definitive yes!
As scientists, dog behaviorists and anyone who’s ever felt a dog’s love will tell you, our furry pals do form very loving bonds and attachments with the people in their lives. And if you’re still not sure, here are a few of the biggest signs your dog loves you!
1. He Gazes Adoringly Into Your Eyes
Ahhh, puppy eyes. You already know it’s physically impossible to stare into your pup’s heart-melting expression without going weak at the knees from the sheer, overwhelming cuteness.
But what does your dog think when they look at you? Are they put off by your bedhead hair and the spinach in your teeth? Or does your loyal pup think you’re the most beautiful thing they’ve ever seen — no matter what?
Well, you’ll be reassured to know that when your dog stares up at you in awe like they’re basking in your presence…they kind of are!
Maintaining direct eye contact with a soft, relaxed gaze is actually one of the signs your dog loves you. That’s right, those meaningful stares from your pup aren’t always about begging for treats!
This adorable behavior is one of the ways in which our best pals aren’t exactly like their wild ancestors. Wolves typically perceive a direct stare as a challenge, and dogs do, too — from other dogs. But it seems that dogs are willing to make an exception for us, their human companions!
That’s because as humans, we appreciate direct eye contact. For example, staring deeply into your significant other’s eyes increases your level of oxytocin: the “love hormone” involved in forming social bonds. (In fact, some studies have even found that sharing prolonged eye contact with a total stranger can make you trust them more!).
What’s amazing about dogs is that they have the “look of love,” too. So when you and your dog share eye contact, your oxytocin level rises — and so does Fido’s!
Gazing at each other literally makes you and your dog love each other even more. So go ahead and get lost in your best furiend’s big, beautiful puppy eyes!
2. He Seeks Out Physical Contact With You
Physical contact is a near-universal sign of affection. Both dogs and humans like to feel the reassuring touch of those we love, whether that means hugs and handshakes or cuddling on the couch.
Dogs are surrounded by loving physical affection from the moment they are born, as their mothers lick and nuzzle them and their siblings cuddle them. Once a puppy is old enough for a human family of their own, you and the others in your household become their pack — so that desire for closeness is transferred to you!
Your dog says, “I love you” every time they choose to sit near you (or on top of you), or snuggle up next to you, or lean their whole body weight against your legs until you topple over.
Before you worry that your pup is simply looking for a warm body, remember that dogs have no problem avoiding the people and things they don’t like or don’t want to interact with. (Haven’t you ever been snubbed by a dog you desperately wanted to like you? They can be such heartbreakers!)
So, if your best pal is in your lap the moment you sit down or insists on sleeping by your side at night…it’s safe to say they have all kinds of warm and fuzzy feelings for you!
3. He Raises His Eyebrows When You Appear
Okay, this one sounds a bit strange, but hear us out!
Like many animals, dogs don’t really have “eyebrows” in the technical sense, but they do have specific facial muscles that they can use to look like they’re raising or wiggling their “eyebrows.”
Surprisingly, wolves aren’t able to make as many different facial expressions as dogs can. In fact, studies suggest that domestic dogs evolved eyebrow-power specifically to make their facial expressions easier for humans to understand — and if evolving new muscles just to communicate with us isn’t true love, we don’t know what is.
Dogs have become masters of using their adorable facial expressions to get our attention and tug at our heartstrings, and sometimes that furry face is even saying, “Gosh, I love you!”
A study from 2013 used a high-speed camera to detect rapid changes in a dog’s facial expression when they encountered their owner, a stranger or a dog toy. The study found that the dogs raised their eyebrows (especially the left one) whenever their owner entered the room, but did not do the same for a stranger or even a beloved toy. The eyebrow-lifting seemed to be a sign of acknowledgement just for the dog’s owner, as if the pups were saying: “Ah! My person!”
So, who knows? All those funny faces and eyebrow-wiggles your dog makes at you could just be Fido’s way of trying to tell you how much he cares!
4. He Steals Your Smelliest Clothes
If your dog appears in front of you with your dirty sock in their mouth, they may just be trying to get your attention or convince you to play with them. (“Chase me!” is a popular canine game, after all).
But, if they’re stealing your clothes when you’re not even home and “hoarding” them, it’s an indication that your pup was thinking of you lovingly while you were away.
Dogs, like many animals, take comfort in the places and objects that smell like themselves. When your dog picks up their favorite stuffed animal and catches a whiff of their own scent, it makes them think, “This is mine; this is good.”
But if your dog is choosing to surround themself with items that smell strongly like you — your shoes, socks and undies being the obvious stinky options — it means they find you and even the reminders of your existence to be comforting and reassuring. They take a deep whiff of your old gym bag and think, “Ah, my person. This is good.”
(Really, that’s about as high of a compliment as you could ask for. We’re willing to bet even your spouse wouldn’t be thrilled with your stink just because it’s your stink!).
The bottom line is, you shouldn’t get upset the next time you uncover a pile of your missing underwear in your dog’s crate. All of that theft is really just your dog saying, “I love you!”
5. He’s Happy to See You!
Finally, if you’re still wondering, “Does my dog love me?” then all you need to do to answer that question is to leave the house for a few hours. You’ll know your pup loves you if they’re ecstatic when you come back home!
If your pup gets so excited when you step through the door that their wagging tail becomes a blur…if they can’t stop licking your face…if they seem to be levitating from joy…well, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out those are all signs your dog loves you.
Wolf pups in the wild will wag their tails to greet their parents when they return to the den, and will also jump up to lick their faces. So, it only makes sense that your fur-baby will do the same to you, their strange two-legged parent.
(I mean, yes, your dog may also seem just as happy to see your next-door neighbor who fed them that one time — but let’s not dwell on that, shall we?)
If you’re still looking for signs your dog loves you, look no further than the study from 2017 which bravely tackled the question, “Do dogs love their owners — or are they just in it for the food?”
The researchers wondered if our dogs have figured out that all they need to do to earn delicious meals is to give us needy, validation-seeking humans those slobbery kisses and other signs of affection. In other words, is the love we think we feel from our dogs really just a self-serving ploy for food?
By monitoring dogs’ brain activity via MRI, the researchers came to a reassuring conclusion: Yes, dogs do genuinely love humans, at least as much as they love food. Maybe even more!
So the next time you worry, “Does my dog love me?” just think about the enthusiasm with which your dog tucks into their bowl of delicious dinner — and be assured that they love you just as much!