Dogs, unlike cats, tend to be pretty forthcoming with their affections. You know that when your pooch gives you a big slobbery kiss or happily jumps on you when you walk through the door that he's pretty into you. But have you ever wondered if there are other ways dogs show affection? It turns out that dogs have many subtle ways they show they care, and once you know the signs, you'll appreciate your four-legged friend that much more.
Dog owners tend to know their pet's every little expression, from pleading to mischievous, but did you know that dogs can, and do, smile? A content, grinning dog will often have "a lowered head, wagging tail, flattened ears, a soft body posture and soft, squinty eyes along with those teeth. Teeth don't always mean aggression—it is important to consider the whole body and the context to understand what a dog is saying," explained the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
If you think that a smiling puppy sounds like the cutest thing in the world, you are right (and you need to watch this YouTube video). But smiling isn't the only way a dog can show he's happy with you. Here are 5 more signs that your dog thinks you're the best.
1. You see an eyebrow lift
If you have ever seen your pooch arch her left eyebrow when she sees you, then you've actually witnessed one incredible sign of affection and recognition. In a study led by Miho Nagasawa at the Department of Animal Science and Biotechnology at Azabu University in Japan, 12 dogs' facial expressions were analyzed and the results were fascinating. The dogs moved their left eyebrow more when their owner was present, reported Business Insider.
"Using high-speed cameras, the researchers tracked the changes in the faces of dogs in the moments they were reunited with their owners or when meeting a stranger for the first time. They found that the dogs tended to move their left eyebrow upwards around half a second after seeing their owner," the Business Insider article explained.
Next time you see your dog, keep your eyes trained on her brows to see if you get the .5 second lift!
2. You get a lovey
Sure, you've probably had your dog drop a toy in your lap as a way of initiating play, but that move can also have a much sweeter meaning.
"My dog Dodger brings me his favorite toy Lamb Chop when I come home, or sit down on the couch. He doesn’t want to play with it or me, he just wants to offer up his favorite Lambie to show how much I mean to him. I have heard many dogs do this and I think it is a super sweet way to show some love," explains Caitlin Ultimo, resident pet expert at Chewy, in an interview with Romper.
There also may also be something programmed into your doggie's DNA to explain this behavior. "A wolf mother will bring her prey back to the den, retrieving and carrying a meal home to her pups. So it appears that the domesticated dog retrieving is a simple variation of this prey-carrying behavior," explained Katelyn Schutz, a certified professional dog trainer with Wisconsin PetCare.
If your dog gifts you with his lovie, you know you've she's looking after you.
3. You see the Helicopter Tail
If your dog starts energetically flapping his tail back and forth like he's revving his engine, it's a very good sign. A big, circling tail and wagging butt mean that your dog is happy, according to Annie Phenix, a certified professional dog trainer and contributing writer on Dogster.
However, if you see that his tail is up over his back and stiff, you should take that as a sign that something isn't right. Stiff tails can be a warning flag, according to the same Dogster article.
4. You have a staring contest
Have you ever locked eyes with your pooch and felt like he was trying to have a staring contest with you? It turns out that he probably was, but not for the reason you think.
"When your dog looks you in the eye, he is “hugging you with his eyes," according to Rover, reporting on a 60-Minute segment with Anderson Cooper and dog researcher Brian Hare, director of the Duke Canine Cognition Center.
There is scientific evidence to support the idea of an "eye hug" too! "Japanese researchers found that dogs who trained a long gaze on their owners had elevated levels of oxytocin, a hormone produced in the brain that is associated with nurturing and attachment, similar to the feel-good feedback that bolsters bonding between parent and child. After receiving those long gazes, the owners’ levels of oxytocin increased, too," reported the New York Times.
However, it's important to read your dog's full body language to interpret the full meaning of his prolonged stare. In some cases, dogs stare to let you know they're confused, looking for direction or attention, or even as a signal of aggression, according to Cesar's Way, the website of dog expert Cesar Milan.
5. You lean on each other
Lots of dogs like to snuggle, but some breeds — like Labradors and Rottweilers — show affection by leaning on their owner, according to certified professional dog trainer, Phenix, with Dogster.
"The dog is often looking up and into the their humans’ eyes during the lean in, looking all smiley with a mouth open and soft eyes. On the other paw, sometimes an insecure dog leans in for comfort and support," explained Phenix.
Perhaps the song, "Lean on Me" was written with a particular pup in mind!