Any dog owner will tell you that one of the greatest things about owning their tail-wagging pet is the unconditional love they provide. There's nothing like a dog's enthusiastic greeting at the door to turn a rough day into a "ruff" one. Dogs show their love in so many ways that they leave little room for doubt about their feelings for you... unlike many humans.
Although dogs aren't capable of feeling the varying shades of love that we do, "they are able to experience 'love,'" Jennifer Freeman, DVM, tells Romper. Freeman, the resident veterinarian for PetSmart, adds, "Both dogs and cats release the brain chemical oxytocin — the hormone that makes you feel love — when they interact with each other and with humans."
But why do dogs maintain such a close bond to the people they live with? "It's similar to humans; everyone has a different personality based on their genetic makeup," Dr. Freeman explains. "Some breeds are more social and trusting, while others are reluctant to trust those they don't know well. Most people would say that they are closer to the people they have a relationship with, and the same goes for animals." Socialization at an early age helps any dog become more comfortable around people naturally, and more likely to feel trust and affection.
If you've noticed that your pup seems to prefer your partner over you (or vice versa), don't take it personally. "Many times, this is a breed trait," Dr. Freeman says. "Greyhounds and Shiba Inus are breeds that are notorious for bonding closely to one person."
How can you tell your dog is feeling the love? Some of the signs are the ones we know well, while others are a little more surprising. Which ones sound like your own fur buddy?
That enthusiastic greeting you get at the door isn't just a sign that your dog is looking for dinner. "For dogs, jumping to greet their pet parents is an instinctive display of affection, and shows how excited they are to be reunited with their humans," Dr. Freeman says. However, it's a good idea to train your dog not to jump on everyone, if there's a chance it could scare a child or make someone lose their balance.
You may not always enjoy wiping dog slobber from your face, but you can at least be assured it's well meant. Face-licking is an instinctive behavior based on their wolf ancestors, explained MSN; wolf pups lick their mother's face to show they want food. Even though your dog knows its meal comes from a can or bag, they still lick you to acknowledge that you're the top of the pack. Licking can also be your dog's way of grooming you, which is a definite sign of affection; mutual grooming is a bonding activity in the animal kingdom.
3. Leaning Against You
If you've ever had a dog calmly lean up against your leg with their entire weight, you know you've got a friend for life. This trusting doggy gesture is "like a full-body hug," according to Rover. (And if that dog happens to be a Newfoundland or Great Dane, that's a lot of love.)
4. Sharing Toys
When your fur baby drops their well-gnawed rawhide bone or ratty stuffed rabbit at your feet, that's your cue to offer your thanks and an extra rub behind the ears. "Dogs can express their love for pet parents through sharing their favorite toys," Dr. Freeman affirms.
5. Whole-Rump Wagging
Contrary to popular belief, a wagging tail isn't always a sign of joy. As MSN explained, dogs also wag their tails to show fear, stress, or even a threat of attack. However, if your pup's whole rear end is wiggling as it wags, with the tail going from side to side, then you know your pet is over the moon about you.
That deep sigh or moan your pooch let out as it curled up beside you? It's not telling you about the hard day they had; it's telling you they feel good about being with you, affirms Rover.
7. Making Eye Contact
Although a strange dog may feel threatened if you look them squarely in the face, the opposite is true for a pup who knows and loves its human. As Duke University professor and dog behavior expert David Hare explained (per ESA Doctors), dogs experience a rush of oxytocin when they look at the people they love; it's like "hugging you with their eyes."
8. Sleeping With You (Or Your Clothes)
It may not always be comfortable sharing your bed with your pooch, but at least you don't have to question their love for you. Napping next to their favorite people is a sure sign of a dog's affection and trust, according to Canidae. And if you've ever noticed your pet snoozing on your old sweatshirt, it's because they smell your familiar scent on it.
9. Rolling On Their Back
Flop! That belly-up position is hard to resist, isn't it? It's also a sign that your dog trusts you enough to be vulnerable, explained Central Bark. It's a sign of submission, acknowledging that you're the boss; in addition, belly rubs simply feel great, which strengthens the bond between the two of you.