How will I know if my dog really loves me?
There’s a dog I know, he’s the one I dream of. As a dog owner, it’s natural to be looking for signs your dog loves you. Like when you come home from work and he’s brought you your socks. That must be an act of love, right?
Having a strong bond with your dog is important – for your happiness and for making sure your dog knows who the boss is (so that they behave). And having and nurturing this bond can lead to a happier and healthier life for the both of you. Your bond with your dog develops through the course of your life together and through the things you do, like walking, playing, exercising, training – and generally how you interact when living your life together.
Yet, just like Whitney Houston, you might find yourself asking, ‘how will I know if he really loves me?’ But don’t worry, we’ve got answers. Your dog will give you a few clues to show you that yes, he really does love you. Here are seven of the signs your dog loves you.
1. They’re happy to see you
The wag of the tail. The whine through the nose. The bringing of the toy. There’s no purer joy than the sight of a dog realising their owner’s just come home. The relief that no, you haven’t abandoned them forever and the joy that you’re home with them at last. This is perhaps the most obvious sign of love – your dog’s excited to see you! And you’re probably just as excited to see them too.
2. They’re relaxed when they’re with you
After the initial excitement and confirmation that yes, you are back and no, you were not gone forever, a dog who loves and trusts their owner is one who settles down into relaxation. You can spot relaxed body language in a few different ways:
- Mouth slightly open, with that lovable lolling tongue
- A roll over and request for a belly rub – which shows they trust you
- That good old tail of theirs wagging from side to side
- Relaxed, soft facial expressions – you’ll know the one
- Eyes blinking regularly
- Bowing down on the front paws, with the head lower than the butt asking to play
3. They make eye contact with you
In any loving relationship, eye contact means love and trust. And as we all know, dogs have definitely got that look of love nailed. It’s just like us really – if we’re nervous or intimidated by someone, we tend not to look them in the eye. But, if we trust them, respect them and feel comfortable around them, we’ll meet their gaze.
And it’s not just a sign, it’s also a thing we can actively do and get better at to improve our bonds with our dogs. Research from Japan showed that dogs who made eye contact more with their owners showed elevated levels of oxytocin (the hormone of love) and the owners experiences higher levels of it too. So there you have it, you can strengthen your bond, love and happiness levels with your dog by just gazing into each other’s eyes.
Emotional staring contest, anyone?
4. They look for your affection
Love me, love me, say that you love me. Was that Kylie? Or was that your dog who sang that? If your dog’s looking for some love from you like scratching, petting, snuggling, leaning against you, resting their head on your knee or even hugging – it’s a definite sign that they love you. Giving your dog this kind of affection (though, not excessively so) can strengthen your bond even more, too.
5. They check in with you
Even the most independent women dogs still like to check in to make sure you’re there. This is their way of maintaining their visual contact with you, and a dog who shares a strong bond with you will like to regularly come and see you, whether you’re in a different room in the house, or whether you’re off on a dog walk – they’ll want to know you’re close by.
6. They listen to you and respond to you
It’s what we all dream of, isn’t it? Just someone who actually listens to you. While your dog might not be intently listening to you about your terrible day at work that involved a run-in with your boss, if your dog’s listening to what you’re saying when you speak (and you’ll be able to tell by the way they respond) and obeying the commands you give, it shows you they’re attached to you.
Your bond can be strengthened by basic obedience training, and recall training (coming when called) is one of the most important commands for your dog to be able to respond to, because it can keep them safe if something goes wrong. And by making coming back to you worth their while, like showing them the utmost excitement EVER, they’re more likely to respond.
7. They cuddle up to your things
Like in rom-com films where girls wear their high school boyfriend’s ‘sweater’, your dog loves things that smell like you. In a strong bond, dogs are attached to their owner’s scent, and can often look for things to cuddle up to when you’re not around. And because dogs don’t always have the same good manners as us, this can sometimes mean extra smelly ones, like worn socks or shoes. Nice. Your smell means home to your dog, and of course, they want to feel like they’re with you all the time.
If your dog’s beginning to take their love of your things a little too far, like hoarding dirty washing or ruining your favourite pair of shoes, this could be a sign of separation anxiety, which won’t be good for you or them. If you think your dog may be struggling with anxiety, you can find tips from us on how to ease your dog’s separation anxiety here.
8. They just want to be next to you
Whether it’s napping next to you on the sofa (if they’re allowed up there), lying close to your feet as you sit at the table or just essentially being your shadow, this is a sign of trust and a sign that your dog just loves being close to you – which shows you that you’ve got one strong bond.
How can I improve my bond with my dog?
If you and your dog have had a rough patch recently (it happens to the best of relationships), you can build on your bond and relationship in a few ways. The easiest and best way is to spend around 30 minute together – just the two of you. And it’s not just walks, being out in the garden of being curled up on the sofa together. ‘Bonding time’ needs to be focused and active. You can do things like:
- Work on new (or improving old) commands and skills together
- Play fetch, hide and seek, tug of war or ‘who can run up the stairs or around the garden the fastest’
- Give your dog a pamper session – like grooming or a massage
- Try out sports that need teamwork, like agility courses
It goes without saying, that the best way to bond with your dog is to spend time together that’s full of love and care. Dogs respond to people who treat them well, so if you’re taking good care of your dog on an emotional and physical level – their lifetime of unconditional love is all yours.
How have you encouraged bonding time with your dog? We’d love to hear your stories, so post them in the comments below!