Dogs have been snuggling up to humans for thousands of years. We’ve learned a lot about our furry friends in that time, and they’ve learned even more about us, including how to tell us that they love us in their own special way, some of which you may not have been aware of!
Dogs can’t physically say “I love you”. Well, except for this dog:
But there are ways that your dog tell you he loves you every day that you may not have even realized. Dogs primarily communicate through body language, so instead of telling us how they feel, they like to show it, using these methods:
Leaning on You
Dogs are social animals, descended from wolves who form pack-like family structures. Dogs and wolves alike tend to stick close together, realizing that a group is stronger than an individual. When your dog leans on you he’s letting you know that he considers you a part of his family.
Sleeping on Your Bed
In the wild, dogs sleep close together for protection and warmth. Sleeping together also works as a valuable bonding time to keep the ties of the pack strong. Nighttime can be a vulnerable time for animals, leaving them exposed to an attack. When your dog chooses to climb up onto your bed at night he’s showing you that he trusts you and values the protection that you offer.
Dog’s find comfort in things that are familiar. When you leave for work in the morning, your dog will likely jump up onto your bed while you’re away. Your bed is covered in your scent, and your dog feels comfort in being close to that scent. When your dog sleeps on your bed in your absence, he’s attempting to be as close to you as possible.
Comforting You When You’re Sad
When you’re sad you’ll notice that your dog will be the first one to come to your aid, resting his comforting head upon your lap. There’s nothing better than some puppy-love to brighten your mood. Studies show that it isn’t an accident that your dog happens to comes to you when you’re feeling blue, but that he can actually sense when you’re sad.
Ludwig Huber, a researcher at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna’s Messerli Research Institute, conducted a study to test a group of puppies on their recognition of the emotions on human faces.
He found that the pups could differentiate angry and happy faces, and understand that they have a different meaning. He also found that they could recognize the expressions on people they had never seen before just as well as the people that they knew.
In a press release, Huber states that “It appears likely to us that the dogs associate a smiling face with a positive meaning and an angry facial expression with a negative meaning”
So, when your dog cuddles up beside you as soon as you shed a tear, you can smile, knowing that your dog loves you enough to try to make you feel better.
Bringing You Presents
In order to survive, dogs in a pack look out for one another. They make sure that everyone in the pack is getting enough resources, and that everyone is happy. When your dog comes to you with his favorite toy or brings you a shoe in his mouth when you walk in the door, your dog is showing you his love by offering up his resources. It takes a lot of love for your dog to give up his prized possessions, so instead of throwing his dirty toy away the minute he hands it to you, give him some of that love back!
Following You Around
Some dogs can seem ridiculous in their attempt to be next to you at every waking moment of the day (even when you’re in the bathroom!). Instead of being annoyed, consider for a second why your dog would do this.
Wild dogs live in a pack together. They are surrounded by their loved ones every moment of every day. They feel strong and safe as a group, and don’t typically like to be off on their own for too long. When your dog follows you he is just fulfilling this social need to be close to his pack. While it may seem annoying that your dog is following you everywhere, it’s not weird to him. He is simply following his pack-mate to make sure that nothing bad happens. Think of it as less of an irritating shadow, and more as your own personal entourage.
Licking Your Face
When your dog licks your face it may seem as though he’s trying to give you a big kiss, but, sadly, that’s not your dog’s intention. While your dog may not be showing his love through kisses, he is showing his love in 2 different ways:
Submission-your dog is acknowledging that you are stronger, and he is trying to defuse any potentially negative situation from occurring.
In the wild, when a mother dog comes home to her pups, the pups lick her face in order to help her to regurgitate food for them. So, your dog may see you as a mother figure or it could just want a little taste of the lunch you ate.
Regardless of the reason that your dog is licking your face, he is showing his love and trust by putting himself in a vulnerable position. Whether he sees you as a mother figure, or he’s just being submissive, he’s showing you that he looks up to you to keep him safe.
Cuddling After a Meal
Dogs are notorious for being very food motivated (especially labradors!). For many dogs, food is the most important aspect of life and from a survival standpoint, it’s in their biology to think this way. Because of this, it’s no surprise that your dog scarfs up the food the second you put it on the ground. But what your dog does after a meal could give you a hint as to how much he loves you.
If your dog curls up next to you after a meal, he is showing his love and appreciation towards you. At a time when biologically your dog’s body is in “protect the food” mode if he shows you love then this is a huge sign of trust.
Our dogs have figured out a way to show us that they love us, the least that we can do is show them we love them too in a way that they’ll understand.
You Can Show Your Dog You Love Him Too!
Dogs understand food more than anything else in the world. Show your dog that you care by giving him a treat and lots of praise when he’s done something right.
Never hit or yell at your dog while training. While this method may seem to work at the moment due to fear, it will not work in the long run. Positive reinforcement training is a way to ensure that your dog is willing to work for you simply because he loves you, and it will create a relationship and bond between the two of you based on trust, which is what every good pack needs to survive.
 Müller CA, Schmitt K, Barber AL, Huber L.(March 2, 2015). Dogs Can Discriminate Emotional Expressions of Human Faces. Retrieved on October 2, 2017 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25683806
 Meghan Holohan. (February 19, 2015). Science Says Dogs Can Tell If You’re Happy or Sad. Retrieved on October 2, 2017 from http://mentalfloss.com/article/61710/science-says-dogs-can-tell-if-youre-happy-or-sad