I consider my dogs Shakira, Gracie, Quora, Quixote and QT as full-on members of my family. I love them with all my heart. But do they love me back?
I think so. As a veterinarian for more than 30 years, I’ve witnessed the power of the human-animal bondfirsthand. Furthermore, scientists are starting to explore which emotions animals feel and how they display them. Based on their research, I’m even more convinced that our dogs love us.
If you’re just as certain that dogs love us as much as we love them, check out the photo gallery below to learn how canines show affection through sight, sound, smell and body language.
Signs of Canine Affection
He Makes Eye Contact
In the human world, we usually make eye contact to show that we’re engaged and paying attention. That’s not the case in the dog world. When dogs lock eyes with each other, it’s often considered rude or aggressive. And yet, when dogs stare at their favorite humans, it’s usually out of love, not war. When you look into your pup’s eyes and he gazes back with relaxed eyes showing little to no white, it usually means he’s happy and comfortable with you.
He Reacts Positively to the Sound of Your Voice
After a long day in the office, there’s nothing quite as fulfilling as a dog happily running to you when he hears his name. It’s even better when he’s in the middle of chewing a favorite toy or investigating a fascinating scent, and he stops what he’s doing to come and greet you.
He Likes Your Scent
Your scent activates the reward center, or caudate nucleus, of your dog’s brain — and there’s science to prove it. Neuroscientist Gregory Berns trained dogs to enter an MRI machine willingly and unsedated and then scanned their brains while presenting them with the scents of different people. One type of smell caused each dog’s caudate to light up the most significantly — that of someone he knew. Now, it’s possible that response could indicate longing or love since these brain activation patterns looked remarkably similar to those observed when humans are shown pictures of people they love.
He Wags His Tail
Tail wagging may seem like an obvious sign of love, but this behavior is more complex than you may think. A tail wag can have a lot of different meanings — and they’re not always friendly. Thankfully, when your dog gives a full-body wag with the tail held at mid-height, accompanied by other signs of positive body language, the message is pretty clear: He’s happy and excited to see you. Now, if your dog’s tail wags more to the right side of his rear, it just might be an even better sign he loves you. An Italian neuroscientist and two veterinarians discovered this by using cameras to track the tail-wag angles of 30 pet dogs as they were each shown their owner, a person they didn’t know, a cat and an unfamiliar dog. When the pups saw their owners, their tails wagged most strongly to the right side of the body.
He Snuggles With You
I don’t know if there’s any scientific proof that snuggling is a sign of love, but it sure feels that way to me. Think about it: Dogs could curl up anywhere, but they often choose to cuddle with us. Other signs of love include leaning on us, sleeping with a head on our feet or laying a paw on our knee. So next time you veg out on the couch, invite your pooch to sit beside you or at your feet and share some quality bonding time.
He Smiles at You
A dog’s smile can have many meanings, but when his mouth is open and relaxed, you’re most likely seeing a calm, happy dog.