How do I know if my dog loves me?

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We all absolutely adore our furry friends, and we like to think that man’s best friend must love us back too.

Dogs are some of the most social and loving pets out there and thanks to their waggy tails it's usually pretty easy to see that they love us humans as well. Especially when you come home to find them at the door whining and giving you a full-body wiggle!

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But how do we know that dogs love humans, and how can you tell if your dog loves you?

With the help of science and studies of doggy behaviour, we’ve found over a dozen different signs that your dog really does love you. So read on to find out if your dog really does love you back, and all the ways they try to show you their puppy love.

How do we know dogs love humans?

We humans are really invested in whether or not our dogs love us back.

One man, Gregory Berns, ran an experiment to see whether dogs actually love humans, or if they just love us because we feed them. He studied 90 dogs’ brains in an MRI to see how they respond to praise from a person or being fed bits of hot dog.

Obviously, the dogs loved the hot dogs. The reward centre of their brain lit up whenever they got some tasty treats. However, the reward centre became just as active whenever the dogs were praised. So, a good word from their human is worth a hot dog, apparently.

That’s not all though. Berns found that 20% of the dogs he studied actually responded more to human praise than they did to hot dogs. So that means that your pooch might value you more than food!

All in all, dogs definitely love humans, or at least they love us as much as hot dogs…

How do I know if my dog loves me?

Although your dog can’t tell you that they love you, there are loads of different ways that dogs try to show their love. You just have to be clued up on doggy body language and think from your pet’s perspective to see the signs sometimes. But if you’re wondering “how do I know if my dog loves me?” here are 18 different signs of puppy love.

Signs that your dog loves you

1.    Coming to you for affection and reassurance

You wouldn’t get up close and personal with someone you didn’t like, and neither will your dog! One of the surefire signs that your dog loves you is that they come to you for comfort and affection.

The kind of affection your dog enjoys will depend on their personality and how they’re feeling. Some dogs might jump up beside you on the couch and curl up on your lap, others might just cuddle up next to you, some pooches will lean on you, and others might just sit on your feet.

Regardless of how close and cuddly your dog wants to be, simply being near you or coming up to you for a stroke is a clear sign that your dog loves you because they’re choosing to come to you for some love.

Similarly, your dog might run to you if they’re scared or uncertain, just like a nervous kid hiding behind their parent’s legs. It shows that your dog trusts you and that your presence comforts and reassures them. Meanwhile, most other animal species have an instinct to run away from people when they’re scared, so dogs really must like having us around!

2.    They lick you

Most of us have received “puppy kisses” and a slobbery smooch from our pets. But licks really are like kisses and a sign of love and affection from our furry friends.

Dogs will lick each other in greeting or to show affection, and it’s a way of grooming one another and increasing their pack bond. So whether your pooch is licking you on your face, hands, or even your feet, it’s just your dog’s way of trying to show you how much they love you.

3.    They lean on you

As well as sitting on our feet or curling up on our laps, some dogs like to lean against their loved ones. Just like when your dog comes to you for comfort, leaning on you is a sign that your dog trusts you and sees you as a comforting and protective presence. In fact, leaning has even been compared to a doggy version of a hug!

4.    They face away from you

A dog is vulnerable when they face away from you because they can’t see behind them and it puts their only self-defence weapon, their teeth, as far away from you as possible. So if your dog sits with its back to you, it’s another signal that your dog loves and trusts you, because they know that you’ll watch their back and keep them safe.

5.    Sleeping near you

Your dog is also vulnerable whenever they’re sleeping since they can’t protect themselves or keep an eye out for danger.

Since dogs will only sleep somewhere they feel safe, if your pooch has a nap on the couch beside you, snoozes by your feet, or even shares your bed, it’s a clear sign that they trust you and love you.

6.    Belly rubs

Your dog’s belly is really vulnerable and a dog’s instinct is to keep it hidden and protected. So if your dog comes to you and rolls over for a belly rub, it shows that they trust you. Similarly, a dog that sleeps on their back showing their belly must feel super safe around you, since they’re showing both their vulnerable belly and sleeping so can’t protect themselves.

7.    Listening to you

If you’re still left wondering “how do I know if my dog loves me?” Ask yourself if your dog listens to you.

When you talk, you might notice your pooch prick their ears up and start watching you, which means they’re listening to you, trying to work out how you’re feeling and what you’re about to do. Even if they’re just waiting to see if you say the magic words like “walk” or “dinner”, it still shows that they listen to you and that they associate you with all those good things!

But studies have found that dogs listen to and respond to expressive human speech and sounds (like sighs) the same way that they respond to noises made by other dogs. Not only that, but a dog’s brain also processes these sounds similarly to how a human would. So it just goes to show that your dog really does listen and respond to your emotions, even if you’re not speaking.

8.    Obeying you

A bit like how dogs listen to people they love, dogs will (usually) do what their loved ones ask them to.

Some dogs are really obedient because they’re super eager to please their owners and want to make their humans happy. (And they know you give them good things if they do what you ask!) Although as we learned from the hot dog experiment, some pups value our praise even more than food rewards!

But your dog doesn’t have to be an obedience mastermind to show you they love you. They might just do things they don’t necessarily want to do, just because you asked.

For example, your dog might hate baths but will still walk up the stairs and get in the tub when you ask. Or they might drop something out of their mouth when you tell them to.

Similarly, most dogs don’t like hugs or being stroked on the top of their head, but they will let their owner do it because they trust them. If your dog’s willing to do what you ask, they really trust and value you!

9.    Keeping an eye on you

A bit like if your dog listens to you, your dog might stare at you or watch you to make sure they’re not missing out on anything. Your dog will try and anticipate what you’re doing next and be ready to join in.

If your dog has a habit of watching you and raising their eyebrows or tilting their head, they could also be trying to read your expression to see how you feel. And we all know that people who pay attention to our feelings care about us, and it’s no different for dogs.

10. An adoring gaze

If your dog gazes into your eyes with a soft and relaxed expression, you can be certain that your pooch adores you.

That’s because eye contact isn’t natural to dogs. If a dog stares at another dog, it’s usually a challenge or a sign of aggression. Even we humans don’t always like eye contact, and staring into someone else’s eyes can be really uncomfortable!

But, dogs have learned humans like eye contact as part of their body language and communication. So they look into our eyes because they want to communicate with us.

And just like humans in love, a dog will gaze into the eyes of a person that they love. It’s even been shown that when humans and hounds gaze adoringly at each other, they both release oxytocin in their bodies.

Oxytocin is the bonding chemical and “love hormone”, and it’s the same hormone that babies and mothers release when they bond. So if your pup is gazing into your eyes, and showing lots of relaxed body language, they definitely love you. And what’s more, it’ll make you love each other even more!

11.     Checking up on you

If you’re on a walk and your dog glances back at you, or they wander in from another room to watch you, it’s just your dog checking in on you. Some dogs will even follow their human around like a shadow, not wanting to miss out on anything and eager to be close to their humans wherever they go. Either way, your dog’s just looking to see what you’re doing and checking to see how you’re feeling.

12.    Wagging their tail

A wagging tail  doesn’t always mean a happy pup, and it can actually mean a lot of different emotions. However, a tail that’s relaxed and “whooshing” from side to side, or going round and round like a helicopter, is a sign of a very happy pup. This kind of happy wagging will usually get their bum wagging from side to side too, or their whole body might wiggle.

So if your dog starts wagging their tail the second they see you, they’re clearly happy to have you around.

13.    Bringing you presents

If your dog brings you a present whenever you come home, whether it’s their ball or a stolen sock, you can take that as a sign that your dog loves you.

Your dog is bringing you their favourite thing to share because it makes them happy, and it might make you happy too. Plus, they trust you enough to know you aren’t going to steal this precious object away from them.

Just like a little kid willing to share their favourite toy, you’ll know your dog loves you when they’re willing to let you play with their most favourite possession.

14.    Playing with you

Dogs are social animals, and playtime is one way your dog stays entertained whilst strengthening their bond with their packmates.

Just like how humans prefer to hang out with their best friends, your dog will favour playing with people and pooches they like and trust. So, if your dog is always trying to get you into a game of tug of war, or just wants to roll around on the floor with you, you can be certain they love you and enjoy spending time with you.

15.    Stealing your socks

Most dogs have a thing for our smelly socks, or maybe your pooch steals your shoes, or even your underwear! Our dogs will take things that they know are ours and that smell of us because it brings them comfort, especially when you’re not around. It’s like keeping a little piece of you with them!

16.    Greeting you

We all love that feeling of coming home after a hard day’s work and having our favourite furball at the door, toy in their mouth and tail wagging a mile a minute. These happy greetings are your dog’s way of showing you how glad they are that you’re home, and they really are just as happy to see you as you are them!

17.  Smiling at you

Dogs have literally evolved to be able to use facial expressions to communicate with us humans. And some of those expressions mimic our own, like a doggy smile.

These smiles are super obvious on breeds like the Labrador or Staffordshire Bull Terrier, with a goofy wide-mouthed grin, relaxed face, and maybe even a lolling tongue. So if your dog looks like they’re smiling, they probably are! And what could be a better sign that they love having you around?

18.     They catch your yawns

When another person catches your yawn, it’s believed to be a sign that they’ve bonded with you and empathise with you.

Studies have found that yawns could even be contagious across species, usually from humans to primates, but it’s been found that dogs can catch our yawns too.

So if your dog yawns when you do, it shows that they are paying attention to your emotions and body language and care about you.

Recap: How do I know if my dog loves me?

As you can see, there are loads of different ways our dogs try to tell us that they love us, whether they’re following you wherever you go, wagging their tail anytime you come home, or stealing your stinky socks.

Science has proven that dogs genuinely love their humans, and they’ve literally evolved to be able to emotionally communicate with us. What could be a better sign that they really are man’s best friend!

So next time you’re cuddling your canine companion on the couch, or you’ve noticed them staring at you from across the room, take a moment to appreciate all the little ways they try to tell you they love you.