Wednesday, May 22, 2013

How Do Dogs Show Their Love?

By Linda Cole

Dogs show us affection in many different ways. Most pet owners recognize their own pet's love in his body language, and some dogs have unique ways of showing us how important we are to them. One way my Border Collie mix, Keikei, shows her affection is by holding her paw up so we can “hold hands.” There are, however, some common ways dogs show their love.

Doggy Kisses

Some canines give kisses more readily than others, and licking is a common way for them to show their love. Your dog may lick your legs, feet, hands, arms or face. If you have a dog that shows affection by licking your hands, make sure to wash them before preparing or eating food. Don't allow your pet to lick open wounds you may have. A doggy kiss is fine, but his tongue can transmit bacteria to your hands or an open sore.

The Pied Piper Effect

One sure sign of love is wanting to keep you in sight at all times. Sure, your dog may follow you to the kitchen just in case there's something in it for him, but he's more likely following you because he cares. Dogs have an innate protective nature when it comes to pack members, and to our canine friends we are a member of their pack. His natural desire is to follow you and wherever you lead – he will follow. But tagging along because he wants to be near you can also be a sign of separation anxiety. If you notice increased levels of stress before you leave and when he's home alone, talk to your vet for advice on how to help ease his anxiety. A checkup can rule out any medical issues that could be causing him stress.

Leaning on You

There are different reasons why dogs like to lean on us. One reason is because we make them feel safe and secure, and they lean against us to return the feeling. Some dogs lean on your legs when you're sitting or standing. Some like to climb up in your lap or sit beside you on the couch to snuggle as close as they can get. My dogs rest their head on my knee or foot, nudge my hand with their nose, or rub against my legs like a cat. These are all signs of affection. Touching is as important to canines as it is to us. A dog who rests his head on your knee or nudges your hand wants to be petted. It's his way of asking politely for attention. On the other hand, slapping at you with his paw is a demand for attention and should be ignored.

Exposing Their Tummy

One sign of submission is when a dog rolls over and exposes his belly. This says he trusts you completely and feels comfortable around you. Reward his sign of affection and trust with some tummy rubs.


Jeffrey Mogil is a psychologist and neuroscientist at McGill University in Montreal. Based on research he did on mice on their facial reaction to pain, he believes that dogs do have the ability to smile. Our pets likely show emotions in similar ways we do and can use their facial muscles to form a smile. I know from watching my own dogs that there are times I see a smile on their face.

Wanting to Play

One way dogs bond with each other is through play. Barking, nipping and jumping around is a natural way they make friends, and they play with the ones they like. When your dog gives you a play bow, he's trying to get you to play with him because he sees you as his friend and it's a sign of his love.

A Wagging Tail

We know it's important to understand what a dog is trying to say with his wagging tail. It doesn't always indicate a happy or friendly dog, but you can't misinterpret your dog's excited tail wagging when he sees someone he cares about. New research on deciphering a wagging tail has found a subtle difference in how a dog wags his tail when he sees his owner, a stranger or an unfamiliar dog. We give our pets a positive feeling and they reflect it in how they wag their tail by pulling it a little bit to the right as they wag it. If their tail is pulled to the left side, that indicates negative feelings.

Most of the time, all you have to do is look into your dog's eyes to see how much he adores you. When he shows affection, he's saying you have his trust, respect and unconditional love. And that is priceless.

Top photo by SashaW
Bottom photo by Aine D

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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