Do dogs know that you love them?

Dogs are more than pets. They are a part of our family. We develop a special bond with our canine companions, and we love them deeply. Have you ever wondered if your dog knows how much you love them? Do they really love you back? 

Do dogs know that you love them?

My dog is literally my best friend. She hangs out with me during my work day, and cuddles with me at night. She’s always there, a faithful companion. I feel her love for me, and I love her as well. 

When I look into her eyes, I get the feeling that she knows I love her. That our relationship is not one-sided. We love each other, and are aware of our love. But is this just wishful thinking, or is she really aware of how much I care about her? 

The short answer is that yes, your dog knows you love them, according to science. You share a special bond.

The Love Hormone

When you and your dog interact, you both release oxytocin, also known as the love hormone. When you cuddle, pet, or play with your dog, you both get a boost of oxytocin. 

There’s a special set of cells in the hypothalamus of the brain that releases oxytocin when the right conditions  are triggered. Breastfeeding and childbirth trigger high amounts of oxytocin, but there are many other triggers as well. Most of them are related to positive interactions with others, or love. 

It’s known as the love hormone for a few reasons. Studies have found that people in romantic relationships have higher levels of oxytocin than single people. Oxytocin is also triggered with hugging and orgasm. 

It has many social and emotional effects. It creates feelings of closeness, bonding, trust, and emotional stability. In simple terms, oxytocin is released during loving moments, and deepens the love and connection you feel. 

When you interact with your dog, both your brains release oxytocin. This indicates that you love each other, because oxytocin is triggered when you interact with those you love. 

How do you tell a dog that you love them?

Your dog may not understand the term I love you, but they do understand many displays of affection. You and your dog may not have the same way of communicating, but you may be surprised at how easy it is to show your pooch you love them. You can display your love for your pooch in a variety of ways. 

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Display Emotions 

Your pooch is very good at picking up on your feelings. Have you ever noticed that your dog seems to know when you are sad, and will comfort you? It’s often referred to as their sixth sense, but it seems to come from a combination of the senses we are familiar with. 

They have a very keen sense of hearing. They can determine a lot about how you feel from the sound of your voice. They also notice facial expressions, which helps them understand your emotions. 

Dogs have a sense of smell that’s about 40 times stronger than ours. They can understand a lot about you, including how you are feeling and when you are sick, from the smells you give off. 

Because dogs recognize your feelings and emotions so well, one of the easiest ways to tell them you love them is to simply let your feelings shine through. A happy or caring facial expression and a loving tone of voice can tell your pooch how much you love them. 

Care for Them (feeding, grooming)

You can also show your dog how much they mean by taking care of them. Dogs tend to bond closely with their primary caregiver. If you feed them, give them water, and groom them regularly, they will know you love them. 

You may not even stop to think about providing for your dog’s basic needs. It’s something you do without really considering the implications. However, you can bet that your dog notices everything you do for them. 

Lean In

Has your dog ever leaned against you? This is a way dogs display their affection for each other, and you can use it to show yours as well. When your dog is near, simply lean in, coming into gentle contact with them. 

Ear Rub

Every dog has that spot right behind their ear. Rub or scratch it, and you have a friend for life. It’s unclear why this is such a special spot for pooches, but they all seem to love it. 

Rub Their Belly

For a dog, laying on their back is a very vulnerable position. When a dog offers its belly for a rub, they are saying I trust you. You can acknowledge this and strengthen the bond between you by rubbing their belly. 

Any type of petting is a great way to show your affection for your canine companion, but belly rubs have a special significance. 

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Playing 

Dogs are never too old for a good play session. Some love to play fetch, while some prefer a tug of war. Some even play hide and seek. Playing with your dog releases oxytocin for both of you, and will make them feel loved. 

Part of the reason playing with your dog shows them you love them is simply the attention it provides. At the end of the day, this is what your dog wants the most. Your attention and focus. 

Teaching Tricks

Teaching tricks is another way to show your love for your dog. Dogs need mental stimulation, and learning tricks is one way to provide it. It also gives your dog a sense of accomplishment when they learn a new trick. 

Learning tricks should be fun for you and your pooch. Focus on positive reinforcement, and give them treats for doing well. You’ll both feel a sense of pride when they learn a new skill. 

Talk

Dogs understand a surprising amount of language. They also infer lots of information from your voice. Talking to your dog is a great way to show your love. You can tell them you love them, praise them, or anything else that comes to mind. 

Your dog can understand some fo the words you speak, but your intention is the most important. If your goal is to comfort them, display happiness, or show them you love them, they will understand no matter what words you choose. 

How do dogs show that they feel loved?

You want your dog to feel loved, but how do you know for sure? How do they show they feel loved? 

Feeling Loved and Secure

For dogs to show their love, they must feel loved and secure. This is similar to humans. When you feel safe with someone, you are able to show your own feelings. The greater connection you feel with them, the more open you can be with your emotions. 

Your dog is the same way. Showing you love means they feel safe with you. 

The Love Stare 

Have you ever found yourself gazing into the eyes of your partner, completely in love and lost in their eyes? It turns out, dogs do the same thing. Affectionate eye contact isn’t limited to romantic relationships. Parents and children also show love through eye contact. 

Your pooch also displays affection by making eye contact. If you see them staring at you affectionately, you aren’t imagining things. They are really showing you their love, which lets you know they feel loved as well. 

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Tail Wagging

Dogs use their tails to display many emotions. These include happiness and affection, excitement, and even fear or anxiety. When your dog is happy, they will hold their tail in a neutral or upright position, and wag it back and forth. When they are in a friendly mood, you may even see them wiggling their tail. 

A dog that is happy and wagging their tail feels loved and comfortable. 

Cuddling

Cuddling is one of a loved dog’s favorite activities. When they feel safe and secure with you, they will want to be near you. They love being in your lap, or by your side. You may even find them sitting on your feet. 

If your dog loves to cuddle, it’s a sure sign that they feel loved. 

Relaxation

Your dog must feel comfortable and loved to be relaxed. Have you ever tried to relax in a place where you didn’t feel loved or wanted? It was probably impossible to relax at all. 

When your pooch feels loved, they will be able to relax in your presence. Signs your dog is relaxed include a soft partially open mouth, relaxed ears, and a relaxed or slightly raised tail. 

You may also see your dog dozing or napping. This is also a sign that they are relaxed and happy to be near you.  

Licking

Licking is one of the clearest signs your dog loves you. If your pooch si showing their love by licking you, it’s safe to assume they feel loved as well. 

Dogs lick other dogs and humans to show affection. It can also be a sign that they consider you part of their pack. Dogs in a pack will often groom each other by licking.

If your dog seems to be licking you with concentration or purpose, they are probably grooming you. Consider it an honor, and a sign that they know you  love them. 

Wanting to Be Near You 

When your dog feels loved, they will naturally want to be near you. This is similar to humans. When you feel loved, you want to be near the person. If your pooch wants to hang out with you, it’s a sign they feel loved.