Both humans and dogs have neuro-biological needs for interpersonal connections, according to Phil Tedeschi, a Rover Dog People Panel member and Executive Director of the Institute for Human-Animal Connection at the University of Denver. Through thousands of years of interaction, humans and dogs have co-evolved strategies for connection. This has cemented our bond and, as in any loving relationship, we seek to understand each other. For dogs, that means observing our physical presence and emotional changes, to be able to connect with and understand humans. In a recent survey conducted by Rover.com, the world’s largest and most trusted network of five-star pet sitters and dog walkers, we found that 94% of Canadian dog owners believe their dogs love them. So how is it that dogs show their love? Let us count the ways!
Cuddles, snuggles, sniffs and licks are all ways your dog is telling you they love you. 81% of Canadians surveyed said they think dogs’ nuzzles, touches and overall body language are the best indicators of the affection their pet feels for their people. Gentle touching and nuzzling mimics the maternal and nurturing family affection dogs receive as puppies. This releases oxytocin, the love hormone, which creates a feeling of connection, well-being and overall happiness. 2,3
2. Body Language
80% of Canadian dog owners claimed that body language is the best tell when it comes to dogs’ demonstrating their love. Tail wagging is the most obvious sign of happiness, but it is also a dog’s way of communicating. For many of us, seeing our dogs’ tails wag so hard their whole body seems to wag with it is a sure sign that their dogs are more than just a little happy to see them. Leaning and nudging are also signs that your dog loves you, and that they want you to love them right back. A play bow is an invitation to connect through play, and even rough-housing and boisterous play are expressions of love and friendship.5
3. A Warm Welcome
Nothing beats the feeling of coming home to a dog who is thrilled to see you. 73% of those surveyed said they can tell their dog loves them by the way they are greeted at home. Even the ubiquitous crotch sniff is a dog’s way of saying hello and shaking hands! Some dogs may jump up when they’re excited. Although this behaviour is often trained out in puppyhood, a dog’s expression of love and excitement can be difficult for them to control at times.
4. Look of Love
Over half of Canadians surveyed felt that eye contact was a key indicator of being beloved by their dogs. Be mindful that a loving gaze is very different from an aggressive stare. Many dogs find eye contact to be challenging. But that longing look? Those puppy dog eyes? They’re pretty hard to resist. Sometimes the dog is merely begging with his eyes. But, often, they really are gazing at their people with affection. A 2015 study showed that not only did prolonged staring into each others’ eyes promote bonding and connection, but also stimulated the release of oxytocin for the dog.4 Certain breeds are more likely to make eye contact. In fact, research shows that the older the breed and the closer they are to their wolf ancestors, the less likely they are to use eye contact to communicate with people.
5. Good Boys and Girls
About 40% of Canadians, when asked about their dogs’ love language, believe that listening, responding to training, and generally behaving is a sign of affection. That same number of Canadians felt that by singling out a specific person, their dogs were showing their purest love. In other words, dogs really do play favourites!
Scientific research also reveals that our love doesn’t go unnoticed by dogs. In fact, dogs can sense people’s emotional connection to them, including how a person feels about them.1 In addition to understanding hand movements, breathing, body movements, the volume and cadence of the voice, they can discern if they are loved. When you have to be away and cannot shower your pet with love, you can rely on Rover to find local pet-sitters or walkers who can fill in and give your pet all the love and attention they deserve.