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how to tell your dog you love him

How to Show Your Dog You Love Them in 8 Simple Ways

I love my dog. She is one of the best things in my life, and there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to keep her healthy and happy.

Showing dogs how much they mean to you can be tricky though. And if they don’t respond as you expect, you may wonder, “Does my dog love me?”

If you haven’t found the answer, rest assured that dogs have ways to communicate their love that surpass the need for words. Just as we humans express love in various ways, so do dogs.

Though your pooch can’t say “I love you,” actions speak louder than words. Like with their enthusiastic tail wagging whenever you walk through the door. Or their constant need for physical touch, never missing an opportunity to cuddle with you on the couch or to nuzzle into your hands for a comforting pet. 

These are all signs of your dog expressing their undying love. But how do we reciprocate our love for them in ways they can easily understand?

 

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8 ways to tell your dog you love them

 

How to Tell Your Dog You Love Them in Ways They Understand

Here are some ways to express your love to your dog in ways they’ll understand.

1. Rub Your Dog’s Ears

Here’s one of the best ways to show your dog love: instead of patting them on the top of their head, try giving them a gentle scratch behind their ears. Watch their reaction—they will most likely melt into a ball of doggy happiness.

This is because rubbing a dog’s ears stimulates the release of endorphins—hormones that relieve pain and bring on feelings of pleasure.

2. Lean on Them

Has your dog ever pressed up against your legs or leaned onto you while you were sitting together? This is one way that dogs seek affection, kind of like a doggie hug. It’s also a sign of deep trust.

You can “hug” them back by doing the same thing.

3. Gaze Softly Into Their Eyes

One way to show your dog love is through eye contact. Take a quiet moment, speak softly to them while petting them gently, and just gaze into their eyes.

Try raising your eyebrows (especially the left one). Your dog will view this as a display of affection. This action will naturally increase your dog’s level of oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that aids in bonding.

A word of caution: maintain direct eye contact only with a dog who knows and trusts you. A dog unfamiliar with you is more likely to interpret this gesture as a threat or a challenge.

4. Play Together

Spend some time every day doing something that your pooch enjoys. Try teaching them a new trick or practicing ones they already know.

Take them to the backyard or dog park for a game of frisbee or fetch with their favorite toy. (This is my favorite dog bonding toy.) Not only will your dog feel loved, but the exercise will help to keep them (and you) healthy.

If you get tired, hand them a squeaky toy. This will help them entertain themselves. Make your play dates with your furry BFF convenient for both of you.

If you get tired, hand them a squeaky toy. This will help them entertain themselves. Make your play dates with your furry BFF convenient for both of you.

Tulip and I love to play together!

 

5. Snuggle

Not all dogs enjoy hugs, but most love cuddling. Canines are pack animals, and close contact makes them feel safe and secure. Allowing your dog to sleep with you is the ultimate display of trust and affection since this is when you are the most vulnerable.

However, even if you’d prefer to keep your bed dog-free, you can still create daily opportunities to show your dog you love them by snuggling up on the couch or in a cozy corner with them on the floor. They’ll be sure to get your message.

Don’t be confused with hugging and snuggling (or cuddling). The words “snuggle” and “hug” have slightly different meanings, but they both refer to showing affection. However, hugging can be more intimidating for dogs because when you hug, you embrace someone with two arms. And it may involve wrapping your arms around the neck or body, which dogs would potentially find threatening or at the very least, uncomfortable or undesirable.

Snuggling and taking naps together are great ways to bond with your dog.

 

6. Talk to Your Dog

Another way you can show your dog love is to use your “dog voice!” Dogs love being talked to, and they love it when you use their name. Some studies show adult dogs may understand hundreds of words and phrases. Besides, when you talk to your dog in a caring and encouraging tone, they respond to such positive reinforcement.

So go ahead and tell your dog about your day and talk to them about what you’re doing or what you’ll do together. See how many words your dog knows! Positive reinforcement through words can also promote good behavior.

Baby talk with your dog is more than just adorable; it’s effective too! A study published in Animal Cognition revealed that using a natural, playful tone (like the one used when speaking to babies) combined with words relevant to dogs, can possibly grab dogs’ attention more effectively and help strengthen the bond between them and their humans. However, if you’re not a fan of baby talk, no worries, just use your normal tone.

7. Go for Walks Together

When you’re home, you may be snuggling with your dog, but it’s unlikely you’re sharing experiences together. You might be watching TV or scrolling on your phone, things your dog could care less about.

But when you’re walking together, you’re sharing the experience, all the sights, sounds, and smells that accompany the walk—although your dog can smell a lot more than you do!

Enjoying this shared experience can bring you closer together and forge a strong bond.

Tulip and I love to take walks and enjoy nature together.

8. Let Them Kiss You

Licking is their way of showing affection. So when you accept this gift of love, you show your dog how much you love them! Licking releases endorphins and dopamine, making your dog feel calm and secure.

Tulip loves to give kisses!

 

Things to Avoid When Showing Your Dog You Love Them

In essence, showing affection to your dog involves understanding their world and respecting their boundaries. Keep in mind that while your intentions are pure, certain things may not translate the same way in dog language. Reading their cues accurately and adjusting your actions accordingly fosters a loving environment for your four-legged friend.

Here are expressions of affection that your dog may find uncomfortable or undesirable or may be bad for them in the long run.

Hugs

Even though I know that most dogs aren’t the biggest fans of big hugs, I sometimes have to fight the urge to give Tulip a loving squeeze. After all, hugging is one of the most natural ways for humans to show affection, including furry friends. However, for many of our canine companions, a hug from their pet parents is unwelcome or even threatening, especially if they feel trapped. 

Additionally, eye contact while hugging can be threatening to many dogs. Even though your dog feels like part of the family, they may still lash out and bite if they feel threatened by close contact

Many pet parents are surprised to learn that their beloved pets are merely tolerating these embraces, with most dogs showing signs of stress when hugged. Sometimes, communication mishaps occur between us and our pets due to our inability to fully comprehend their communication methods. Learning to decipher their unique body language can significantly enhance our bond and elevate their happiness. 

It’s easier for everyone to slowly accustom your dog to hugs, linking the action with rewards or treats to foster a positive association. This is vital if you want your pet to be a therapy dog. 

However, other dog-friendly expressions of love, such as a scratch behind the ears or games you play together, may be a more welcome substitute for hugs. This way, you’re respecting your furry family members’ boundaries while also preserving the warm bond between you.

Treats

Training through positive reinforcement can be a great way to bond with your pet as well! But while treats are a great way to show your dog attention, especially during training sessions, they should be limited. Some dog parents make the mistake of thinking that the best way to their dog’s heart is through their stomach. Don’t get me wrong—a healthy treat and some goodies have their place, but too many of them can easily lead to weight gain and all of the health issues that come with it.

Paw or Ear Massage

Us humans love a good massage—it’s one of the best ways to wind down and pamper ourselves, especially after a particularly long day. You can do the same for your pups! Some dogs love a good “roobs” behind their ears, and some appreciate some light massages on their paws (not all dogs may like this, as their paws have a lot of delicate and sensitive nerve endings and blood vesse. My colleague’s husky, Egg, for example, hates having her paws touched, as it stresses her out).

Understanding Dog Body Language

Sometimes, we and our four-legged buddies experience a few hiccups in communication, mainly because we don’tfully understand what they’re trying to tell us. Remember, while they can’t use words to express how they feel, our dogs are pretty observant, relying on our nonverbal signals to make sense of their world. Learning how dogs communicate with us can definitely boost our bond and make their tails wag a little happier!

Tail Wagging

It’s a misconception that when dogs wag their tails, they are happy. A wagging tail can mean many things. You might be surprised to know that your furry friend’s tail is its very own little language. According to Dr. Ryan Llera at VCA Animal Hospitals, your dog’s tail position can communicate many things:

  • Raised tail. It could mean your dog is alert and ready to face what drew their interest.
  • Arching over their back. They might be feeling aggressive. 
  • Lowered tail. It’s your pet’s way of showing submission or that they’re scared. 
  • Straight out. They’re probably investigating a new interesting scent or sound. 
  • Neutral position or slightly raised and wagging. Your buddy is relaxed or happy! 

Remember, though, that some breeds of dog have naturally curled tails that coil over their backs, like the Samoyeds, Pugs, and Pomeranians. Meanwhile, others like Greyhounds and Whippets have tails that naturally curl under their bellies, so consider your dog’s natural tail position based on their dominant breed type when reading into their tail position.

The speed of the wag can tell you even more. A fast wag can signal high excitement, a slight wag could mean they’re feeling timid, and a wag with some hip wriggling, well, that’s the canine version of your dog giving you a super-friendly hello! Although, be watchful, because a very fast wag with the tail upright could also mean your pooch is about to become threatening—so remember, a wagging tail isn’t always a friendly one! 

Yawning

Dogs yawn for a bunch of different reasons, not just because they’re tired like us humans. 

Sometimes yawning is a physical thing that helps stimulate their nervous system or cool their brains, writes Dr. Manetter Kohler in “Why Do Dogs Yawn?” on PetMD. They usually yawn when they’re transitioning from one state to another, like from sleep to wakefulness or from being bored to being alert. 

Here’s a fun fact: dogs also yawn to communicate emotional feelings. If a yawn pops out when they’re in a stressful situation, maybe at the veterinary clinic, during a household argument, being hugged too tightly, or being approached by a stranger, they’re trying to calm themselves down. It’s like their version of taking deep breaths! 

Plus, dogs even yawn to show they want to avoid conflicts or signal that they’re peaceful. Ever noticed how contagious yawning is? Dogs catch that too, especially from their favorite humans. It’s a sweet way they empathize with us!

If you notice your pup yawning a lot and showing signs they’re not comfortable, they’re likely feeling anxious or stressed. It’s like they’re telling you, “Hey, human, I need a break!” In that case, helping them avoid stressful situations or offering a safe, quiet space for them can be super helpful. Isn’t it amazing how much they can say without using words?

Licking

Dogs love to lick, and their reasons for doing so can vary widely. One of the most common motivations is affection and social bonding. Your dog’s cheeky face-licking greeting when you come home from work is likely their quirky way of saying “You’re the best!” They’re expressing love and delight at your presence. 

Licking also serves as a grooming ritual for dogs, helping them to stay clean. And don’t forget their curiosity too. Dogs have a keen sense of smell and taste, so that exploratory lick on an object or post-meal lick on your hand is likely your dog’s taste-based way of understanding their surroundings.

Also, licking can sometimes be a peace offering. Dogs who feel submissive or threatened might lick as a conciliatory gesture. Additionally, excessive licking might indicate possible medical issues, such as allergies or anxiety. 

Being aware of the context is crucial in interpreting these canine linguistics. While licking is generally harmless, if it bothers you or seems linked to a health problem, don’t hesitate to talk to a veterinarian for expert advice. So whether as a sign of love or exploration, your dog’s licks are as fascinating as they are varied!

 

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FAQs

Why Should I Show My Dog Love?

Showing love to your dog cements the emotional bond between you and him. As pack animals, dogs have an intrinsic need to feel connected and accepted by their pack, or in the case of a dog, their human family. You validate their place in your life by expressing your love, which is fundamental to their emotional health. 

Spending time with your dog, like taking walks together, as mentioned, also demonstrates affection and is something dogs crave and cherish, much like humans do with close friends.

Does My Dog Know When I Am Sad?

From my experience, dogs are very attuned to our emotions. Whenever I cry, my dog will gently place her head or paw on my lap, as if to comfort me. Another one of my dogs, who sadly passed away recently, had even picked up on the unique sound of my sniffles when I cry and would climb onto the bed to lie beside me, offering her silent support. 

This personal connection I’ve observed is also backed by research, which indicates that dogs not only know when we’re in distress but they also try to find ways to help us. Their instinct to be by our side during emotional times is a heartwarming reminder of their deep-seated empathy and unconditional love for us.

Does My Dog Know I Love Them?

The short answer is “probably.” But only if you know how to speak your dog language. As mentioned, hugs, kisses, and treats don’t necessarily translate to love in a dog’s native language.

Dogs are pack animals, and they rely on their pack’s queues for signs of approval and love. 

They do this primarily through body language, physical touch, and group activities like hunting and exercising.

One of the best things about dogs is how well they know their favorite people. They can tell when we’re stressed out and when we’re calm and happy. And we can be sure that our voices, body language, and actions communicate to them how much they mean to us.

The bond between humans and dogs has huge benefits for people and animals. My ebook explains how bonding with your dog can improve your mind, body, spirit, and community. Click here to download your free copy.

 

Kristen Levine is a nationally acclaimed pet expert, influencer, and Fear Free Certified® Professional with over 30 years of experience working with pets.

Through this blog and her book, Pampered Pets on a Budget, Kristen has helped millions of pet parents solve problems and provide the best care for their dogs and cats.

Working alongside hundreds of pet professionals, including veterinarians, behaviorists and trainers inspired Kristen to become a pet parenting “guide”, providing readers with reliable information about health, wellness and lifestyle for dogs and cats and the people who love them.

A dogged advocate for pet adoption and rescue, Kristen has featured over 1,000 adoptable dogs and cats from the SPCA on live television and radio appearances to get them adopted. Her blog, KristenLevine.com has been featured in over 100 media outlets – including the New York Times, USA Today, FOX & Friends, Good Morning America, Women's Day, Reader's Digest, Good Housekeeping, Pop Sugar and more.

To stay up to date on the latest health and lifestyle trends for pets, Kristen regularly attends the top veterinary and pet product conferences, where she’s often a featured speaker.

This Post Has 86 Comments

        1. It only does if the dog doesn’t trust you. For example, if you don’t know the dog. But if he trusts you then go for it.

        2. i’ve noticed my dog really loves and enjoys that, he’ll hold eye contact w me when we cuddle and when i’m petting him! it’s the most adorable

        3. Not for every dog. It says in this and I already knew anyway for a fact through research that it’s a way of bonding and trust. Everyone knows the eyes are the window to the soul..

      1. I feel you on all things you have said. I am infatuated with my dog and adore him. I do all of these things you mentioned to tell Apollo that I love him.

        1. I have an 8 month old pit when when I talk to him it really sounds like he be talking back to me .My husband says I’ll be dammed it this dog isn’t really taking back to you.But I say to myself I really wonder what he be trying to say or tell me.He just be jumping for joy at the same time.They say pit are bad dogs but I think it’s all in how you raise them.Am I right to trust him or what.As a matter of fact I have two more and they are all beautiful dogs that I wouldn’t give up on for nothing in the world.

          1. He probably is talking back!! And I think you’re right, it’s all in how they’re treated. You sound like a good doggie mama ☺️

          2. It actually has to do with the way dogs are treated. If you treat them with love you will be treated the same way. That is so important. They will love and protect you forever!!!

          3. Pits are the most loyal, loveable , cuddling, snoring bed hogs but they will protect you no matter what and I’ve raised two full blood and one pit/terrier (hyper little shit). You are correct its all about how you raised them ,along with how you train them. That’s any breed though

    1. My dog Pebbles yawns when I tell her I love her, usually after a good session of petting, scratching and or brushing. Then she lays by my feet and naps.

  1. I love those. And I love that I can say that I do ALL of those thing with my pup. I guess when you really love them it comes naturally.
    Looking into his eyes and saying “I love you” is one of my favs.

  2. My question is what can I do to counteract the treats my husband luvs 2 give almost 3 times daily. Also, I’m glad that I already do those things with my boy. Yet I will do more. Thank u.

    1. Hi Trishia,
      Oh my gosh… my husband used to over treat our dogs too! He did it out of love, but I’d have to remind him that it’s contributing to them gaining weight! Here are a few ideas. Depending on how big or small the treats are, break them into pieces. That way, he can give the treat multiple times, but it’s still only one treat. Another idea is to change the treat to something very healthy and low calorie. You might also remind him that what might look like a small treat to us humans, can be a really big treat for a dog! Kind of like if we treated ourselves to an entire hamburger 2-3 times a day as a “treat”! Then ate our meals too! LOL.

      Let me know if any of this helps:)
      Kristen

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