Does my dog love me? Of course you want to know this. After all, you love her so very much and you’d like the feeling to be mutual!
Well, the good news is, she most likely does. There are definite signs you can observe and there’s scientific evidence as well.
The Science Behind Dog Love
A team of scientists at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, USA took a clinical approach to investigate the emotional state of dogs.
First, they trained the pooches to relax as they scanned them with an MRI machine. While scanning their brains, they exposed these dogs to certain odors and observed changes in brain function. These changes provided data on the dog’s emotional state.
So, why odors? Well, as you probably know, dogs navigate the world with their acute sense of smell. Even more so than with sight. The way dogs respond to these smells reflect their feelings. In this experiment the researchers exposed the dogs to odors of both familiar and unfamiliar people and dogs. Here’s what they found.
When a dog smelled the familiar odor of his owner, the caudate nucleus of the brain was activated. This area of the brain contains many dopamine receptors and will light up when exposed to pleasurable stimuli. These dogs actually responded more favorably to human odors than those of their fellow canines and most significantly when it was a human they knew.
We find a similar response in humans when they’re shown photos of people they love.
A related research was conducted in Budapest, Hungary. Here, scientists studied canine brain activity while they were spoken to by humans. When exposed to happy sounds, the brain’s auditory cortex lighted up much the same way a human brain would. This illustrates the effective communication that occurs between human and dog in establishing the human-animal bond.
Thus, science is showing us that our canine companions are emotional beings like us and respond positively to our scent and voices. It reveals to us that our dogs do indeed love us
There is also the “oxytocin-gaze positive loop” to consider. Actually, oxytocin is a hormone that works as a neurotransmitter in the brain and it’s found in humans and dogs. A 2015 Japanese study revealed that when dogs and humans stared into each other’s eyes, they both register a spike in oxytocin, the so-called “Love Drug.”
The Signs of Dog Love
So, now that we know the science, let’s talk about the signs of dog love. I’ll bet you already know your dog loves you because you have probably observed one or more of the following:
She’s happy to see you
Some dogs really get emotional by barking and jumping when their human walks through the door. And, others are a bit more subtle and may just wag their tail. Some dogs may get excited when anyone walks through the door so you need to determine if this behavior is special onto you.
She brings you presents
It might be her favorite toy for play or it could even be something kind of gross like…well, you know what I mean!
You’re second in importance only to her food
Let’s face it, eating is primal. However, when she has her fill of food, you become the center of her world.
She wants to get in the car with you and take a ride
As you know, dogs love to ride in the car and doing so with you is likely their ultimate pleasure.
She wants to sleep with you
Remember that dogs in the wild are naturally alert to threats in their environment and lay in a position that allows them to pick up scents while being with the rest of their pack. The fact that she lays with you means that she considers you part of her pack.
Your dog looks at you lovingly
Her eyes are relaxed. This is the gaze of love.
Your appearance or hygiene don’t matter
So what if you have a bad hair day or morning breath; she loves you just the same. This is called unconditional love.
She follows you around
She just can’t seem to get enough of your company (Contrary to many people’s belief, some cats do this as well).
Just like humans, dogs communicate their feeling through facial expressions. Another study from Japan used a high-speed camera to record dog’s faces when their humans walked into a room. The results showed the dogs raised their eyebrows when they saw their owners but not when they saw strangers.
And, here’s another one of those studies. It showed that when a dog saw someone they were bonded to, they shifted back their left ear. If they saw something they disliked, they shifted their right one
She yawns when you yawn
A 2008 study showed that dogs were more likely to demonstrate “contagious” yawning when they observed their humans do it than when they saw a stranger do the same.
You get a big, slobbery face lick
What better way to show love than with that big, slobbery tongue! Mother dogs lick their children’s faces the moment they’re born and also to groom them. Some dogs lick their human’s face out of habit or because they taste good!
She leans on you
There are different reasons your dog will lean on you. These can include anxiousness or asking you to do something. However, it’s also a sign of affection. It indicates you’re someone who can keep her safe and protect her.
You just know
Love is a hard thing to explain and sometimes you just “know” that she loves you.
More stuff on dog love
Yet another study reported that 66% of people would rather be stranded on a desert island with their pet than with a human.
75% of people make some kind of financial provisions for their pet in their will
Researchers at the University of Cambridge found that kids in pet owning families said they had a closer bond with their pet then with human family members.
How about this. Some people may not be alive today if a dog hadn’t been able to sniff out cancer. Or, how about dogs alerting their owners about a medical condition by repeatedly pawing at a certain area. I’d say this is empathy and they are going out of their way to help.
Researchers have also demonstrated that when you give attention to another family pet or even a stuffed animatronic dog, your dog is likely to show jealousy in some way. She might show this by snarling at her nemesis, getting between you and it and even snarling at you!
Now, jealousy isn’t the same as love but it does indicate there’s a special relationship that’s being threatened. In other words, she wants you all to herself!
Does my dog know I love her?
There is something called “social cognition” which is a way of saying that a dog who lives with people becomes adept at reading and decoding human facial expressions and body language.
This ability starts early in puppy hood and scientists conclude that dogs and humans have a way of communicating back and forth in a way that’s unique to the human-canine bond. So, when you look at your dog and feel love, she knows it.
Show your dog you love her
Show her your love in these ways:
- Talk to her. MRI technology shows that dogs understand human language more than previously thought. And yes, you can even read to her which has been shown to calm anxious dogs.
- Share soft, deep eye contact. As mentioned above, this says “I love you” by increasing the “love chemical” oxytocin.
- Raise your eyebrows and smile softly.
- Lean on her.
- Sleep by her.
- Take her on walks.
- Take her on car rides.
- Brush her.
- Pet her.
- Groom her.
- Massage her.
Would you like more insight into your dog’s thoughts and feelings? Check out Dr. Stanley Coren’s How Dogs Think and Dr. Patricia McConnell’s For the Love of a Dog.
We love comments so be sure to leave yours below. Does your dog love you? There’s a real good chance she does. How can you tell she does? Let us know.