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[Updated February 2020]
As a dog owner, I consider my Golden Retriever Ellie my best friend. I love her and couldn’t imagine my life without her. But, I often wonder if she loves me as much as I love her, and it begs the question do dogs love their owners?
We all know that dogs are loyal and loving towards their owners, and are considered man’s best friend (and woman’s) but how can we tell if our dog really loves us?
Rest assured we are going to find out if your dog loves you and what signs you need to look for to confirm your dog’s love for you.
Do Dogs Love Their Owners?
To many, the answer to this question is obviously yes. Dogs love us. But to others, there may be some doubts. Do dogs really love us like we love them or are they just affectionate towards us because we give them food and shelter?
Yes! Dogs love their owners, and science has proven it.
A 2015 study published in Science Direct conducted by Dr. Gregory Burns a leading neuroscientist in the field of canine cognition and his colleagues discovered that dogs reacted positively to their owner’s scent.
In this study, dogs were trained to sit still in an fMRI machine and their brains were scanned. Dogs were subjected to scents of humans and dogs, both familiar and unknown.
The scientists discovered that the smell of the dog’s owner sparked activation in the dog’s “reward centre” of the brain. The familiar scent of the dog’s owner excited the dogs more than any other scent.
Dogs take in the world through smell, and out of all the things they smell in a day the scent of their owner is what they prioritize and what triggers positive reactions.
This just confirms what many of us knew all along, that our dog really loves us.
Signs That Your Dog Loves You
Dogs can display some pretty clear signs that tell us how they feel about us. They wag their tails when they are happy to see us or they lick our face. There are also some not so obvious signs that dogs display that shows us they love us.
Here are the 12 signs that you can watch out for that will confirm your dog’s love towards you:
1. Locking Eyes With You
A sure way to know your dog loves you is when they look into your eyes. Eye contact with your dog creates a deep bond, in fact, when your dog looks at you they release a hormone called oxytocin, which is the same hormone that helps new mothers bond with their babies.
When humans make eye contact with each other, it is to show that they are engaged and interested in what the other person is saying, but when dogs lock eyes with another dog it is often a sign of a challenge or aggressiveness. When a dog stares at their favourite human, it is usually out of love.
Next time you and your dog lock eyes with each other, pay attention to your dog’s eyes. If you see little to no white in their eyes it means your dog is relaxed and happy and comfortable with you.
2. Synchronized Yawning
Yawning is contagious right? Just writing about yawning is making me yawn. Yawning isn’t just a contagious impulse to humans, dogs have been shown to echo a yawn after their owners.
Dogs are more likely to yawn when their owner yawns than when a stranger yawns.
Research indicates that when humans yawn after another human yawns it is a sign of empathy, so it is likely that a dog yawns after their human does it for the same reason. It is one of the signs that they are bonded with you and love you.
3. Excited To See You
When I am away from my dog for an hour or several hours, it doesn’t matter the length of time, I am always welcomed home by an excited, tail wagging, happy to see “me” dog.
It is one of the joys of dog ownership, being greeted by your dog.
Dogs are excited to see their humans after they have been away from them. They will display their excitement with tail wags, running, jumping, and licking their owners face. It is their way of showing that they are happy you are home and it is a demonstration of love.
4. Bringing You Their Favourite Toy
When your dog brings you their favourite toy, they are wanting to play. Dogs can be very possessive of their toys and when they bring you their favourite, it shows that they trust you and love you and want to engage in some playtime.
Their favourite toy makes them happy and they want to share their happiness with you. They think that you will love their toy as much as they do. Sharing is caring, and it is their way of showing affection.
5. Leaning Against You
There are a few reasons that dogs lean against you. It could be because they are afraid and like to be comforted by the fact that you are there to protect them, or it could be because they are claiming you as their human when other dogs are around and are trying to protect you.
Either way, when your dog leans against you it is a sign of affection, they think of you as their protector. Think of it as a doggy hug. Your dog wants to lean against you to give you some attention and is hoping you return the favour by petting and giving ear rubs.
6. Sleeping Next To You
When your dog sleeps next to you it is a sign of affection. Dogs are pack animals and want to be close to their pack to feel safe and secure. Your dog sees you as the pack leader and feels the most comfortable and safest around you.
When you see a litter of puppies, you see that they all snuggle up and sleep on a pile of each other to feel safe and comfortable. It is in their nature, and your dog wants to replicate that feeling of warmth and coziness with you.
7. Licks You
When dogs lick their owners their brain releases happy hormones called endorphins, which makes them feel calm and secure.
Dogs also lick their owners because they like the taste of their skin. Licking is a natural instinct in a dog to groom themselves, and by licking you they are showing you that they love you enough, and want to take care of you by cleaning you. Just like a mother dog does to its puppies.
8. Becomes Your Shadow
Wherever you go your dog follows you, even to the bathroom you are not alone. Your dog becomes your shadow.
To your dog, you are the whole world, and your dog is showing love by wanting to be around you at all times.
Dogs are social animals and want to be with their pack. They feel happiest when they are around the people they love. Dogs enjoy human companionship, and would rather be with you than be left alone.
9. Shows Jealousy
Showing jealousy is not only a human characteristic, but it can happen in dogs as well.
Jealousy is not a great feature but it shows that your dog sees you as his own, and does not want anyone or any other dog to come between you.
A dog may interject between you and another dog if they see you petting, or showing any other dog attention. Your attention, your affection, and the sound of your voice are all to be prized, and your dog wants that prize all to himself.
Jealousy can be a cute form of affection towards you, but when it gets out of hand it can be a problem that needs to be corrected. Watch out for any signs of aggressive behaviour.
10. Protective Of You
It is human nature to protect the ones we love, and dogs will do the same. They will bark at anyone that approaches their favourite human, in a way of protecting you and keeping you safe.
Over time the bond that forms between you and your dog will get stronger and your dog will be part of the family. Your dog will see you like family and it is in your dog’s instincts to want to protect the ones he loves.
Showing signs of protection towards you is a way that owners can feel loved by their dogs, but never allow your dog to become over-protective, as this can lead to problems in the future.
11. Comforts You When You Are Sick
When you are feeling sick, it is your dog’s natural instinct to care for you. They may recognize the signs that you are not feeling like your old self and may want to lay next to you and comfort you. If you have a wound on your body they may even try to lick it better.
12. Roughhouses With You
When you see dogs playing together, it usually looks like a form of wrestling and can look pretty intense. They will jump on each other, and pin each other to the ground.
This type of play is their favourite as it allows them to let off steam, and have fun. They usually play this way with a dog that they trust and feel comfortable with, a true friend.
When your dog wants to initiate this form of playing with you, it is a sign that they trust you and are comfortable around you, it is a great compliment. They see you as being fun to be around and it is their way of showing affection.
It is easy for us to show our dogs love, by rubbing their bellies, giving them treats, taking them for walks and showing affection, but the way our dogs feel about us is shown in many ways.
When we see any of the signs mentioned above we know that our dogs feel the same way about us.
All dogs are different and may have other ways that show their owners they love them.
One thing is for certain, if you show your dog love and affection, it will be returned to you. There is no greater feeling than the love of a dog.
What About You?
Have you ever wondered do dogs love their owners? Does your dog display any of these signs? What are some of the ways that your dog shows his/her love to you?
Do you and your dog have a strong bond? All dog owners want to have a strong bond with their dog. Find out how you can improve and strengthen the bond between you and your dog.
Share your thoughts and comments below. I would love to hear from you.
I am the proud owner of a Golden Retriever named Ellie. She keeps me busy, and when she is resting, you can find me working on my blog. She is always close by though. I live in Stirling, ON Canada with my husband, and we both enjoy the never a dull moment life with our Ellie.
12 thoughts on “Do Dogs Love Their Owners? [12 Tell Tail Signs]”
As an ex-dog owner, I can empathize with all you are saying. I now live in a flat and I wouldn’t keep a dog in such a small place. Dogs need to have freedom as well as love.
Many people don’t like to be licked by a dog after all it does lick some dirty places, but I never stopped any of my dogs from licking me. Over the years the different dogs have shown their love to me.
Dogs do need room to move around and have freedom and love. Apartment living is not the best for many breeds, but there are many small breeds that do well in apartments.
It sounds like you have been very fortunate to have been loved by many dogs.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
I have two black lab puppies that are 9 months old and are also brother and sister. I have been a dog lover all my life. These two are adorable and the most lovable pair I have ever seen. However, they have also been a challenge!
The male dog is very independent but you can see he is undeniably very loyal and loves his “people”. The female is very needy. Always has to be the center of attention, sleeps with us, wants to be beside you on the furniture, leans on you, literally anywhere you go she is there. I can see how much she loves her family as we love her also.
My question to you is this. When a dog is this attached, I say attached because it is almost odd behaviour, is that normal? She seems to be afraid of everything also yet the male is fearless. Is there something wrong that I should worry about or is it just because she loves us sooooo much and is spoiled rotten?
Great article! Full of information about Fur babies and their love for us!
You really do have your hands full with two puppies. But, I think it’s great that they are from the same litter and are brother and sister, and will be raised together.
It is very fascinating to see 2 different personalities. I recently wrote an article that compares males and females, and I think you will find it interesting. I own a female Golden Retriever and she is very needy as well. What you describe of your female lab puppy is what my female is too.
In regards to your question, I really don’t think that your female is displaying odd behaviour. You need to remember that each dog has a different personality, some are more fearless and others are a bit unsure of things and need time to become familiar with things that they are not used too.
My female golden is the same way. She is so attached to us and there are certain things that scared her as a puppy, such as umbrellas, baby strollers, and wheelchairs. It took time to get her used to those things. You just need to reassure your puppy that there is nothing to be scared of, and you should expose your puppy to new things.
I hope this helps you out. It sounds like you are very loved by your two pups, and they very much love you!
Thank you for sharing your experience.
Thank you for your very interesting article on ‘Do Dogs Love You’. It’s strange that I should come across this article today. Yesterday I was sent a small photo from my elder sister Mary. It was of me at the age of three and our pet dog Lassie. Yes, she was a golden scotch Collie just like Lassie on TV. I loved her to pieces and the picture shows her watching me intensely, as she always did. Her job was to protect me, and she did this perfectly.
I went on to own a number of different dogs in my life but she will always be my favourite. I loved your article not only for the memories it brought back but for the accuracy with which it was written. I trained many dogs over the years. Most went on to be farm dogs and others, pets. My last dog went on to be an assistance dog for my little diabetic 1 great-grandchild. You are so correct in your descriptions. Dogs definitely love us, protect us, want to be close to us and make great companions.
All the best. Jim
Sometimes the very first dog that you own or have known to love, is and will always be your favourite. There are many dogs that are very protective of their family and look out for them, especially children. It sounds like that is exactly what your Collie did. I am sure you two had a very strong bond and shared a great love for one another.
Thank you for sharing your experience, and I am glad you enjoyed this post.
My dog definitely had some of these traits and it feels really exciting to know that all these are signs of excitement. My dog especially loves to do whatever I do, like watch tv with me, eat while I eat and all. I feel like these things are other extensive forms of showing affection by my dog. This is accurate and I think you really are a dog expert.
It sounds like you and your dog share a very strong bond. Just spending quality time with each other is one of the ways to keep that bond strong. Your dog is showing you love by wanting to spend time with you and just be near you.
Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.
Good post! My dog, Athena, has been through some rough patches lately. We moved about a year ago to a completely different town and out of a house into an apartment. We lost our other dog to a sudden health problem right when we moved so she lost her companion as well. Also, she has had to adjust to a new baby too. She used to be my dog and with the baby taking up so much of my time, she has started following my husband around since he can give her more attention.
I miss the connection we had and was beginning to wonder if she didn’t care for me anymore. I know that sounds a little dumb but it’s true! I read your post and she still does quite a bit of these behaviors so I feel a little better about it.
Thanks for sharing! Maybe in time, we can be the pals we used to be.
Hi Tina, thanks for your comment. It is nice to hear that your dog shows these signs to you. I am sure in time you will be able to have that close bond with your dog again.
This is so cute!
Thank you for highlighting the traits of dogs and how they show their affection.
Now that I have read what they are I can see a lot of these things with my dog. It’s really cute!
I definitely did not know about the dog on dog eye contact and I will watch for that as a just to be safe.
Thank you for your comment Kahlua. There are many subtle ways dogs will show their love. Keep an eye out for them, and you’ll be reassured of their love.