You spend countless hours of each day affectionately doting on your pup, but how can you tell if your dog loves you back? How do dogs show love? In many ways! Some are overt and some more subtle. Understanding your dog’s body language can help you distinguish when your dog is showing you their unconditional love versus when he just wants a treat (those stinkers!)
They seek out physical contact
Does your dog like to lean on you? It's common for dogs to prop themselves up when they’re sitting or standing by leaning into our legs and bodies. While this may seem like a goofy, lazy tendency, it’s actually a sign of affection.
Experts say that dogs seek out physical contact with the ones they love. This is why dogs enjoy doggy piles and likely why giant dogs are often so determined to be lap dogs. So, the next time your pup leans on you, lays against you or rests their chin or paw on your leg, remember that this is his love language.
They expose their belly
Your dog’s underside is his most vulnerable area, and he doesn’t expose it to just anyone. Typically, dogs only show their bellies when they feel submissive and feel confident and secure. You may notice that your dog rolls onto his back when playing with their fellow canine pals. This submissive behavior only occurs because they trust their pals not to harm them. It’s a sign of comfort.
The same is true when your pup rolls onto their back while sleeping around the house or during snuggle time. An exposed belly is a tell-tale sign that you make your dog feel loved and secure and that they return the sentiment.
They shower you with licks
According to experts, some may find it gross, but dogs often lick to show their affection according to experts. Licking is an integral part of canine socialization. Dogs will lick one another as an act of affectionate submission or get another dog’s attention. They engage in the same behaviors with humans. Dogs often try to lick faces, but if they can’t reach your face, they will likely settle for any exposed skin they can find, whether it be your hands, feet, legs or elbows.
Their tail wags, a lot
Tail wagging is one of the most obvious ways that your dog shows love. Is there anything more infectious or delightful than a dog with a happily wagging tail? While dog tail language can be complicated, it’s usually quite obvious when your dog is positively wagging its tail. A vigorous tail wag is typically a sign of affection and excitement. When your dog is thrilled to see you, they may even wiggle their body simultaneously. According to the VCA, dogs tend to wag to the right when they feel happy and affectionate.
They jump on you
Jumping up can be an annoying habit, but it’s much easier to tolerate when you understand that it is often a sign of adoration. If your dog starts jumping and bouncing when you get home, it’s because they can’t contain their joy that their favorite person is finally home, and they are eager to shower you with all the love and affection they’ve been holding in all day long.
Since this is such an exciting moment for your pup, it can be a tough habit to correct. You may love it, but any guests you have probably don’t find it as endearing. With that in mind, most trainers will advise waiting until your dog calms down before you pet them.
These are just a handful of the many ways that our dogs show us how much they love us. Each dog has its unique body language and mannerisms, so your pup may have additional quirky ways of showing their love and affection. For instance, some dogs will bring you a favorite toy to throw; others will grunt or howl with joy when you get home. Pay close attention to your dog’s love language to identify how they show love.
Janine DeVault is a pet writer, animal rescue advocate and former celebrity dog walker. She has worked with a variety of pet-industry clients and specializes in writing pet lifestyle content. Janine lives in Canada with her rescue cat, Kesi.