Does my dog love me or just my food? If you’ve asked yourself this question, you’re one of the thousands of dog owners who have wondered the same thing. Are they the ultimate scam artists, or do they truly love us?
The short answer: yes. Dogs do love us, and they show it in a lot of different ways.
Signs Your Dog Loves You
Here are some ways you can tell if your pup is showing some love:
They’re excited to see you. All dog owners are familiar with this scene. You open your front door to a thunderstorm of furry playfulness. Your dog might jump on you, lick your face, and they’ll definitely wag their tail. Being excited and happy to see you is one way you can be assured they love and miss you.
They seek physical contact. This can come in the form of a quick nuzzle, a cuddle, or the famous lean. All of these signal that your pup wants to show affection. It’s best to let them do this on their own terms, so resist the urge to trap them in a tight hug.
They want to sleep near you. Dogs, by nature, sleep in a pack next to each other. They place their noses to the wind to pick up on any smells that might signal a threat. When your pup snuggles beside you or wants to sleep in your room, it’s a sign that they trust you and feel safe.
They give you puppy eyes. Holding eye contact is a big move for dogs, and it’s reserved for someone they love and trust. In the wild, dead-on eye contact is an aggressive move. They use this tactic to intimidate each other and establish dominance. When your dog looks you right in the eyes and holds eye contact without their pupils getting bigger, they're gazing at you lovingly.
They check on you. Cooking, watching tv, bathroom visits — your dog is there through it all — or at least they try to be. Your pup might pop into your bedroom once to say hi, or they might be your permanent shadow around the house. Checking up on you is just one way your dog shows affection. They're making sure you’re ok!
They’ll lick you. When your dog licks you, it could be for a few different reasons, but ultimately it’s an affectionate gesture. They want your attention and want to interact. They could be gearing up to play or just giving an affectionate lick before a cuddle. Either way, they want to show you they care.
They share their toys. Your dog might sometimes tease you with their toy when they want to play, but in a true gesture of affection, they’ll present it as a gift. They want to share their most prized possession with the person they care about. Sounds like a whole lot of love.
You’re only second place when there’s food involved. A pup that loves you will prioritize you above all—except a big bowl of food. That’s the only time they’ll be totally and completely smitten with something else.
What Science Says About Puppy Love
Researchers on a quest to answer this age-old question conducted magnetic image resonance tests (MRI) on several trained dogs to look at their brain activity. When presented with a selection of different smells, the dogs were more excited by their human’s scent than by any other smell, including, notably, food. Research also tells us some dogs prefer praise over food, or want both equally.
Another study showed that dogs’ brain activity went through the roof when they listened to happy sounds, like praise. The same study also showed many similarities between the way both humans and dogs process sounds.
In a nutshell, dogs are naturally wired to pick up on changes in our voice and mood. That’s why, of all the animals in the world, dogs are our best friends.