As fireworks light up the sky this summer, you can show off your own public display – of affection – by creating a better bond with your dog. While there is no scientific proof that dogs actually know or feel love, you can definitely tell when they are bonding with us and/or showing their love. Here are some of the signals your dog is giving off that can indicate they care.
Just like humans, a dog’s love for his human can be written all over his face. Some common facial expressions a dog might display when bonding are relaxed ears, raised brows or forehead, and “smiles.” Obviously, dogs don’t know what it means to smile, but when a dog looks like he is “smiling,” he will look relaxed – with a relaxed jaw and relaxed panting.
Just don’t confuse other dog behaviors with love – an open mouth showing teeth or growling means your dog is tense or on guard. Raised brows with eyes open wide and/or a bowed head can be signs of fear or anxiety. Another misconstrued expression is “cheek puffing,” where the mouth is closed and your dog rapidly blows air in and out of his mouth, which is a sign of nervousness.
Dogs can show that their love burns bright by kissing or licking your hands or face. Dog kisses most likely started just between dogs, with infant puppies licking their mothers as a request to feed. Nowadays, this behavior carries into adulthood, with dogs showering these kisses onto their owner or primary caretaker.
Dog kissing is a learned behavior, so if your dog isn’t a big kisser, there’s no need for concern. If everyone in your family responds enthusiastically when your dog kisses or licks you – he will continue doing it. If no one responds kindly to your pooch puckering up, he will probably dole out the smooches quite infrequently. It doesn’t mean your dog dislikes your family; he just knows where each of you draws the line.
On a side note, it’s a popular myth that dogs have cleaner mouths than humans. Although this is a huge misconception, their mouths aren’t incredibly dirty either. The fact is that dogs and humans have comparable amounts of bacteria in their mouths. The likelihood of getting sick from your dog’s kisses are low, but some diseases (such as Giardia) can be transferred from dogs to humans. Always practice routine dog dental care to maintain a baseline of cleanliness for your dog and decrease the danger of getting sick from your dog’s kisses.
Lovingly gazing into one another’s eyes isn’t just for humans; dogs can also show their love by making eye contact with their human best friends. However, holding eye contact can be a sign of aggression or attempt at dominance with dogs – so only attempt to make sparks with dogs you know well. “I love you” dog eyes are soft and round, while a hard stare with little to no blinking is a warning from a dog to back off.
Most people associate a dog wagging his tail with a happy dog. For the most part, this is true. Fast and full-tail “butt-wagging” equals excitement, and a relaxed, slow wag can show contentment. However, a high, stiff tail wag can be less a sign of fireworks and more a sign of a short fuse.
If your dog comes up and nudges you with his nose, it could be him saying, “I love you.” It could also just mean they want you to move out of the way or they want attention, but if he is making eye contact or full-body contact along with the nose nudges, it could mean fireworks are going off.
Other Physical Contact
In addition to nose nudging, physical contact such as cuddling, leaning, or jumping are also all signs that things are going off with a bang. For many dogs, the lean is like a full-body hug. By leaning his full weight against your legs, your dog is showing his wholehearted trust in you. Jumping can be a way that your dog is trying to get closer to your face to lick or kiss you. It’s not the best habit to reinforce in your dog, but just know that if your dog starts bouncing up as soon as he sees you, it’s because he cares. Additionally, trying to get physical contact from YOU, such as nudging your hands for pats/pets or rolling onto his back for belly rubs shows a high level of relaxation and trust from your dog. Just be sure your dog isn’t being too “pushy” or rough.
It’s always been easy for you to show affection for your dog – whether it be with a treat, extra pets, a belly rub, or snuggles on the couch. But now you know how your dog shows you that he cares. From the tips of their wet noses down to their jovial wagging tails, dogs use their bodies to show the wonderful fireworks igniting between us!