As any dog owner will attest, the love between a pooch and their master is one of the most special in the world.
From rubs of the tummy to sharing treats when they least expect it, there are countless ways we can show our affection for the dogs in our lives. What can be trickier is working out how and when our furry friends are trying to tell us how special we are to them.
While ‘canine translators’ are not a reality (at least not yet), here are five tips to help you interpret when your pet is saying those three magic words – I love you.
IT’S IN THE EYES
As anyone who has experienced a crush or fledgling romance knows, eye contact is a seriously intimate act – and it’s no different for dogs.
In their case, it is about trust and affection, with the more a dog maintains eye contact with you, the higher the degree of attachment. There is actual science behind this theory, with dogs who make eye contact showing elevated levels of oxytocin, a hormone produced in the brain that is related to nurturing and attachment. In fact, it’s the same hormone that helps mothers bond with their bubs.
A word of warning though – not all eye contact is good eye contact. Unknown or nervous dogs can consider heavy eye contact as threatening behaviour and that’s why we recommend building trust over time.
Not everyone is a fan of sloppy dog tongues but make no mistake, those big licks are a huge sign of affection.
Just as kissing is a universal sign of affection between humans, so too it is for dogs. By giving you a big lick – even when you least want one – your pup is merely saying ‘I love you this much’.
Licking has also been identified as a way that dogs indicate their lower social status. That’s right – their kisses can be a way of letting you know that he or she respects your authority and surely that deserves a tummy rub in return.
LEAN ON ME
While strong eye contact and big licks are obvious signs of affection, there is another doggie act that doesn’t immediately spring to mind – the lean.
How good does it feel when you’re standing or sitting and your dog wanders over and leans their full weight against your legs? It’s like they’re saying ‘I know you’re there for me’. For many dogs the lean is akin to a huuuuuge hug and a way of showing they trust you to the moon and back.
Like eye contact, some leans may mean different things – a anxiety or control – but when the lean is relaxed and calm and your best friend is showing other signs such as soft eyes, a gently wagging tail or slightly open mouth, you can be sure they’re in their happy place.
STRETCH IT OUT
Stretching is not just about stretching when it comes to dogs.
Rather, the big stretch they have when you come home from work or walk into the room for the first time of the day is their way of saying ‘Hello, I’m glad to see you’.
It’s been shown dogs will very rarely greet a stranger with a stretch. That’s because they need to be comfortable with the person approaching and the bigger the stretch? You guessed it – the more comfortable they are.
TAKE IT SLOW
Nothing can curb a blossoming romance quicker than declaring love on the first date – and so it is for the new dog in your life.
Whether you’ve adopted a shelter dog or brought home the cutest puppy in the pet store, don’t lose sight of what a massive change it is for them. All of the above are wonderful acts of affection but don’t expect too much too soon.
Instead, spend the first couple of days with them bonding, be it relaxing walks, a few cuddles or curled up on the couch together. They will start to feel comfortable and safe in your company and that’s when the licking, stretching and leaning will be on in earnest.