Does My Dog Love Me?

Dogs are notoriously loyal and seem to love their human companions, but how much of that is biology, and how much of it is genuine affection? Your dog may eagerly rush into your arms when you come home, even if you've only been gone for an hour, but does your dog genuinely love you? 


According to a 2015 Japanese study published in Science, there's some compelling evidence that your dog's love for you is the real deal. The study found that humans and their pups show a spike in the hormone oxytocin — nicknamed the "love chemical" (via the Dana Foundation) — when making eye contact. Neuroscientist Dr. Gregory Berns, author of "How Dogs Love Us: A Neuroscientist and His Adopted Dog Decode the Canine Brain," told HuffPost that while dogs may not show love in the same way humans do, they are capable of the emotion. 

So how do you know if your pooch adores you? There are some common behaviors that dogs exhibit when they love their human companions. 

Is your dog's licking a sign of love?

You've probably heard dog licks referred to as puppy "kisses," but is your dog licking you a sign of affection? According to The Spruce Pets, yes. Licking is a behavior that puppies learn from their mothers, and many of them carry on the practice with their owners — but not all of them, so don't think your dog hates you if you're not a licker. 


Even a dog that loves you might not always lick you to show affection. But, as animal behavior expert Dr. Mary Burch told the American Kennel Club, they might like the way you taste — particularly if you're sweaty or traces of your dinner are still lingering on your lips. That being said, Burch added that licking "might also give a dog a feeling of security and comfort, just as the dog had when licked by its mother in the litter."

The way to a dog's heart is through their belly

Many dogs love belly rubs, but they won't necessarily accept just any person touching them in such a vulnerable spot. So if your dog regularly rolls onto their back and asks you to rub its belly, it's a sign that your relationship is solid. "Affection is a dog's favorite currency," veterinarian Dr. Katy Nelson told Reader's Digest in 2022. "When a dog is comfortable enough to roll onto its back and expose [its] belly, it can imply significant trust in you."


Giving your dog a belly rub doesn't just make them happy; it also brings you two closer together. According to Nelson, "A comforting human touch is one of the greatest rewards they can receive. It's also an opportunity for a bonding moment between you and your dog."

If your dog isn't into belly rubs, don't take it personally. "In reality, not every dog is a fan, and some dogs may find a belly scratch an invasion of their personal space," veterinary surgeon Dr. Linda Simon told Southern Living in 2021.

'Velcro dogs' love their owners

It's only natural for us to want to be with those we love; the same holds for dogs. While it's not good for your pup to be overly dependent on you as this can lead to separation anxiety, a well-adjusted dog wanting to be wherever you are can be a sign of love (via ASPCA). According to The Dog People, "Dogs are socialized to stick close to the ones they love — even when their loved one is on the toilet."


The outlet added that some dog breeds are more independent than others. Some breeds, like cattle dogs, boxers, and pointers are more likely to be "Velcro dogs," sticking firmly by your side.

If your dog hasn't shown signs of being glued to you and suddenly begins following you everywhere, though, PetMD has warned that this could be a sign something is off with your best friend, and you should take them to the vet to get checked out.

Some dogs literally cannot hold their excitement

While many of the ways your dog shows that they love you are precious, some of them aren't quite so cute. If your puppy pees when they see you, it might be gross, but it's also a sign of their affection. According to the American Kennel Club, puppies are known to pee from excitement. While puppies tend to outgrow this as they grow up, not all do. If your puppy has an accident when you come home from work, take it as a sign of their love and don't get upset — it's beyond their control. If you're concerned about the mess, consider laying out some pee pads or reuniting with your dog outside after coming home after being gone for a few hours. Be on the lookout, though, if your pooch is peeing indoors at other times, as it could indicate a health problem.


Dogs might show their love with a smile

When humans care about someone, they often smile to show their affection. It turns out that dogs do the same thing — so if you see your dog with a goofy grin on its face, it's likely that they're saying, "I love you." Well, sort of.


While PetMD has pointed out that a dog baring its teeth isn't exactly the same deliberate gesture of joy that it is in humans flashing their pearly whites when you catch a glimpse of a dog's teeth, it usually means they're happy, and if they're showing that happiness around you, it could very well mean that they love you. As animal behaviorist and dog trainer Karen B. London, Ph.D., wrote for The Wildest, "Smiles are often given when greeting people the dog adores, especially if the dog hasn't seen the person for some time. The smiles seem to indicate that the dog is over the moon about the reunion and about the opportunity to greet the person."

Your dog bringing a toy to you can be a sign of devotion

You might assume that your dog bringing a toy over to you means they want to play. While it's likely that they're hinting that they're ready for a game of fetch, it could also be just one more way that your puppy is showing their devotion to you. As veterinarian Dr. Laura Pletz told The Dodo, your pup might just be trying to bond with you when they bring over a toy. "It can also be a way they have learned to get your attention, even if the end goal is not playtime," she said.


A dog bringing a toy to you is undoubtedly adorable and is also an opportunity for prime bonding. Veterinarian Dr. Hannah Godfrey wrote for Pets Radar that a dog bringing you a toy can also indicate their affection for you, as they are bringing something they value to someone they love.

Dogs will jump through hoops to help those they love

Dogs are great at providing emotional support and may even go out of their way to help you when you're in need. Findings from a 2018 study published in Learning & Behavior show that dogs go out of their way to offer support to their humans. In the study, dogs pushed past barriers to get to their owners when they showed distress. So if your dog doesn't rush to your side when you need help, it's not because they hate you — some dogs become too overwhelmed by what their human is going through.


This sweet behavior doesn't just show how much dogs love us, but also how intuitive they are. "Dogs have been by the side of humans for tens of thousands of years, and they've learned to read our social cues," lead researcher Emily Sanford said in a press release from Johns Hopkins University. "Dog owners can tell that their dogs sense their feelings. Our findings reinforce that idea and show that, like Lassie, dogs who know their people are in trouble might spring into action."