The connection you feel with your dog is special. To non-dog owners, it’s hard to accurately capture how we feel about our four-legged family members. That feeling can be one of camaraderie, understanding, and affection. In fewer words, we say that we love our dogs.
Does my dog know that I love him?
To some extent, our dogs know that we love them. We don’t know how and if dogs experience “love” in the same way that humans do. Our definitions of love are so dependent on personal experience and socialization that it’s difficult for any two people to decide on a common definition. So, we can’t prove scientifically that dogs experience love. However, there are clues that give us insight into the connection we feel with our dogs.
A 2015 study showed that when dogs smell someone familiar, their brain exhibits a reward-response. This reward-response is what your dog feels in anticipation of something desirable or pleasurable, i.e., a reward. Your dog knows that good things come from being around you, and they get excited when they can smell you coming home or walking into the room.
Science has also shown that dogs can sense human emotions by reading facial expressions. There are multiple studies showing that dogs are good at differentiating between expressions. When dogs look at someone they feel connected to, they usually have their eyebrows raised. In particular, their left eyebrow. Thus, one way to let your dog know you’re happy to see him is by greeting him with raised eyebrows and a smile.
While these pieces of information don’t tackle the socialized idea of “love,” they do show that our dogs feel a special sense of comfort and connection when they’re with us.
How can I let my dog know that I love him?
As humans have different love languages, dogs show love in different ways too. We may be more attuned to learning and understanding human love languages, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn to recognize our dog’s love language as well.
Your dog will know you love him through the way you talk to him, look at him, and take care of him. You know your dog’s quirks better than anyone else. Does he seem to relax a little more when you’re around? Maybe you know the right place to scratch or know exactly when he wants to play. As long as you continue to care for and spoil your dog (just a little bit), he will absolutely know that you love him.