7 Subtle Ways Your Dog Could Be Saying 'I Love You,' According to a Vet
I asked an expert to find out if your pups love you as much as you love them.
This is Obsessed: my weekly column devoted to sharing all the things I'm loving right now—from unique food and gift ideas to travel destinations and beauty products—plus some tips and tricks for living your best life.
It's no secret that I'm obsessed with my 5-year-old American Eskimo Dog, Grits. He has his own Instagram account, he goes everywhere with me—including dog-friendly restaurants, breweries, farmers' markets, shops and vacation spots—and I've even taken him to a few minor league baseball games. (Here's him watching some baseball with his doggie ice cream. Isn't he perfect?!)
I could wax poetic about how great my fur baby is, but I can't help but feel a little needy and wonder if he thinks I'm great too. I mean, I know he likes that I feed him regularly and take him on hikes, but do his nightly snuggles and velcro-dog tendencies mean I'm more to him than *just* a two-legged roommate? I tapped Beth Cobb, DVM and partner at Cahaba Mountain Brook Animal Clinic, to find out the scoop.
Turns out, there are some surefire signs your dog is trying to say he or she loves you. Here's what Dr. Cobb says each one means.
Your Dog Is Your Shadow
Dr. Cobb says, "The person they love the most is who they want to be next to." If your dog follows you around (or, like mine, won't even let you go to the bathroom by yourself), he's likely trying to show you how much he loves you.
They Sleep with You and/or Cuddle You
"Given a choice, most animals want to be comfy," says Dr. Cobb. So if your dog is on the opposite side of the couch or laying at the very end of the bed, it may not necessarily be a sign of love. But if your pup lays in your lap during a Netflix marathon or sleeps in your arms at night, that's a surefire sign they love you.
They Demand Affection
You may think your dog is being demanding, but Dr. Cobb says, "Dogs will sometimes rub their head against your hand like they want you to pet them. That's their way of being affectionate." And if your dog puts his paw on you while you're sitting next to him or petting him, it could be his way of saying "I love you." Go ahead and give him some love in return—he deserves it.
They're Happy to See You When You Get Home
Sure, some of those excited zoomies might be because they want to go outside, but if your dog's tail is wagging it could mean they've missed you. "Wagging means they're happy and excited, says Dr. Cobb. "Dogs will always wag their tails as a sign of love if they're excited to see you when you get home.".
Your Dog Stares at You
Prolonged eye contact in humans can be a little creepy, but Dr. Cobb says that it's a whole different story with pups—and it could indicate love. "There are a lot of similarities between children [who can't yet talk] and dogs. You can just look in their eyes and tell if they don't feel good, or if they're happy or excited. They can tell by different looks what the dog is trying to convey."
They Give You Hugs and/or Kisses
Dr. Cobb says that when your pup licks you, it's not always because you have leftover food on your hand or face. She says, "Dogs give kisses. It's a show of affection. A lot of dogs will hug you, too." Dr. Cobb says that this show of affection can stem from what their mom would've done when they were puppies (like licking and cleaning them) or your dog could be taking cues from how you show them love (like asking them to give you a kiss, or carrying them around) and trying to replicate it.
Your Dog Smiles at You
A 2012 study confirmed what most dog lovers already know: Our fur babies have consciousness and human-like emotions. Dr. Cobb says, "Dogs are smart and can be very expressive." Your dog's smile could mean a lot of things—from love to being nervous—but we can all agree it's pretty darn adorable. Dr. Cobb says, "We have dogs [at our vet practice] who smile; we call it grinning. Some of it is specific to the dog. It's just the cutest thing ever."
Jaime Milan is EatingWell's digital editor for all things newsy and trending. She's always on the hunt for the latest and greatest things to share with EatingWell's readers. In her spare time, you can find her experimenting in the kitchen, tackling home projects with her husband or taking pics of her very photogenic American Eskimo Dog, Grits. Follow her on Instagram at @jaimemmilan.