Every dog owner loves it when their dog greets them happily as soon as they get home with excited yelps and a crazy tail wagging. Those big, soulful eyes and that silly little face are hard to top. What causes this unadulterated joy from your dog? Is it due to the fact that your arrival might mean it will soon be feeding time? Are they just really pumped to finally be able to go to the bathroom? Either possibility is likely, but science is telling us that your dog actually just loves you so much that they are excited that you are back!
The Root of the Behavior
In the past few years, a lot of animal behaviorists have begun to realize that canines tend to line up their feelings with their owners. What proof exists for this assumption? Turns out, we've actually done brain scans on dogs while they were exposed to the scent of their owners. The researchers found that the areas for happiness and value judgement spiked in activity when this happened!
This behavior seen in your dog is actually pretty close to how you feel when you see a family member or other loved one. You dog practically worships you, and can actually be imagining seeing you again before you even come home.
People have been domesticating dogs since recorded history began. Researchers have found a lot of evidence for ancient people using wolves and other wild dogs to aid in catching prey to feed the tribe. This was beneficial in the winter months especially, as dogs were well-suited for the cold. As this practice went on, it appears that humans began to choose specific types of dogs that showed the features they wanted to cultivate. These were things like thicker or thinner hair, bigger frames, and speed. All modern canine breeds that we see today were originally bred from these wild dogs.
Another reason that dogs are always so happy to see us is because they view us within a traditional pack structure. Scientists have noticed this for a few reasons, one of them being face licking. In nature, wolves and other wild dogs have always traditionally greeted each other with this behavior.
A third reason for this unadulterated happiness is if you've raised your dog from a puppy. Dogs imprint on their owners much more strongly if it happens at a young age. When this happens, in your dog's eyes you are in essence his parent. Researchers can see this reverence for age replicated in wolf packs. Older members of the pack that are past breeding are kept safe and surrounded, and oftentimes their hunting is done for them.
Encouraging the Behavior
Clearly, this behavior is almost always acceptable. Dogs tend to be a pretty simple, straightforward bunch of thinkers. If they seem happy to see you come home, then they're just happy to see you come home. And most likely, their happiness is stemming from the end to their boredom that comes with staying in a house alone all day long without a whole lot of activities or any friends to hang out with. The very moment you poke your head through the front door, your canine is sincerely pleased to see you. And not only that, he wants to know every single place you've been and every animal you've met! This is the primary cause of all the smelling and licking that first occurs when you return. Your dog needs to know what kinds of things you've been around. And he most likely also hopes that you've brought him some food!
This behavior also is a great indicator that your dog is happy and healthy, something most dog owners worry about on a regular basis. An active dog with a great, positive personality is something all dog owners hope for. Plus, this usually equates to better experiences for the owner. A happy dog is much more likely to follow his best friend out the door or sit patiently for their meal than a surly, uninspired canine would be.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Dogs have evolved and changed based on their partnership with people, which means they are happy specifically to please us. This means that your dog being elated to see you is a completely normal habit for them to engage in. Things like face liking and rubbing are all ways for them to confirm that you’re who you are and that their safety is assured. It also harkens back to a much earlier time, when humans were just beginning to domesticate wild dogs. So as they continue to grow and evolve with humans, these behaviors will continue to regulate themselves based on our needs.
At the end of the day, what is important here is that you enjoy the boundless energy and joy that your dog brings to your life. They’re happy that you exist, so give them that gift in return with love and affection. You might end up finding that with little to no effort, you’re suddenly having a ball!