6 min read


Can Dogs Feel When They are Loved?



6 min read


Can Dogs Feel When They are Loved?


The love between a dog and its owner is not so easy to put into words, as it’s heartfelt and is an indication that animals can feel such a powerful emotion. Our puppies are our best friends and confidantes. There are things we’ve told our pooches that are for their ears only. Putting it simply, we love these furry creatures and hope they love us back.

Looking into their eyes, it’s hard to believe any different, but not so long ago we were told dogs couldn’t do love in return. Growing up, a pooch was sanctioned as a family member with limits on what they could perceive. Some folks in powerful positions said they weren't particularly bright and were incapable of feeling emotions. Now, it’s a different world and dogs are heralding the change.


Signs a Dog Knows They are Loved

Dogs are wired through thousands of years to be our forever friends. How we got so lucky to come home to a manic, wagging tail and smiley woofer face is Mother Nature’s secret.

Watching your Maltipoo (Toy Poodle/Maltese) spinning around, so happy their owner has come home, beams love through your heart. You’re just in the door and the play-bowing begins as they zoom off quickly to collect one of their toys. It’s dropped at your feet and the festivities are on, as they jump up into your arms, licking you like crazy.

Are they just relieved you’ve come back, or is it because they love you? You show them how much you care by picking up the leash and heading outdoors. Quality time with your dog lets them know you are truly invested.

The Guardian featured Professor John Bradshore, a scientist who has devoted the last 25 years to studying dogs. He is also the author of “In Defense of the Dog”, a fascinating read for all pooch lovers. Professor Bradshore explains how science is cagey about using the "L" word and prefers to go with the term “attachment" as a safe way to define a dog's feelings. 

He is not shy about his own belief that dogs really love us and calls upon the proof via the “love-bug” hormone oxytocin, that super-charges when dogs are hanging out with familiar humans. It's a reciprocal interplay of hormonal bliss as human and dog share close moments.

Signs that dogs feel love are the way they stare at you and lean right into your body. This is their way of getting close and asking for affection. Ever noticed how your Husky yawns when you do? According to The Week, a study in Tokyo revealed woofers are more likely to reciprocate a yawn with their owner than strangers.

It's easy for us to show we are head-over-heels for our pooch with a cupboard full of treats, lots of doggy walks and a session of belly rubs. The question is how does a woofer return the love?

When a dog wants to get your attention, they nuzzle you with their nose. It’s their way of saying “I need some puppy lovin'.” If they are picking up the vibes, they'll sigh with contentment. This is a positive sign your pooch loves and trusts you.

Dogs do a happy dance when the tone of your voice is higher in pitch. This is baby talk and dogs can’t get enough of it. They bark and pant with excitement knowing their pet-parent is speaking doggy love.

Part of loving your pooch is getting them appropriate vet care plus nutritious food and shelter. Good parenting involves a structured life with plenty of exercise and love.

Body Language

Signs a dog can feel loved include:

  • Staring
  • Panting
  • Jumping Up
  • Wag Tail
  • Yawning
  • Licking
  • Play Bowing

Other Signs

Signs a dog can tell their owner loves them are:

  • Being Taken For Walks
  • Having Play Time
  • Getting Pets And Other Affection
  • Calm, Confident Behavior

History of Dogs Feeling Human Love


Our illustrious dogs are descendants of wolves that live in a caring family unit with a mom, dad, and junior-wolf pups. Every wolf within the pack helps raise the puppies and they are emotionally connected to each other. This caring nature has been passed down to their dog-kids who embrace their human family in a similar way.

For centuries, dogs have been loved by people and were even exalted by the Egyptians and Greeks as gods. The entry to the Grecian afterlife was guarded ferociously by a three-headed dog named Cerberus or “hound of Hades.” The ancients certainly appreciated their pooches and Old Town Crier tells us wealthy folk would have statues of dogs in their gardens. 

Since the time wolves joined with humans, our lives have been enriched by these cool companions. Perhaps cavemen were feeling a bit lonely in the wilderness and when a few wolves were curious enough to hang around their campfires, a bond was somehow developed. All they had to do was tilt their head and it's possible early man threw the wolves a hunk of cooked meat.

According to National Geographic, prehistoric humans might have learned how to sharpen their hunting skill watching wolves. This could explain the theory that wolf-cubs were captured and raised in a human environment. They then became part of a people pack and learned to hunt alongside their new family.

The Science of Dogs Knowing We Love Them


The clever minds of science are fascinated with the depth of emotion felt by owners toward their dogs. We know the oxytocin hormone goes into warp-drive when a pooch gazes at their guardian. This is how we have developed a parent-child style relationship with our dogs. A researcher at the Vetmeduni’s Messerli Research Institute, Vienna talks about the “secure base effect” that evolves between parents and a child and how it appears to be taken over by dogs and their owners.

A study was set up involving our favorite canine subjects completing tasks which resulted in a food reward. Dogs appeared happier when a guardian was present and when a stranger was introduced, the pooches were not that interested. The experiment showed how dogs form strong ties with their owners and why we get gooey and gushy over our pet Shih Tzu, Doberman, or Basenji.  

USA Today backs up our love for dogs with a survey stating we spend around $1285.00 a year on our darling dogs. Pet accessories are big business with designer doggy clothes and diamante collars. Celebrities spend huge amounts on their canine companions, making sure their fur-babies know they are loved.

Genetically we are intertwined, with humans and woofers evolving in a convergent pattern. This is a rare phenomenon and one that happens when species co-exist in close proximity. 

According to National Geographic, genes pertaining to behavior, disease, and diet are aligning with people and dogs. This is true as dogs can suffer from psychological issues such as depression and are treated with similar medications.

Helping Your Dog Feel Loved


If you want to make your woofer feel like the best pooch in the world, try spending more time with them. Life is busy and too often we forget our dogs need reassurance that we love them. It’s the little things, like sitting beside them and talking about your day that makes them feel connected. Our dogs have a lot of time on their paws, so every second spent is precious to them.

Dogs are hooked on praise and, according to the New York Times, might like hearing we care, better than hotdogs. The neuroscientist who trained dogs to go inside an MRI machine in his basement has had a sneak view of how dogs are thinking. One experiment involved giving dogs praise and hotdogs. The results were dogs got super high on the praise. It seems they love to know we think they are amazing.

Training your dog with positive reinforcement sends the love vibe to your dog. Learning new skills should be fun and affectionate, building an everlasting bond of trust. Victoria Stilwell tells us about finding activities like walks, agility, or games that your dog will enjoy, is the key to having the best of times. It’s all about listening to your dog.

Some dogs love to play fetch while others like jumping through hoops or going for a long, walk on the trails. Getting to know your pooch means a happy life and if they make eye contact with you on a regular basis, it’s a sign they think you are okay. If you want to make your woofer feel like the best pooch in the world, try spending more time with them. Life is busy and too often we forget our dogs need reassurance that we love them. It’s the little things like sitting beside them and talking about your day that makes them feel connected. Our dogs have a lot of time on their paws, so every second spent is a precious moment in time.

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By a Japanese Chin lover Linda Cole

Published: 06/21/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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