Does Your Dog Know You Love Them? What Science Says

Get the scoop on what we know about dog affection and bonding, and eight ideas for how to show your dog you love them.

Updated January 11, 2024
Woman playing with dog

Have you ever wondered if your dog truly understands how much you love them? Your actions, the tone of your voice, and even your facial expressions say a lot more than you know. Your dog can read these signs just as you can interpret their signals of love for you.

Something as simple as a rub behind the ears or going for a walk at the same time each day can speak volumes. There's a good chance your dog already knows how much you love them, but adding these eight actions to your day can reinforce the sentiment.

Fast Fact

Science proves dogs can feel love. When they display emotional responses to you, their brains release oxytocin – the "love" hormone – which is associated with trust and affection, and yes, love. 

Do Dogs Feel Love?

Dogs are social animals who show and are shown affection as soon as they're born. Their mother licks their face and nuzzles them. Puppies also engage in these behaviors with their littermates as ways to bond. Dogs not only feel love, but they also have their own unique ways of expressing and receiving it. Just a few of these include: 

Woman on a bed with a book and her dog
  • Cuddling or leaning against you
  • Soft eye contact with you
  • Following you around 
  • Joyfully greeting you
  • Licking you

RELATED: 10 Ways Dogs Show You They Love You

Quick Tip

You can mimic similar behaviors as a way to say "I love you" in dog language.

8 Ways to Tell Your Dog You Love Them

Want to tell your dog you love them in ways they'll understand? These eight simple actions will express the deep adoration you have for your dog to strengthen your special bond.

1. Stick With a Routine

This may not seem like an act of love, but it is to your dog. Canines are creatures of habit and thrive off knowing what to expect and when they can expect it. An easy way to show your dog you love them is to stick with a routine. Feed them their meals at the same time every day, go for regular walks, and try to stick with a standard bedtime. This will build your pup's trust in you and show them you love them.

2. Engage in a Petting Sesh

Dogs love a gentle massage; not only does petting release feel-good hormones in their brain, but it's also how they show affection amongst members of their pack. Make time every day to give your dog lots of gentle pets behind their ears, on their chest, or wherever else they enjoy. This is also a great opportunity for you to feel their skin to catch any early bumps or areas of pain.

Cute playful miniature Australian Shepherd dog smiling happily as her owner pets her

3. Nap Together

Dogs sleep on or near you as a way to show their love, so do the same. Take a nap while lying next to your dog. If you're not tired, you can read or give your dog some gentle pets. Just being there provides them with security and the knowledge that you're essentially standing guard over them, which is absolutely an act of love!

Fast Fact

Dogs spend as many as 14 hours of their day sleeping, and their sleeping position can say a lot about their mood.

4. Offer Verbal Praise

Do you want your dog to know you love them? Tell them! They won't understand the words, but they'll get your tone. Speak to your dog softly and lovingly while you stroke their head or ears. Use positive words you know they respond to, like "Good dog" or "Who wants a treat?" Of course, you'll need to make good on your offer, too!

5. Give Them a Tasty Treat

The way to a dog's heart is through their stomach, amirite? Tasty treats or a special meal can show your dog you love them, although you don't want to overdo it. Make sure treats don't make up more than 10 percent of your dog's daily caloric intake.

Quick Tip

Make a batch of healthy dog treats at home for an extra dose of love.

6. Get Moving

Exercise is important for everyone, and engaging in it together can be a great way to show your dog you love them. Take them for a stroll around the block or to a park you've never explored so they can bask in the new scents. This is also a great form of enrichment, and it shows your dog they are part of your pack.

Woman and Burmese Mountain Dog overlooking mountain sunset

7. Play Fun Games

Who doesn't love to play? Puppies roughhouse as a way of bonding and socializing with each other. You can mimic this behavior by initiating playtime with your dog. Invite them to play a game of fetch or tug-of-war with your dog to express your love.

8. Make Soft Eye Contact

A hard stare can be seen as a sign of aggression in dogs, but studies show that a soft, relaxed gaze is associated with love. When you and your dog gaze into each other's eyes, you both experience a rise in oxytocin levels. That's the same hormone associated with mothers and newborn babies. And, let's face it, your dog is your fur child, so that tracks.

Need to Know

Keep in mind that a soft gaze can be interpreted differently by dogs who don't know you well. Never stare a dog you don't know in the eyes. 

Let Your Dog Know You Love Them

Dogs have lived with humans for more than 30,000 years, which means they truly are our best friends. They're grown to understand our expressions of love, just as we've learned theirs. There's no doubt your dog knows just how much you love them, but if you're ever worried, use these simple tricks to remind them.

Does Your Dog Know You Love Them? What Science Says