Our canine companions make us happy in so many ways. They provide unconditional love and lots of laughs. We, humans, love them deeply, but do dogs know we love them? Thankfully, science proves that our canine companions do know just how much we love them through our actions, words, and vocal inflections. Of course, if you want to throw in some extra couch time or a few tasty treats, your dog won't mind.
Do dogs know you love them?
Happily, dogs do know that we love them. Love is obviously a powerful emotion people feel, but it's powered by chemicals inside your body called oxytocin. Interactions between you and your dog cause the level of the "love hormone" oxytocin to rise in both of you. Oxytocin is the hormone responsible for bonding parents with babies and pairing partners together. When you stare at your dog or pet them, both of your oxytocin levels rise. In fact, when dogs are staring at you without a particular reason, they are hugging you with their eyes.
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How do dogs know you love them?
Beyond the release of oxytocin, other studies support that dogs are more in tune with us than we realize. A 2015 Emory University study found that when dogs smell the scent of their owner, a part of their canine brain called the caudate nucleus lights up differently than when they smell a stranger. Similarly, another study from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences shows that dogs understand the tone of our voice, suggesting that they can understand the emotion we use. That means they can hear what we're feeling whether that's anger, sadness, frustration, or happiness.
How to show dogs love
Dogs thrive in stable environments where they have a set routine and are surrounded by the people they love. If you're wondering how to show a dog that you love them, start by setting expectations and using positive reinforcement to reward good behavior. Another way to bond closer with your dog is by hand feeding them meals. Being the sole provider of their meals will naturally strengthen your bond.
Our canine companions thrive when they have plenty of mental and physical stimulation. Consider training your dog either with the help of a dog trainer or by teaching tricks at home. Developing a new skill will build your dog's confidence and strengthen the bond between you. Make sure they're getting plenty of exercise, whether it's a fun game of fetch in the park or bonding together by participating in dog sports.
How to tell my dog I love them
Science has shown that dogs can understand a small amount of human vocabulary. A study by Canine Cottages found that a dog's heart rate increased by 46 percent when hearing the words "I love you." While they might not recognize the ridiculous nicknames you call them, they do recognize the tone of voice you use, which means they can tell when you're happy or pleased with them.
Of course, the best way to show them just how much you care is through your actions. Dogs love physical touch, so take the time to show them love by giving them belly rubs or a good ear scratch. Spend quality time with the canine you love and you'll never have to wonder, "Does my dog know I love them?" again.
- Canine Cottages: Doggy Devotion
- NPR: Their Masters' Voices: Dogs Understand Tone And Meaning Of Words
- Frontiers in Psychology: Oxytocin and Cortisol Levels in Dog Owners and Their Dogs Are Associated with Behavioral Patterns: An Exploratory Study
- People: Dogs Mentally Understand How Much We Love Them, Canine Cognition Expert Assures
- ScienceDirect: Scent of the Familiar: An fMRI Study of Canine Brain Responses to Familiar and Unfamiliar Human and Dog Odors
- PubMed: Voice-Sensitive Regions in the Dog and Human Brain Are Revealed by Comparative fMRI