How Do Dogs Show Affection to Humans?

By Amber Kelsey

Nobody gives you unconditional love like your canine companion. Even if you're having a bad hair day or just burned dinner, your dog will still adore you. Because dogs can't just tell you how they feel about you, they do things that show their affection. Learn how to read your dog's face, body and actions so you can recognize and interpret his little displays of love and affection.

Wagging His Tail

If your dog sees you and immediately begins wagging his tail in wide sweeps or circles while wiggling his rear end, he is showing you affection. Keep in mind that dogs use their tails to communicate other strong emotions, including fear, agitation and irritation. A wagging tail held about mid-height indicate he's happy to see his beloved person, as does a wag with the tail held to the right side of his derriere, according to Psychology Today. A dog wagging his tail in a low position or horizontally indicates he feels uncertain, while wagging his tail with a left-sided bias is a sign he feels frightened. Dogs who are on alert or are standing their ground hold their tails high, often stiffly moving it back and forth. Don't mistake this movement for wagging, however. That dog is certainly not feeling happy or affectionate at the time.

Licking Your Face

When your dog licks your face, it can signify the affection he feels for you. Licking promotes the release of endorphins that make dogs feel pleasure and comfort, according to the Animal Planet. Dogs also lick pack members to groom them, but they only groom those with whom they have a solid bond. Licking can be a sign of submission to dominant pack members, which helps keep the pack hierarchy in place. In fact, your dog might lick your face to show his affection and indicate he respects you as as his dominant pack leader.

Smiling at You

Dog owners have long insisted that their canine companions smile at them, and it turns out they are right. Dogs, like their human pack leaders, can use facial expressions to show how they feel. In fact, they even use some of the same muscles to make various facial expressions, including smiling. A smiling dog's mouth should look relaxed and opened, and not tightly shut lips that look more like a grimace. The latter indicates he's feeling frightened. So the next time your dog smiles at you with affection, smile back to show him his love is reciprocated.

Touching You

Touching is an essential part of a loving relationship, and dogs frequently touch their owners when wanting to show affection. Some dogs literally lean against their owners, while others prefer resting their heads on their owners' laps. Still others want to snuggle in bed or cuddle with their people on the couch. When your dog touches you, take the time to pet him so he knows that the affection is mutual. Keep in mind that dogs like to sleep snuggling close to their pack mates, so your dog undoubtedly wants to curl up next to you during sleep time. Whether you allow your dog on the bed or couch is up to you, but just the fact he wants to cuddle with you is a sign of affection.

Making Eye Contact

Dogs show affection by making eye contact with their owners, giving them that soft stare that just seems to say, "You are my favorite person." They generally seek out eye contact when they are feeling happy, relaxed and comfortable. Your dog's face will look relaxed and his eyes will be the normal size and showing just a bit of white. Canine companions who enjoy strong bonds with their owners tend to make eye contact more often than those who don't.