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How can I tell if a dog likes me?

Girl hugging her Labrador dog advice

Dogs show their love through body language.

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Dogs show affection so readily at times, but it can sometimes be hard to spot the signs that your dog loves you. We hold strong bonds with our dogs, so it’s a good idea to learn all about the subtle way dogs communicate.

By Karen Wild, CCAB Certificated Clinical Animal Behaviourist

Published on the 17/11/2020, 17:00

Dog body language is quite specific, so this is a great way to get closer to your best friend and how your dog feels.

It is wonderful when you see your dog give a full body wag, starting with the tail and swooshing happily side to side with their open mouth and tongue lolling. Or you may simply be sitting together and they may roll over and ask for a belly rub. The bond between dogs and humans stretches back many thousands of years.

How can we know what actually does make a good ‘canine cuddle’? What facial expressions mean our dog likes us, what is a sign of trust, and when might our dogs prefer to be left alone? Do different breeds offer the same body language? Here’s your chance to learn all about how dogs express signs of affection.

How do I know if my dog likes me?

Dogs form strong bonds with us. We are their family, and we provide their care and free food too! Is it any wonder that we call them our best friends when this love is repaid with soft eye contact and cute facial expressions!

If your dog likes you, your dog will want to spend time with you. It may be that you make them feel safe, and certainly dogs that are alone can be comforted by access to our clothes which hold our scent.

Your dog’s facial expressions will appear gentle with a relaxed, open mouth - rather than tense or tight. They may attempt to lick your face or hands as a sign of affection, although you may also taste good!

How do you tell if my dog is comfortable with me?

In my work as a clinical animal behaviourist, I look for an understanding between owner and dog. Strong bonds form over time, but sometimes this relationship can be affected by fear or stress. A dog that is comfortable with you would often show affection with licking your hands or face, keeping soft eye contact or trying to stay close to you.

How can I tell if my dog wants attention?

Some dogs, especially ‘Arctic breeds’ are described as ‘aloof’, but this is simply not accurate. It may just be that their body signals are more subtle, and we all know that they still enjoy contact with humans.

If your dog wants attention, they will often position themselves so that they can make eye contact with you. They may look directly, but their eyes will be soft rather than a hard stare.

A great way to tell if your dog wants you to touch or fuss them is to move away slightly, holding your hand close to your body but within their range. They will usually push themselves up against you, inviting you to stroke them. If you then pause, if they want more, they will push themselves up against you again. A good canine cuddle is not putting your arms around them and hugging tightly. Many dogs do not enjoy this and it can spoil the trust between you.

How do your tell if your dog is annoyed with you

The key to reading this body language is seeing if your dog avoids you. Do they look away, turn their head away or even simply move away. The dog may yawn and look a little tense, their eyes may narrow and they may lick their lips. Their tail may wag but this can be deceptive. A stiff tail is a sign that your dog isn’t relaxed at all.

5 things we do to our dogs that they don't like

Can dogs be mad at you?

It’s better to refer to what behaviour you see, than to try and imagine exactly what your dog is thinking in ‘human’ terms. For example, a sign of trust is that your dog wants to interact with you, but they may occasionally dislike something you are doing and try to move away. It’s important that you notice the subtle way dogs avoid situations when they are concerned.

A belly rub may be the beginnings of a fearful gesture, almost as if your dog is pretending they are very vulnerable ‘please don’t hurt me’. Step away and allow them to get back up. If they feel safe, they will come to you. Of course, a dog that is very tense, stiff, blinking eyes, lunging, growling, snarling or even biting, is a sign of a very unhappy and often very scared dog.

Does my dog know I love him

If you already look after your dog’s well-being, give him regular exercise, tasty food, and play fun games, then you have built a nice bond already. Dogs show their love by being around us and relaxing, so you need to show a similar sign of affection. Patting your dog hard, hugging them tightly, are not signs that you love him. They can be seen as scary and confrontational. So, show your dog you love him by giving him space to come to you instead.

Signs your dog doesn’t like you

Are you seeing:

  • Avoidance (head turn away, won’t make eye contact, keeping away)
  • Yawning
  • Eye blinking rapidly
  • Refusal to come close to you
  • Grumbling, growling, snapping and biting

These are some of the more subtle and less subtle signs that all is not well. You could get your dog checked by your Vet too, as sometimes these are signals that your dog is poorly.

Signs your new dog likes you

Dogs can have favourite people, and it’s not all about going to people for food. A great way to be sure your new dog likes you is to make sure you read their body language using the tips here, and allow a bit of time for them to come to you. Tail wagging, soft eye contact and the dog approaching you for petting (and staying there, or asking for more when you stop) are all signs they think you are a good friend.

Signs your dog really likes you

Sometimes a dog will never leave your side, following you everywhere. You could decide that the dog really likes you, but this can also be destructive. Your dog needs to cope by himself too, so try to wean him off your wonderful self a little by allowing contact with other family members, humans outside the family, letting him get food from other people, and building a feeling of safety without you being there.

Signs your dog trusts you

In my work in clinical animal behaviour, we often talk about making deposits in the ‘trust bank’. When you have a strong bond with your dog, your dog will let you examine them, clip their claws and maybe get away with things that could be seen as invasive from a stranger. An adult canine may have learned not to trust people because their subtle body signals have been ignored. Always learn what relaxed dogs look like, using the tips above.

What does it mean when a dog licks you?

Dogs like to explore with their mouths and are very good at using their sense of smell to investigate. It’s likely that your dog is tasting and smelling you (and where you have been), but licking is often seen as a sign of close affection and grooming too.

Do dogs feel love when you kiss them?

Kissing is not really an activity that dogs automatically enjoy. It can feel very threatening when another creature puts their face close to the dogs. Normally we would not recommend this at all, since dogs usually pull away or at the very least, just tolerate what is happening. They may allow you to do it, but they don’t necessarily like it. It’s better not to teach young children to show affection to dogs in this way, as it can lead to severe injury if the dog attempts to push them away.

How to show a dog you love them?

Instead, invite the dog to come over using a nice voice, maybe offer some tasty food too, so that you dog has a choice whether or not to come closer. Give them the chance to move away whenever they wish. That’s true love and respect.

How do dogs show love?

Whether meeting a favourite human or another dog, plenty of pups, whether small breeds or large breeds, literally jump all over their owners, and anyone else nearby, with a huge tail wag and a lot of licking and squeaking excitement. If your dog is a little more independent (which most adult dogs are), these signs of affection and trust are more subtle so be careful not to expect an overwhelming display. If they love you, they will choose to be with you.

How do dogs show love to humans?

Usually they will repeat the above signals but aim for your face and hands as these are the most interesting parts of the human!

How to tell if your dog loves you the most?

Dogs can have clear preferences, just like any animal, human or otherwise. This isn’t related to the external signs such as free food, it relates back to the ‘love hormone’, with accompanying feelings of safety and relaxation. Dogs of course seek agreeable human reactions, so that they get something out of the interaction too. Dogs are a great way for us humans to live a healthier life, as long as we listen to their body language as much as we can.

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