Valentine’s Day has just been and gone, so we thought we’d take a look at the special relationship between humans and “man’s best friend”. Canines and humans have been closely linked for thousands of years, as far back as the age of hunter-gatherers, before farming even existed! Dogs were the first species to become domesticated, and have enjoyed a unique bond with us ever since.

It’s easy enough for us to show our pups that we love them; we pet them, reward them, cuddle them and speak to them in unnaturally high voices without caring how silly we sound. But how can we tell if they feel the same way about us? Dogs can’t use words to express their emotions, so they have to rely on body language instead.


This is arguably the most important way of connecting with your dog. Eye contact with your dog causes oxytocin to be released in its brain – this is a hormone which is connected with bonding and forming relationships. The same hormone is released when mothers bond with their babies, so you can interpret a dog’s need for intense eye contact as them wanting to strengthen their bond with you.


Not all ways of showing affection are as appreciated as others. For example, a dog jumping up at you can be annoying and sometimes intimidating, but for the majority of dogs it is simply a way of getting closer to your face. This is often combined with a big wet kiss from them; puppies instinctively lick their mother’s face as a way of communication, so if your dog frequently does this to you, it should be taken as a compliment as it means they see you as their parent.


You’re sitting on the sofa watching TV, and you feel a sudden weight against your legs or on your feet. You look down to see your dog leaning on you, gazing up into your face. Dogs use physical contact in the same way as humans; to express love and trust. Leaning can also be interpreted as a protective action, or as a desire for reassurance if your dog is feeling anxious. If they are coming to you to make them feel safer, then this is a sure sign of how important they think you are.

Another example of physical contact is the nose-nudge, widely referred to on the Internet as the “boop”. This is mostly seen as a request for attention, but can also be your pooch just letting you know they are there. If your dog nudges you with its nose and then tries to make eye contact or snuggles against you, it’s definitely a show of love rather than a demand for food or walkies.

You’ll often find that your dog will let out a heavy sigh when they cuddle up to you. This might sound like they’re a bit fed up, but it’s actually a sign that they are comfortable, content and relaxed around you.


A favourite game of many dogs is stealing various items of clothing, notably shoes and socks. If they run away with them anytime you go near, then they probably just want to play and get some attention from you. However, if you find the clothes in your dog’s bed or with them while they sleep, it’s likely because they find your scent comforting and want to be around it. What could be more “scented” than shoes and socks?


Does your dog have a habit of bringing their old, chewed up toys over to you? It might not always be for a game of fetch or tug-of-war. Dogs are descended from wolves, and so are used to being part of a pack. Domesticated pet dogs see their owner as the leader of their pack, so will try to present their most prized possession (i.e. favourite battered toy) as something to share with you. This can also unfortunately be the case with dead birds and other animals. It is their instinct to provide for the pack and to please the pack leader, and bringing you “food” is the best way they know how to do this.


Dogs really can smile just like humans! We’ve already covered how important the human face is to dogs, so it’s no surprise that they would try to mimic our facial expressions. Some people may find being presented with two pointy rows of dog teeth quite intimidating, but if they look like they’re grinning, they probably are! A wide, open and relaxed mouth combined with soft round eyes is a common display of happiness in canines.


Last, but not least; the good old tail wag. Easily the most recognisable way of a dog showing their affection to you. There’s nothing like coming home from work to a full body wriggle and wildly spinning tail greeting you at the door! Tail wags can convey various emotions depending on the body language they are combined with. While a stiff or drooping tail can indicate stress or aggression, a loose circling tail complete with rear end wiggles can only mean one thing: pure love for the person in front of them.