An owner petting their dog as their tongue hangs out.

Do Dogs Love Us: Facts, Science, And More

7 mins |

We all know the feeling. We come home from a long day of work, and our dog is there to greet us with a wagging tail and wet kisses. But, their behavior may leave us wondering, do dogs love us?

Dogs do love us. Dogs respond most positively to an owner’s scent, their bodies release oxytocin (the love hormone) when they see us, and they’re constantly expressing their love with behaviors like tail-wagging, face-licking, and more. 

Does My Dog Love Me?

A dog and an owner sleeping together on a couch.
Very cute.

There has been a lot of talk about the human-dog bond, and every dog owner wonders whether dogs actually love us or if the running around and the tail-wagging just look like love.

Many of us like to believe our dogs love us, that we’re not just seeing something that’s not there. But is this love just a product of evolution? Or is there something more to it?

There is scientific evidence to support the notion that dogs do love us. 

What Does The Research Say?

Researchers conducted a series of experiments to test whether dogs would show signs of love to their owners. 

The studies conducted may or may not tell you whether dogs are truly capable of feeling love or whether we, as dog owners, are simply associating their behavior with a sign of love. However, we strongly believe the dog’s affection for us and the desire to constantly be by our side is their way of expressing love. 

At Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, a bunch of researchers used MRI scans to see how dogs would react to different odors since dogs navigate life using their senses. When they first started the experiment, they wanted to see how the caudate nucleus would activate when presented with a familiar human scent. 

The dogs were presented with five scents (their own scent, the scent of a familiar human being, the scent of an unfamiliar human, and the scents of a familiar and unfamiliar dog, respectively), and surprisingly enough, it showed dogs reacted positively only to a familiar odor (their owner’s). 

The caudate nucleus, a portion of the brain associated with passion and love, is activated when exposed to the owner’s scent, meaning it triggered the pleasure centers. 

But there’s more to this story than just one study. Let’s take a look.

Why Dogs Love Us

Dogs love us because we provide them with food, water, shelter, and love too. In return, they give us companionship, loyalty, and protection. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship.

The scientists of the University in Tokyo studied how the role of oxytocin — the “love hormone” — plays a role in the bond between humans and dogs.

When we pet our dogs, oxytocin is released into our brains. Oxytocin has many effects, but one of its most important functions is to promote bonding.

This explains why we feel so good when we’re around our dogs. They make us happy because they cause our bodies to release oxytocin.

What’s more, dogs also experience a surge in oxytocin when they see us. This reinforces the bond between them and us.

7 Ways Dogs Show Affection

Now let’s take a look at all the ways dogs show us affection. Let’s start with showing excitement.

Shows Excitement

We all love the feeling of coming home after a long day and seeing our dog running around with its tail wagging, jumping on us – just showing you how excited they are seeing you. 

And that’s love in the purest form.  

Leans on You 

If your dog leans on you, it means they see you as their protector, and some even say it’s their way of hugging you. How cute is that?

Whenever they lean on you, they just want to be as close to you as possible, feeling 100% secure you are their sworn protector.

Loves To Sleep In Your Bed 

Think of this scenario – you are preparing for bed, and all of a sudden, there it is, your dog waiting for you to give it permission to jump on the bed just so it can cover itself in your blankets and fall asleep quickly. 

And before you say anything, no, it’s not because they love the warmth of your bed (although that may help)  – dogs are pack animals, and as such, they tend to sleep in a pack. So, the next time they jump on your bed, remember it’s because they feel safe near you. 

Follows You Everywhere

If your dog follows your every footstep, it means they are totally obsessed with you and cannot spend a second away from you. As a result, you may often find them opening doors, sneaking up on you, or sticking their heads places where you are. All that, just because they love you. 

Raises the Eyebrows 

Does your dog raise their eyebrow to the right every time they take a look at you? Well, good! 

Researchers in Japan experimented and found that dogs, when reunited with their owners, raise their eyebrows as a sign of affection and love toward them. 

Licks You

While many dog owners look at dogs licking faces as nothing more than a gross mess, it’s actually a sign of affection. Dogs tend to lick family members they are most affectionate towards. 

So, think twice the next time you think your dog licking you is just an annoying habit.  

Pees When Seeing You

We know how frustrating it is to see the dog peeing on your freshly cleaned carpet when they see you (even if you were away for just five minutes). But what if that’s them saying, “I totally adore you?” 

But we love our little weirdos no matter what, and this habit is often only seen with puppies. As they get older, thankfully, they tend to grow out of it.

Show Your Dog You Love Them Back

Even if it wasn’t for the researchers, there are still plenty of ways to see they love us. You just have to look very closely at how they decide to show it. 

Even if they cannot utter a single word, their actions speak louder than words, and since they have their own way of telling how much you mean to them, you could do the same for them in return. 

Showering them with love, playing with them whenever possible, or taking them on their daily walks around dog parks (or wherever they can run around, enjoying nature) are just a few of the many things dogs wait for. 

So, the next time you tire of walking your dog, remember it’s your way of saying, “I love you back.”

Frequently Asked Questions

Have some other questions about dogs loving us? Here are our answers.

Do Dogs Know We Love Them?

Yes, dogs know we love them unconditionally. There’s a special bond between a dog and its owner. In fact, dogs are the only animals that share the love hormone “oxytocin”, and when we pet them, stare longingly into their eyes, or simply caress them with cuddles, both the dog and the human tend to release the love hormone. 

Do Dogs Love Us As We Love Them?

Dogs are totally obsessed with us and want to shower us with love as much as we love them. And we are not simply imagining this bond – studies support this claim. 

Final Thoughts: Do Dogs Love Us?

Some like to believe dogs have a shorter lifespan than us because they already know how to love and care for others, and they are here to teach us how important those things are and how much the little things matter. 

So, to answer your question, yes, we believe dogs love us, and research and their behavior prove that point. So, the next time your pup follows you around, leans on you, or tries to sneak in your bed, do not get frustrated – it’s their way of saying, “I love you.”

What are some ways your dog has shown you love? Let us know your best moments and stories in the comments below!

Sandra is a veterinary undergraduate student based in Macedonia. She combines her two passions: veterinary medicine and writing, and she also tends to raise awareness about animal welfare as much as she can. As a student, she has attended many seminars and conferences related to the veterinary profession, and currently, she is focused on veterinary content writing. Although she owns a cat, she strongly claims that “dogs are her favorite people”.