10 Ways Your Dog Shows Affection

The feeling that you get when a dog shows a sign of affection is unlike any other. A dog loves you more than anything else is the world. Where you have lots of things that complete your life, your dog only has you.

There are many ways that your dog shows you affection and some of these could be subtler than you think. Providing your dog feels safe and happy around you, he’ll show you some signs of affection. An unhappy dog however, is likely to be a little more reserved.

A big reason why I love being around dogs is because they love you unconditionally and can bring such happiness to your life. If you love your dog and give them the time and attention they need, they’ll usually live a happy life with you and you’ll be their favourite person.

I’m going to talk you through 10 ways that your dog shows you affection and explain why they do it.


1. Smiling

When I lived with Nelly the Cockapoo, she had a tendency to smile whenever she was overly excited to see us. She would lift up the top of her mouth and show her tiny teeth. It was pretty adorable.

Not all dogs I have met do this though and this could just be that some dogs show their affection and happiness in other ways, such as their body language.

Wag! suggested that dogs that do smile have learnt it through their interaction with humans. This basically means that they smile because we have smiled at them on a regular basis. It may seem silly, but perhaps some dogs are better at copying facial expressions than others.

Generally, most Cockapoos that I have met have shown interest or happiness with their faces. George the Cockapoo that we see occasionally shows us his interest with his face too, but we’ve not seen him smile!

Just like yawning, smiling is contagious. Any time I see a dog smile at me, or even seeing an image on the internet, I feel happy.

2. Gazing into your eyes

Dogs may stare at you for a range of reasons. Perhaps they want a treat and are expecting something. Perhaps they are waiting for their scheduled walk. Or maybe they are trying to figure out the emotion on your face – after all, dogs are pretty good at detecting your emotions.

Another reason they are gazing at you or making eye contact could be because they are trying to show you that they love you. They could be trying to show you that they both trust and adore you.

There are many ways that a dog could make eye contact with you but if it does not seem expected, it’s likely they’re simply admiring you.

However, do be careful when making eye contact with a dog that you do not know. When I was younger, my mom once told me that dogs can sometimes see staring as a threat. This means that when you stare at a dog, they might be tempted to stick with the challenge. This can mean that the dog then perceives you in a different way to what you first intended.

If you know and understand your dog, you’ll learn to know the difference between their stares and gazes.

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George the Cockapoo has great eye contact!

3. Tail wagging

You can tell a lot by a dogs tail. Have you ever noticed that when a dog is scared, it lowers its tail? Or perhaps you’ve noticed that when a dog is happy, they wag their tail?

This is another way that your dog will show you affection. If they’re happy when they see you or are wagging their tail when you play with them, you know they’re a happy woof.

Live Science suggests that when a dog is wagging its tail to the right, it tends to be a positive movement. To the left however, could mean something negative. They said that this has something to do with the left and right hemispheres in their brain.

When Nelly was extremely excited she would both wiggle her bum and wag her tail uncontrollably. This would be particularly evident when I would come home having not seen her for a little while. It was certainly one of the main ways I could tell that she loved me and wanted to show me she’d missed me.

4. Bringing you their favourite toy

A lot of dogs have a favourite toy. The one toy that they like to chew, sleep with, sniff and care for. Dogs can be incredibly possessive over their toys because they do not want to share. Having said that, you may have noticed your dog sometimes bring you a toy.

They might bring it to you unexpectedly, when they want attention or when you get home. This is their way of showing you that they trust you with their most prized possession. Your dog will understand that you enjoy him bringing you a toy if you react in a positive way. This goes for a lot of doggy behaviours, if your dog thinks that it pleases you, he will think that is the best thing to do.

5. Cuddling you

Some dogs are cuddly, some are not. I’ve been with dogs who like to sit on my lap and snuggle up in the evening, and dogs who come for a short cuddle and then happily sit alone all evening.

I remember when Nelly witnessed her first storm and she came to sit on my lap because she felt safer there. She’d also come and sit next to me on the sofa or on my bed, but would not often want a proper lap cuddle.

When your dog cuddles up to you, or simply sits near you on a regular basis, they often want special bonding time. Guff says that dogs also cuddle for warmth and to protect their human. So, they want to be warm and to keep you warm so that you do not die.

Not to mention the fact that when a dog cuddles you, you both experience higher levels of oxytocin levels (what makes you happy). Not only do you benefit but your dog does too!

6. Greeting you

I’ve spoken a little about the ways in which dogs show affection when they see you for the first time in a little while, but have you considered that the fact that your dog greets you is an incredibly good sign?

When your dog greets you with an excitable welcome, they are saying: “Hello! I’ve missed you! I’m so glad you’re back!”

It’s such a lovely feeling walking through the door and having your dog greet you with such happiness. Charlie, the Westie I look after, will often be at the top of the sofa, looking out the window expectantly. Nelly used to do this too, so I think dogs have a natural curious instinct. However, there is always a part of me that thinks they’re awaiting my return.

If your dog does not greet you when you arrive home, try to think about whether your dog has any reason to associate your arrival in a negative way. If there’s no reason for this and your dog is in good health, try calling your pup to you and praise him when he comes over. This way he knows that you enjoy seeing him when you come home.

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George is such a gentle Cockapoo but he still gets excited when we see him for the first time in a while. 

7. Checking on you

Dogs tend to be loyal creatures, which means that even though they want to go off and do their own thing, they still want to make sure that you are safe.

Do not be surprised if your pup follows you when you’re trying to do your business on the toilet! It’s common not to get a moments peace if they enjoy being around you.

They may do this whether you’re at home or out and about walking them off a lead. Your dog may want to go and chill in a different room, but you might find that everyone once in a while they check back in to make sure you’re still there and safe.

Nelly used to do this and she would randomly wander into the room I was in, then walk back out again. At first, I thought this was strange but really she was probably just making sure I was okay.

This is the same for dogs when walking them outside. If they’re tame but quite independent, you might find that although they wander off to have a sniff or do their thing, they’ll still check back regularly. George the Cockapoo does this when we walk him. Although we currently walk him on a retractable leash, he still looks back to make sure we’re there.

When your dog checks on you, it shows he cares and feels affection for you.

8. Following you around the house

Although this is similar to your dog checking on you, some dogs also like to follow you everywhere. If they are not after a specific thing such as a walk, treat or an open door to do their business, it might be that they just want to be around you.

Some dogs like a lot of company as they enjoy companionship. Therapy Dogs explains that your pup may follow you around because it helps them to understand you on a deeper level. Seeing what you do and say helps them to understand why you do things.

Dogs can also suffer from separation anxiety, so try to make sure that you look out for any signs that your dog could be suffering from this. Every dog is different, so make sure you understand your dog as well as they understand you.

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George is the cutest Cockapoo and he likes to be sat near us when we’re relaxing indoors.

9. Licking

Licking is a common canine behaviour. They use it to express many things.

These include:

  • Their affection for you
  • As a way to show their happiness towards you
  • To gain your attention
  • As a stress reliever
  • To show that something is wrong for example excessively licking one part of their fur
  • To taste

Both Nelly and George the Cockapoos have showed their affection to me through licking. Cockapoos are a breed who are puppy-like for a long time and they enjoy the attention you give them. Both of them climb on me and try to lick my face or ears and laughing at this encourages them to do this further.

Obviously, dogs cannot talk to you. They rely on showing you how they feel with their interactions with you and the body language that they show you. So, your pup licking you could be a way of them telling you that they love you and they want to make you happy.

10. They cheer you up when you’re feeling down

Dogs are very good at sensing emotion. They often feel what you feel because they are bonded to you.

Several years ago, I took Nelly for a walk in the park by myself. She was off the leash, enjoying her time outdoors with me. A dog, much bigger than her, came bounding up to her and started to nibble at her fur. As I’d had a bad experience with dogs before, this freaked me out a little bit and so I picked Nelly up and started crying.

Nelly could sense my fear. So much so that she cried with me as the dog still continued to circle us. Had I not have had such strong emotions at that time, perhaps the whole situation would have turned out differently.

Regardless, dogs are good at sensing how you feel. If you tense up, they know it. If you’re sad, they can sense it. When your dog sees you sad, they want to cheer you up. Nelly used to come and lick my face to try and make me feel better.

The same goes for positive emotions. If you’re happy and you share that with your dog, they will have a positive experience too.

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George is pretty happy when he is out and about chomping at leaves.

Dogs are incredibly loving creatures as long as you provide them with all the things that they need to lead a happy life. You are their world and they want to show you their appreciation for everything you do for them!

My personal favourite is simply cuddling up with a doggy in the evening. There’s nothing quite like that special bonding time to strengthen your relationship.

To summarise:

  • Some dogs really enjoy human interaction and companionship
  • Dogs are good at sensing your emotions
  • Staring into a dog’s eyes can show a deep bond but be careful with dogs that you do not know, as they can see this as a threat
  • Dogs are loyal creatures and they like to make sure that you are safe

This dog is so happy to see his owner after months apart!

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