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How to know if your dog loves you? Karen Wild, Baston animal behaviour expert explains

Dogs show affection so readily at times, but it can sometimes be hard to spot the signs that your dog loves you, writes animal behaviour expert, Karen Wild.

We hold strong bonds with our dogs, so it’s a good idea to learn all about the subtle way dogs communicate. Dog body language is quite specific, so this is a great way to get closer to your best friend and how your dog feels.

In my work as a clinical animal behaviourist and dog trainer, 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
A dog

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. The subtle way dogs behave around us isn’t always visible but there is research that shows that stroking a dog releases oxytocin, slightly inaccurately called the ‘love hormone’, but is related to relaxation, trust and may even decrease stress and

So, what do you look for? Most people simply say ‘my dog’s tail wags’. That’s true of course. 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, it’s really nice to know they want to see you.

However, a wagging tail is not always a sign of happiness. It’s more a sign of how excited/agitated the dog is, and this isn’t always a good thing. Some dogs thrash their tails when they are really wound up and stressed. You need to look at the whole dog for better clues for whether or not they like you, or anyone else for that matter.

Put simply, 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. This can lead to problems if your dog likes you and someone else starts to come near you. Dogs are not known for wanting to share, so if this happens (any sort of growling, sudden lunge or bark, stiffening up) then get in touch with a clinical animal behaviourist. We are trained to help such situations stay calm, and not escalate. Note: this isn’t a dog training issue alone, no matter what you see on Facebook.

If your dog is feeling cheerful around you, 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!

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