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11 surprising ways your dog is showing that they love you, according to veterinarians

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By Sophia Mitrokostas, INSIDER

  • Insider asked veterinarians about the surprising ways you can tell that your dog loves you or trusts you.
  • Guarding and herding are two subtle affectionate behaviors.
  • Dogs will often cuddle with or try to protect those they love.

Though they can't put their love into words, dogs have an unexpectedly large repertoire of ways to show they care.

From subtle body language to over-the-top displays of affection, your pooch is probably showering you with devotion in plenty of surprising ways.


A dog that loves you will likely recognize your name — and be visibly excited when they hear it.

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It's not a surprise that pets can learn their own names, but many dogs will also respond to the names of their owners.

Jamie Richardson, veterinarian and medical chief of staff at Small Door Veterinary, told Insider that dogs often get excited when the names of their favorite people are mentioned.

"Over time, dogs learn to recognize human names. If they hear a loved one's name mentioned who isn't present, they'll get excited at the thought that they might appear," said Richardson.


Dogs can show trust by bringing you items that need "fixing."

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Michelle L. Szydlowski, veterinary technician and an anthrozoology instructor at Beacon College in Leesburg, Florida, told Insider that some dogs show trust in their owners by presenting them with "broken" objects.

"Some dogs will show their affection for you and faith in your intelligence by bringing you items that need 'fixing,'" said Szydlowski.

For example, Szydlowski said that a dog may bring its owner a dead animal or broken toy and whine for the owner to "solve the problem."


A dog may show they are devoted to you by guarding you while you eat.

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Dogs often want to protect those they love, even if there's no real threat - so some dogs show they love their owners by keeping them "safe" while they eat or relax.

"Guarding behavior is often a sign that your dog feels you belong to its pack. A guarding dog might sit next to the table, facing away from you while you eat or stand immediately in front of another dog if you are sitting nearby," said Szydlowski.

However, Szydlowski warned that most veterinarians would discourage this type of guarding behavior, as it can lead to dogs becoming overly territorial or developing behavioral issues.


Some dogs show affection by herding their owners.

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Szydlowski told Insider that if your dog tries to keep family members from wandering off on their own, they could be displaying herding behavior.

"Herding is a way of showing affection for the 'pack.' For example, if someone in the family or another pet steps off the sidewalk, some dogs will herd the wayward member back onto the sidewalk and safety," said Szydlowski.

Herding behavior is often more noticeable in breeds that were originally developed to control livestock, such as border collies and Australian shepherds.


Dogs will often rub their faces on people they adore.

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Sara Ochoa, veterinarian and veterinary consultant for DogLab, told Insider that plenty of pups will show that they love their owner by rubbing their face on them.

"It's a common way to show affection. By rubbing their face on you, your dog is marking you as theirs," said Ochoa.

Of course, if your dog seems to be rubbing its face on everything in sight, it may be a good idea to talk to your vet about potential skin issues, such as mites or infection.


If your dog gets agitated when you lie down, they may just be worried about you.

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Does your dog freak out if you play dead or lie down to take a nap? If so, they could just be showing how much they care about you.

"Some dogs will lick your head and face desperately if they think you are unconscious or unresponsive," said Szydlowski.

As this kind of pet behavior can make it hard to get any rest, Szydlowski recommended keeping concerned pets out of the bedroom while you sleep.


If your dog likes to gaze deeply into your eyes, it could mean they are attached to you.

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Rebecca Greenstein, veterinarian and medical advisor for Rover, told Insider that prolonged eye-gazing by dogs is an attempt at bonding.

"From the time they are puppies, dogs appear to be driven to establish eye contact with humans, which can be a marker of attachment," said Greenstein.


Some dogs can express affection through their faces.

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Greenstein explained that dogs actually evolved special facial anatomy to make them better at communicating with their human companions.

"[Pet] dogs can raise their inner eyebrows much more dramatically than wild dogs, and this sympathetic, adorable expression is thought to induce feelings of care and nurturing in their human owners," said Greenstein.


Sharing toys is another way that dogs express love.

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You may have no interest in your dog's tattered tennis ball, but their willingness to share it with you is a sign of true affection.

"If your dog really loves you, they will often bring their favorite toy. This is their way of sharing their stuff with you and showing they care," said Ochoa.


If your dog can tell when you need comfort, it could be a sign they care about you.

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Richardson told Insider that most dogs are very in tune with their owners' emotions and will often respond if they sense something isn't right.

"Dogs can innately sense when you are sad or struggling with something. They will find a way to cuddle up to you, rest their head on you, or generally find a way to be close to you during these times," said Richardson.


Dogs can use cuddling to bond with their owners on a chemical level.

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Just like humans, dogs use snuggling to grow closer to others, so if your pet wants to cuddle they are probably feeling the love.

"Gentle touching and nuzzling mimic maternal affection between puppies and their original dog moms. These physical activities induce the release of the feel-good hormone, oxytocin, in both species," said Greenstein.

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