Dogs have been our constant companions for thousands of years. The history of dogs is closely tied to our own history, and no other animal on Earth shares as close a relationship with humans as dogs do. Dogs and humans understand each other, and it’s because of the undying love they show us that we keep them by our sides. We call them “man’s best friend” for good reasons. Here are 13 of them.
We often think of a dog’s wagging tail as a sign of happiness, but that’s only part of the truth. A dog's tail communicates many different emotions, including happiness, fear, tension or even an imminent attack. Generally, the looser and more relaxed your dog’s tail is, the more relaxed she is. When your dog is happy, she’ll wag her tail with her whole butt and her tail will sweep bag and forth in a friendly way, or even in circles.
FOLLOWING YOU AROUND
When your dog seems to shadow you wherever you go, it’s just his social nature rearing its head. Humans are social beings, too, but we have more of a tendency to balance our social lives with a certain amount of solitude for peace and quiet. It doesn’t really occur to your dog to seek out “alone time.” It doesn’t cross his mind to want to be apart from you. His devotion means that wherever you are, that’s where he wants to be.
LICKING YOUR FACE
Dogs lick people’s faces for a few different reasons, but in many cases it’s a sign of love and affection. Puppies typically lick faces even more than adult dogs. This behavior comes from wolf cubs, who lick their mothers’ faces to signal hunger so they will be fed. Dogs don’t feed their young the same way wolves do, but the licking instinct remains. A dog may also lick you in a submissive way, to let you know that it is not a threat. And of course, your licking dog may also simply be grooming you. Dogs groom each other as a gesture of intimacy when a solid bond is in place, so you can definitely take grooming as a sign of love from your dog.
Jumping is generally considered an unwanted behavior for pet dogs, and most dog owners go through the process of training it out of their dogs. That can be difficult though, partly because we recognize it as a sign of love. When we walk through the door, it can feel nice to have a dog jump up and greet us with excitement. It really is an instinctive display of affection from the dog. As a puppy, a dog learns to lick its mother’s face and eyes. That’s why your dog jumps on you. It wants to lick your face because it recognizes you as its “parent.”
A bit of roughhousing is your dog’s natural way of playing and showing affection. It’s not only healthy, but also a necessary part of your dog’s social development, and it plays a big role in a forming a bond between your dog and you. Of course, sometimes roughhousing can go too far, so teach your dog that roughhousing shouldn’t be too rough: no barking, biting or swiping. Keep it safe!
Dogs are technically a subspecies of wolves. Wolves, of course, are extremely social creatures that live in family packs. Our dogs similarly are hardwired to be social. When the crucial role you play in your dog’s life quickly becomes apparent to him, you become his “pack leader.” You are the most important individual your dog has, and he looks to you for guidance, approval, companionship and love, and will provide the same whenever possible.
If there’s one thing you can count on your dog for, it’s that you can count on your dog. Everyone knows that dogs are among the most loyal creatures on the planet. Loyalty also comes from wolves. Despite the common term “alpha male” implying that a male wolf rules over his pack, the fact is that wolves mate for life, and mating pairs share responsibility in running their packs of offspring. Living as part of a nuclear family unit is built into your dog’s instincts, which is what makes them so loyal and such terrific family pets.
SLEEPING NEXT TO YOU
In the wild, wolves in packs sleep curled up together. Dogs curl up with each other, too. Since you are your dog’s best friend and family, it’s only natural that she expects to be able to hop up on the bed and sleep up against you (and anyone else who may be in the mix). Whether or not this behavior is acceptable is a point of contentious debate among owners and experts alike.
LOOKING AFTER YOU WHEN YOU’RE SICK
Because dogs are inherently social animals, they possess an instinct to care for their “pack,” just as wolves rely on the care of their families. In the wild, wolves will often lick each other’s wounds, and dogs retain this instinct. Yes, they may lick your actual wound, but their need to care for you can also extend to simply recognizing when you’re feeling sick, and watching over you.
LEANING ON YOU — LITERALLY
It can be annoying when you’re trying to go about your business and your dog starts getting underfoot and literally leaning against you. The bigger your dog is, the more of a problem this can be. In your dog’s mind, though, it’s a sign of affection. It’s a way of both showing you attention and asking for your attention. When this happens, take a moment to sit down pet your dog, and let her know you love her back.
Yes, dogs really do smile! If you’ve ever thought you’ve caught your canine flashing the dog version of a smile, you were probably right. A dog’s smile can signal love and affection to an owner just as human smiles do. In fact, research has shown that dogs use many facial expressions in similar ways to how we do, reacting differently to loved ones, strangers, and pleasant or unpleasant objects.
SNIFFING YOUR CROTCH
This behavior belongs firmly in the category of things dogs do that are annoying even though they’re meant to be friendly. Sure, it’s very awkward and even embarrassing when someone’s dog shoves its snout all up in your business, but to a dog, it’s an important greeting. It’s the equivalent of a handshake. It’s literally a friendly, getting-to-know-you gesture, not only as a way of saying hello, but also of gathering information about you through scent.
Next: Dogs Decoded: The Relationship Edition
PEEING IN FRONT OF YOU
Sometimes when you encounter a puppy, it will pee everywhere. You think, “Aw, he got overexcited and hasn’t learned to control his bladder very well yet.” That may be partly true, but the peeing can also be more deliberate than you suspect. It’s the puppy’s way of showing deference to you, recognizing you as the leader, the person in charge. It’s kind of gross, and it give you a mess to clean up, but take it for what it is: a sign of respect.
13 Ways Your Dog Shows Love
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