How Does a Dog Show Affection?

Your dog will show its love for you in a number of ways and it’s important for you to recognize the signs so you can reciprocate.

How does a dog show affection? A dog often shows affection by leaning against you. It may also give you gentle eye contact, follow you everywhere, jump up, give you a sloppy lick, and of course, wag its tail.

There are others and you’ll find them all described below. Learn to recognize each sign of affection and you’ll find yourself truly bonding with your best friend!

It’s easy for you to show your dog affection. A belly tickle, a treat, or a cuddle on the couch all mean, “I love you,” to your dog. But do you ever wonder how your dog shows you it cares? How do dogs really show affection? 

Dogs do communicate clearly, you just need to know what to look for. From the tip of its nose to the end of its tail, a dog uses its body to show you how it is feeling. Some of the ways your dog displays its love may come as a surprise!

Here are 14 different ways in which a dog demonstrates its affection:

Through eye-contact

How Does a Dog Show Affection?

Eye contact is always intimate and for many dogs, it’s a display of trust and affection. If your dog maintains eye contact, it’s showing a high degree of attachment to you. When your dog looks at you for a length of time, its brain releases oxytocin, the same hormone that helps new mothers bond with their babies.

Note: there is a world of difference between affectionate eye contact and threatening eye contact. It is not recommended to stare at an unknown or nervous dog. Instead, look for opportunities to make and hold eye contact with your dog throughout the day so you build trust over time.

By following you around

When your dog seems to shadow you everywhere you go, it’s just demonstrating its natural social nature. It’s a way of showing affection.

Humans are social beings, too, but we have a tendency to balance our social lives with a certain amount of solitude for peace and quiet. It doesn’t occur to your dog to take “alone time.” It doesn’t cross his mind to want to be apart from you. Your dog’s devotion means that wherever you are, that’s where it wants to be.

Via jumping up

Jumping is generally considered an unwanted behavior from dogs, and most owners try to train it out of their dogs. This can be difficult though, partly because we also recognize it as a sign of love and affection. When we walk through the door, it’s nice to have our dog jump up to excitedly welcome us. 

Jumping really is an instinctive display of affection from your 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. 

Dogs are drawn to human faces, and jumping is their way of getting closer to your face. Think of it this way: by jumping up, your dog can get a closer look at your eyes, or reach you for a welcoming lick. Jumping can be a frustrating habit, but the next time your dog jumps up, try to remember it is just trying to show you how much it cares.

Leaning on You

How Does a Dog Show Affection?

My father-in-law’s deerhound leans on me and almost knocks me and nearly knocks me over. Imagine how his weight feels to my small son above! This is my favorite sign of affection from a dog.

When your dog comes up to you and leans its full weight against your legs, it is showing you it trusts you implicitly. For many dogs, the lean is the equivalent of a full-body hug. 

Don’t forget, some types of lean can signify anxiety or control. The affectionate lean is relaxed and calm with your dog showing other signs of relaxation, such as a slightly open mouth, soft eyes, and a gently wagging tail.

Licking your face

Kissing is a universally acknowledged sign of affection, even with dogs! Big, sloppy dog tongues (poison dog licks I used to call them) can be somewhat gross but by licking you, your dog is saying, “I love you so much!” 

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.

Licking can also be a way to signal a lower social status. When your dog licks you, it may be letting you know that your authority is respected. 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.

Though a demonstration of loyalty

If there’s one thing you can count on your dog for, it is the fact that you can count on your dog! 

Dogs are among the most loyal creatures on the planet. This loyalty is inherited from wolves. Despite the term “alpha male” implying that a male wolf rules over his pack, the fact is that wolves mate for life.

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, and this is what makes them so loyal and such amazing family pets.

Nudging you with its nose

Does your dog ever come up and nudge you with its nose? This is often a sign of affection, a way for your dog to say “ I like you!” Nose-nudging can also be a way of seeking attention or letting you know you’re in the way. 

If your dog is expressing affection, the nose-nudge will be accompanied by a soulful stare, and often more body contact.

Peeing in Front of You

Sometimes when you encounter a puppy, it will pee everywhere. You may think this is caused by excitement and lack of bladder control. That may be partly true, but the peeing can also be more deliberate than you realize. Your dog is feeling affectionate toward you.

It’s the puppy’s way of showing polite submission to you, recognizing you as the leader, the person in charge. Instead of being cross, take it for what it is: a sign of respect.

Rolling around

How Does a Dog Show Affection?

Nothing says “I like you” as much as a dog rolling onto its back and exposing its belly for a rub. Like the lean, the roll-over shows a high level of trust and relaxation.

When your dog flops over and wags its tail, it is telling you it likes you trusts you a lot. Of course, they do have a habit of rolling around in dog poo, but that’s an entirely different behavior. And not quite so nice.

Boisterous play

A little roughhousing is your dog’s natural way of playing and showing affection. It’s not only healthy, but is also a necessary part of your dog’s social development, and it plays a big role in 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: don’t allow barking, biting or swiping.


Does your dog ever stretch out beside you and let out a long low sigh? Soft vocalizations like sighs and low groans are sure signs of contentment and affection in dogs. If your dog snuggles up to you and sighs, it means it feels safe and comfortable with you.

Sleeping Next to You

In the wild, wolf packs sleep curled up together. Dogs curl up with each other, too. Since you are your dog’s best friend and its family too, it’s only natural that it expects to be able to jump up on the bed and sleep right up against you (and anyone else who may be in the mix). 

Whether or not this behavior is acceptable is a point of debate among owners and experts alike but it is a sign of your dog’s true affection for you.


How Does a Dog Show Affection?

It’s true, dogs really do smile! If you’ve ever thought you’ve caught your canine flashing a smile, you were probably right. A dog’s smile can signal love and affection just as human smiles do.

In fact, research has shown that dogs use many facial expressions in similar ways to us, reacting differently to loved ones, strangers, and pleasant or unpleasant objects.

Tail Wagging

We believe a dog’s wagging tail is a sign of happiness, but that’s only partly true. Its also a sign of affection. A dog’s tail communicates many other different emotions, such as fear, tension or even an imminent attack.

Generally, the looser and more relaxed your dog’s tail is, the more relaxed it is feeling. When your dog is happy, it will wag its bottom and its tail back and forth in an unmistakably friendly way.

How do dogs show affection? Conclusion

If you are wondering, ‘how does a dog show affection?’ hopefully you will recognise some or all of the signs we describe here. If your dog isn’t demonstrating affection via any of the signals we’ve mentioned, then I suggest you start upping your game!

You may now be concerned what the signs are that your dog is depressed – if so, take a look at my article here.


I'm Jane Pettitt, co-owner of Pets Knowledge Base with my husband, Matt. I have a grand total of 50 years’ experience as a pet owner. It all started with a guinea pig called Percy when I was 5 years old and since then I’ve lived with two more guinea pigs, a hamster, mice, a rabbit, a tortoise, a dog, and 11 cats. I’ve learned so much about pet care during this time and many of my articles are based on my personal experiences plus those of my family and friends.

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