Learning to communicate with your pup is an important part of bonding and building trust. Because your scruffy companion can't use language, you'll need to learn common cues that help explain his feelings. Every dog is different, but most use a similar set of tools for showing affection.
Some pups show love by finding ways to earn your attention. A dog who sits and stares at you while you work, for example, may be trying to get a little affection from you. If your pup drops toys in your lap or places his head on your feet or knee, he’s trying to get your attention because he wants to hang out. If your dog is trying to earn your affection, that’s just one way he’s showing you his.
Your dog will lick things he loves, and this includes you. In a new litter, dogs lick their littermates and mother, and the mother returns the favor. Licking helps build familiarity and trust between the animals, so don’t be surprised if your pup decides to show you some affection by giving your face a surprise taste. Licking can be discouraged if desired, but know that it’s one way your dog shows you his love.
Dogs are often submissive to those that they love. If your pup rolls over on his back when playing with you, he’s showing you his love by making himself vulnerable and putting you in a position of dominance. He’s also saying, “Pet my belly!” Dogs show submission to dominant pack members and housemates, but this behavior can also be a sign of fear or anxiety. Read your dog’s body language to see if his actions seem based in fear or love.
One big benefit of dog behavior is that it’s usually obvious what the dog is feeling. Bouncy, tail-wagging dogs are clearly happy, and mopey, head-sagging dogs are clearly sad. When your dog reacts to your coming home or paying attention to him with an enthusiastic tail wag or by prancing around the house, you can rest assured that’s him showing you his love. Even jumping, a behavior you should discourage, is an indicator of affection.