How Do Dogs Show Affection?

Kate Barrington
by Kate Barrington
Dogs are full of love, so they have no shortage of ways to tell you that they care. So how do dogs show affection? Here are a few of the most common forms of doggy devotion.

When you want someone to know how much they mean to you, all you have to do is tell them. Your dog can’t just open his mouth and tell you he loves you, however. So how do dogs show affection? There are a number of different behaviors your dog may exhibit to show you he cares – and here are just a few of the most characteristic ways your dog will show you how much he loves you!


Not only is smiling a surefire way to tell when a person is pleased, but your dog will also smile when he is happy. According to Jeffrey Mogil, a neuroscientist at McGill University, animals have the capacity to feel some of the same emotions as humans and they often use facial expressions in similar ways to show those emotions. So, if you think that your dog is smiling at you, he very well could be!

Related: How Do Cats Show Affection?

Tail Wagging

This type of behavior is common in dogs but many people do not realize that tail wagging can mean different things. Just because a dog is wagging his tail doesn’t necessarily mean he is happy – some forms of tail wagging can be a sign of aggression or fear. When your dog wags his tail up and down high in the air, however, it is typically a positive sign. Wagging the tail low or in a horizontal movement is more likely to be a sign of fear or nervousness.


If you watch your dog play with another dog, the two will probably spend a good deal of time barking and nipping at each other. If you play with your dog and get him riled up, he’s likely to display this same kind of behavior with you. While barking can sometimes be a display of aggression or fear, in cases like this it is more likely a sign of excitement. Just be careful when playing with your dog because he may not realize that his teeth can hurt you, even if he doesn’t mean to.

Related: Don’t Worry Human, Science Says Your Dog Loves You… Lots


In wild dogs, licking can be a sign of submission that a younger dog displays to a more dominant member of the pack. Between dogs and humans, however, licking is a common display of affection. Your dog might lick your hand when you come home after a long absence or he may lick you when cuddling on the couch. In some cases, your dog may simply like the taste of salt on your skin from perspiration or he may be licking you as a sign of respect.

Following You

Some breeds of dog thrive on human interaction so you shouldn’t be surprised if your dog starts following you around the house. If you have a healthy bond with your dog he will want to spend as much time with you as possible and following you around the house may be a sign of that bond.


While jumping up on you may be a behavior you try not to encourage in your dog, sometimes he just won’t be able to help himself. When your dog gets excited to see you, jumping up and down is a natural behavior for him – he just can’t contain his excitement. Often this behavior is accompanied by other signs of affection including barking or licking.

Sleeping with You

Wolves tend to sleep all curled up together and, if you have more than one dog, you’ll likely find them doing this too. If your dog views you as a member of his family and a best friend, you shouldn’t be surprised if he tries to climb into bed with you or falls asleep curled up beside you on the couch.

In your experience, how do dogs show affection? Does your dog do something that shows you how much you mean to him? We’d love to know – please share your puppy love tales below in the comment section.

Kate Barrington
Kate Barrington

Kate Barrington is the loving owner of two cats (Bagel and Munchkin) and a noisy herd of guinea pigs. Having grown up with golden retrievers, Kate has a great deal of experience with dogs but labels herself a lover of all pets. Having received a Bachelor's degree in English, Kate has combined her love for pets and her passion for writing to create her own freelance writing business, specializing in the pet niche.

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