By Noah Rue
Science has affirmed over the years what we already know. Dogs experience love and affection for their owners. It’s true, unspoken love.
And it’s not just about the food.
A flick of the tongue and a wag of the tail aren’t the only ways man’s best friend shows their undying devotion.
Here are four ways that show dogs love owners. And it’s an affection cycle that makes you both happy.
Dogs love owners: Staring
Eye contact is an indication of love in certain situations. When your dog looks you in the eye, he is “hugging you with his eyes,” according to Dr. Brian Hare, a leading dog expert who was featured on a “60 Minutes” segment with Anderson Cooper.
Oxytocin — aka the “cuddle hormone” or “love hormone” — is released when the two of you are snuggling, playing or bonding in some way.
It’s the same hormone that helps babies and new mommies bond. So when your dog looks at you, it’s a natural interaction that releases oxytocin, not a staring contest.
Dogs love owners: Approaching after eating
Have you ever noticed that as soon as your dog finishes his last bite of food in his bowl, he’ll immediately go up to you while licking his chops? It’s as if he’s saying, “Thank you, that was a really good meal.”
Yes, dogs are motivated by food, but if you’re the first person he goes to or wants to cuddle with after his meal, it’s a good sign that other than eating, you are the most important thing in his life, explains neuroscientist Gregory Berns in his book “How Dogs Love Us.”
Dogs love owners: Watching you leave
If your dog calmly watches you leave the house, it’s a sign that she trusts you and knows you’ll come back.
If on the other hand, your dog flips out at the first sign you may be leaving, that means she doesn’t want to be left alone and is a sign of separation anxiety.
The well-adjusted dog is more likely to go ballistic when you get home from work because they are so happy to see you.
Dogs love owners: Sleeping in your bed
If your dog wants to sleep in your bed or cuddle next to you on the couch, she is showing her devotion.
Berns said if your dog wants to sleep in bed with you, it means she doesn’t want to be separated from the pack — or you, the pack leader.
What’s more is science has shown that dogs make the best sleeping companions. A study by the Mayo Clinic showed that people with dogs are actually more likely to sleep better and deeper than those who do not.
The study tracked the sleep activity of 40 healthy adults and found that those who let their dogs sleep in their bedroom had a much easier time falling asleep than those who did not.
“Most people assume having pets in the bedroom is a disruption,” Lois Krahn, a sleep medicine specialist at the Center for Sleep Medicine on Mayo Clinic’s Arizona campus said. “We found that many people actually find comfort and a sense of security from sleeping with their pets.”
Dogs love owners: Creating a healthy bond
It goes both ways. Dogs definitely rely on us for shelter and food, but they also need security, social comfort and bonding.
For us humans, a mere 15 minutes a day of bonding with an animal produces serotonin, the feel-good hormone, along with prolactin and oxytocin.
This is why therapy animals make good companions because they offer so many amazing benefits.
While there are plenty of scientific ways to confirm your dog expresses love, you already knew this in your heart. Keep feelin’ the love.