Anyone who’s ever had a dog knows how special they are. Their love of playing, their love of food, and, most importantly, their love of you all combine into an incredibly loyal and loving companion. While we may have been interacting with dogs for thousands of years, science has recently begun to examine how dogs think and how they communicate with us. Science has also determined how dogs show their love for us. From bringing you toys to leaning on you, here are 11 ways dogs tell you they love you.

When a dog stares at you, it means they love you.

when dogs stare at you, they're giving you hugs with their eyes

Brian Hare, a well-known dog expert, said that when your dog looks you in the eye, he is “hugging you with his eyes.” Such loving looks release oxytocin, the same hormone that helps mothers bond with their babies. This doesn’t mean you should purposely stare into your dog’s eyes (that’s unnerving to anyone), just let it come naturally during play and your regular routine.

Bringing you a toy means more than wanting to play. They want to share something with value with you.

when a dog gives you a toy, he's giving you something special

Because sharing is caring!

If your dog is cuddly after a meal, it’s not just because you fed them. It’s because you’re their best friend.

if your dog cuddles with you after a meal, he's your best friend

Gregory Berns writes in his book How Dogs Love Us that if your dog wants to cuddle you after eating, it’s a strong sign he loves you.

A dog leaning or pressing against you is their version of a hug or “hello.”

a dog leaning against you is a sign of affection

A dog will also lean on you sometimes when he’s anxious or afraid because he knows you will keep him safe and protect him.

If a dog sits on your feet, they’re being protective of you.

a dog sitting on your feet means he's protecting you

If a dog sits on your foot it’s a little bit like he’s marking you. Jennifer Brent, from the non-profit animal welfare advocacy group, Found Animals, told Woman’s Day, “It’s not just that he wants to be close to you, he’s saying, ‘This is mine; now it smells like me, don’t go near ti.’ He does this for three main reasons: to feel secure about his place in your life, to warn other dogs that you are spoken for, and because he wants to protect you.”

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