Doggie Love

Finnegan loves me. How do I know?

I actually considered his actions of leaning on me, staring at me, and dropping his head into my lap when least expected to be very annoying.

After reading “5 Signs of Deep Affection You Won’t Want to Ignore” in my August issue of Your Dog, newsletter of Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, I changed my opinion.

In case you have a loving dog like our Finn, I thought I’d share what I learned.

~Leaning

This is a clear signal your dog feels special about you.

Our Finn will sit on our feet leaning his head back to be petted. He weighs ninety pounds which gets heavy after a while and we must use the enough command. He trots off to sit in front of the nearest fan content with whatever petting he gets.

Knowing he’s really letting me see how special I am to him, I might let him sit on my feet a bit longer next time.

~Eye contact or staring

Doggy direct eye contact is normally used for threats or aggression. But, if your dog makes direct eye contact with you like our Finn does, he’s acknowledging what a cherished connection you share.

Staring releases oxytocin, the bonding hormone that new mothers experience when they first hold their newborns, into a dog’s brain. Looking back into their eyes releases the same hormone to your brain.

I often catch Finn staring. Now I know he’s not challenging me, I’ll smile back.

~Dropping his head in our laps

Veterinarians call this docking. Not clipping the tail, but more like a space capsule reconnecting to the mother ship.  Finn’s saying “I need warmth; I need closeness.”

While we’re watching television, Finn will jump on the couch and plop his head in my lap. I accuse him of deliberately aggravating his Maltese brother who always occupies my lap when I sit and doesn’t like to share. I pet Finn for a bit and he jumps down content to let Buster have my lap.

It’s good to know Finn’s not being obnoxious when he leans, stares or docks. He’s saying “I love you.”

So is your dog.

From now on, I’ll return the sentiment with soft strokes and loving words. I know I feel bad when I say I love you and I don’t hear the words returned.

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