Dogs don’t have the DNA to come up to you, swing their front paws around your neck and whisper in your ear how much they like you so how do you answer one of those age old questions “How do I know if my dog likes me?”
As with other features on how dogs live their lives, we’re back to observing and understanding dogs’ body language.
Let’s deal with the opposite of like first of all. If a dog doesn’t like you, they will not come near you, they will cower behind furniture or other people and they will likely watch you like the proverbial hawk. You will not get close to petting the dog.
So what are the actions that a dog will display if it likes you? Like so many features with a dog, there is not one thing that will let you know you are liked. There are a number of different ways that you can tell. When I am assessing dogs for therapy dog work I am always encouraged when a dog approaches me with a relaxed, loose body and the tail is gently “swaying in the wind”. This is telling me that the dog is relaxed and is happy for me to greet it. If the dog then turns its back on me and stands looking away, I know that it is confident and secure in its space and enjoys being around me.
We’ve all experienced the sometimes “over the top” welcome we get on entering the home, whether you’ve been away for 5 minutes, 5 hours or 5 days. This is a sure fire way of recognizing that your dog likes you, particularly if your dog brings something in its mouth to show you or play with you.
In showing signs of liking you, most dogs want to be with you, maybe they’ll follow you around the house, and be touched. Certain dogs are definitely “leaners”. I have a 70lb lap dog at home. I will normally count on having between 5-10 seconds on sitting down before Finn finds himself on my lap! This will likely be followed by a few minutes of licking: face, arms and hands. Although this is a sign of affection, I’m not fooling myself that it’s just that. He enjoys licking the salt on my skin as well.
Although jumping up can become annoying, if it’s accompanied by a relaxed wagging tail, the dog is telling you it likes you and wants your attention. This is radically different from a dog jumping up snarling and with the hackles showing: this would be a time to look out!
Knowing your dog is so important when it comes to looking them in the eye. Doing that with a dog you don’t know can be interpreted by the dog as an aggressive posture but a dog that likes you will willingly accept you looking them into their eyes.
Dogs are pack animals and, by treating them with love and affection, you will have a member of your pack that shows unconditional love to you. Experienced dog people have a sixth sense as to whether their dog likes them or not. For those of you just stepping into the world of canines for the first time, get to know your dog and you’ll soon pick up on the body language signs that your dog gives out. Does your dog seem to like being with you? If so, great. If not, you may want to check with a canine behaviourist.