dog snuggles

Dogs love us. We can see it in their eyes, the way they snuggle up to us along with the excitement they exhibit when we walk into a room. But how much do they really love us? Canine Cottages, a dog-friendly holiday specialist in the United Kingdom, set out to answer this question by conducting a social experiment using heart rate tracking collars on four different pooches.

Using this method, Canine Cottages discovered how dogs’ heart rates are affected when their owners cuddle and tell them they love them. Combining the heart rate tracking data from the four dogs over seven days, their average heart rate was 67 bpm. However, when the owners told their pups that they loved them, the dogs’ heart rate jumped by 46 percent to 98 bpm.

In comparison, when having cuddles with their owner, the average heart rate decreased by 23 percent from 67 bpm to 52 bpm, showing how relaxed and comfortable they were when getting affection from their owners.

Canine Cottages also tracked the owners’ heart rates to see how much this compares with that of their pet, and discovered their heart rate increased by 10 percent on average when they saw their dog after being away from them for a period of time. Although not as excitable as our pets, this still indicates how much we truly love our pooches, officials said.

Heart rate alone, however, isn’t the only way dogs tell us that they love us. Dr. Heather Venkat, head veterinary nurse Carolanne on behalf of Only Pets Cover, and accredited dog trainer Joe Nutkins have pulled together five other ways in which dogs showcase their affection:

  • Cuddles. “If your dog curls up next to you, on your lap or at your feet, he/she is saying they want to be as close to you as possible,” Venkat and Nutkins said. “Dogs will only cuddle in and lean on people they feel comfortable with, so it’s a sure sign of love.”
  • Greetings. “When you greet your dog, they will likely wave their tail back and forth, jump and wiggle because they love you and are happy to see you,” they said.
  • Generosity. “Bringing you a toy is another way dogs show their love for you,” they added. “Yes, they want to play, but they also trust you with their favorite thing and know that you will have fun with them.”
  • Belly up. “If a dog shows his belly to you, or sleeps on his back with his chest up, that’s a sign of perfect trust and love,” Venkat and Nutkins said. “It’s a vulnerable position for dogs because they are completely exposed and at the mercy of anyone who comes across them.”
  • Coming to see you when they’re in pain. “When our dogs come to us holding a paw up, or they feel a little under the weather so come and lie next to us with their head on our lap, it shows a great level of trust, they said.”

Commenting on the research, Shannon Keary, campaigns manager at Canine Cottages, said, “In the U.K. we are a nation of dog lovers, but although we know how much we love our pets, we’ve never really known if, or how, our dogs show their affection for us, which is why we conducted this research.

“It’s amazing to see that our dogs’ heart rates increase when they are told they are loved, showing excitement, and decreases when having cuddles, showing contentedness,” Keary added. “It’s also interesting to see all the weird and wonderful ways our pets show their love for us. From this data, we can now officially say that our dogs really do love us.”