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By Juliana Weiss-Roessler

If you believe that your dog truly loves you, are you right? Or is this just another way that we humanize our pets?

It may not come as a surprise, but research confirms what most of us know from experience: dogs do experience feelings of love and affection. Yes, dogs rely on us for food and security, but they also look to us for social comfort and bonding.

A team of scientists at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, trained over a dozen dogs to be comfortable around and in an MRI scanner, and they discovered that a part of the brain is associated with positive emotions, just as it is for humans.

The research revealed new evidence of dogs’ social and emotional intelligence, providing insight into how dogs empathized with human’s emotions, how they feel love for us, and why the human-dog connection is so strong.

So if you don’t have an MRI at home, what are some signs that your dog doesn’t just consider you its food source but experiences real affection for you?

Gregory Berns, one of the researchers at Emory University and also author of the book How Dogs Love Us: A Neuroscientist and His Adopted Dog Decode the Canine Brain, shared four signs that your dog really loves you with the Wall Street Journal.

  1. After Eating, Your Dog Cuddles with You
    Dogs live in the moment, so when food’s available, it’s no surprise they go after it with relish. But what’s their top priority after eating? You!
     
  2. Your Dog Enjoys Sleeping with You
    Whether your dog sleeps with you at night or just naps while you sit on the couch during the day, this is a sign that you’re connected on a social level. Dogs prefer to be with members of their own social group, and that includes all pack members, whether canine, human, feline, or otherwise.
     
  3. Your Dog Is Happy When You Come Home
    As you know from Cesar, this doesn’t necessarily have to express itself in an all-out jumping, barking, and licking extravaganza. If your dog approaches, tail wagging, you know he’s happy.
     
  4. You Love Your Dog
    According to Berns, if you don’t love your dog, how can you expect her to return the feeling?

What’s not a sign of your dog’s love? Separation anxiety. Berns says that this is just a behavior issue. A well-adjusted dog will trust that you’ll return.

Does your dog love you, and how do they show it? Let us know in the comments!

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