How Do Dogs Show Affection to Other Dogs?

Dogs hugging

Dogs show affection to other dogs through physical contact, grooming, play, and being close to one another. You can show your dog signs of affection in the same way. By giving your dog belly rubs, playing with them, and spending time together, you will show them you love them. 

Dogs are a man’s best friend because they show us unconditional love. They’re loyal and devoted and want nothing more than to please us. 

From a puppy that follows you around the house all day as you go about your regular routine, or an excited wagging tail that greets you at the door when you come home, to an old member of the family who lies at your feet as you read a good book, we usually know the signs of affection from our dog.

But dogs show affection to both people and other dogs. What does it look like between two dogs, and how is it different from what we experience with our dog? 

If you live in a multi-dog household, maybe you’ve witnessed this type of affection. It’s heartwarming and downright cute. Oddly enough, it’s quite similar to how our dogs show us love. 

Here are a few ways that dogs show affection to other dogs and some affectionate human gestures you should avoid.

How Dogs Show Affection to Other Dogs

Closeness

The act of being close to one another is the first sign of affection between dogs. The fact that they can share the same space without altercation shows that they are comfortable with each other and feel at ease. 

Closeness between two dogs may evolve over time as their relationship develops. It doesn’t always start out with a dog pile of cuddles.

The strongest sign of closeness is dogs who sleep together in the same area. I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of dogs that practically sleep on top of each other or look to be one giant dog as they’re cuddling on a single dog bed. 

Dogs are most vulnerable while sleeping, so allowing another dog into their space during this time is a significant display of trust.

If you’ve ever brought a new dog home, you’ve probably noticed that this level of trust and closeness between your dogs takes some time to develop. 

Even dogs that enjoy playing together from the moment they meet that seem to get along really well don’t always let each other in right away. It’s a big step in their relationship when they finally feel comfortable enough to coexist peacefully and sleep next to each other. 

This is usually most obvious with an older dog and a new puppy. When the reluctant older dog finally stays put as the puppy plops down next to him instead of getting up again and finding a new space of his own. That’s when you know a strong bond has developed.

Closeness is also one way dogs show affection to people. Dogs love to get up and sleep in bed with their owners, just to be close to them. Or they might cuddle with you on the couch while you watch TV or even keep you company in the kitchen while you make dinner. Dogs want to be near the people (and other dogs) that they love.

Physical Contact

Dogs will show each other affection by more than just close proximity. They also exhibit close contact through:

  • Nudging
  • Nuzzling
  • Rubbing up
  • Playing

Nudging

Your dog will use his nose to nudge other dogs. This is sometimes a sign of playful behavior, but it’s also a way for them to remind the other dog that they’re there. 

You might have noticed your dog does this to you sometimes too. I’ve frequently been cooking in the kitchen when I feel something cold pressing against my leg. When I look down, I see a wet nose nudging my leg and a pair of loving eyes happily looking up at me.

I take this as a sign of love from my dog. But don’t be fooled, sometimes this is just a way of getting your attention or trying to beg for a piece of your dinner.

Nuzzling

Nuzzling is your dog’s way of having a mini cuddle session with the person or dog he loves. Your dog might use his head to nuzzle another dog, basically meaning that he’ll rub his face all over them. He buries his face in the other dog’s fur and rubs his neck on them.

Nuzzling is comforting for dogs. It stems from the behavior they display with their mother, which is why it’s common for dogs to transfer that action to their owner or another member of the pack. 

Some people also think that nuzzling is a way of marking their territory. When your dog rubs his neck on you, he’s depositing some of his scent onto you, claiming you as his. 

Either way, nuzzling is usually accompanied by a lot of tail wagging and love.

Rubbing Up

Your dogs might rub against one another or rub their entire body up against your legs. Similar to nuzzling, or closeness in general, this brings your dog comfort. 

It makes him feel safe by making him feel like he’s being protected by his pack. 

Dogs show affection to people in similar ways. You might have experienced your dog rubbing against you with his body and then sitting down and leaning his full weight into you. 

This is a sign of affection. He wants to know that you’re there and be able to feel if you move away from him. 

Grooming 

Dogs that have a close relationship will often help groom each other. Licking and cleaning one another is a way of showing they care. 

Similar to a mother caring for her puppies, dogs will look after the well-being of other dogs that they love. Some dogs will show affection to people in a similar way by licking their hands or face. 

Playing

Playing is a sign of affection for some dogs. Although it can certainly indicate a level of comfort and a general joy of being around each other, not all dogs have playful personalities.

Many dogs that are part of the same family and show signs of affection towards each other also enjoy playing together. They will share their toys with their brother or sister and spend hours of their day wrestling together.

Don’t Expect Your Dog to Want Typical Human Signs of Affections

Although we may love hugs, giving them, receiving them, watching other’s embrace, our dogs usually don’t feel the same way. 

To them, a hug is equivalent to another dog trying to mount them and assert their dominance. It’s constricting and overpowering. 

Respect their space. Now, that’s not to say that you can’t train your dog to politely accept a hug from you or your family, but make sure to go slow, especially if you have a new dog in the house. 

Read your dog’s body language, allow them some time to get used to you handling them. Slowly progress your way to a doggie hug. 

Showing Affection to Your Dog

Instead of using “people gestures” to show affection to your dog, why not take a page out of his playbook? 

Try showing your dog affection in a way that is more in line with how he shows affection. Small gentle pets or belly rubs are a much more appropriate way of showing your dog that you love him. Spend quality time with your dog and just enjoy each other’s (close) company.

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