Let’s be honest: You probably love your dog more than you love some humans. You spend most of your spare time exercising or cuddling with him. You talk to her just like you’d talk to your human best friend—freely without fear of being judged. The level of love and trust you feel toward your pet is no different than what you feel toward any other family member.
But is the feeling mutual? Here’s how to tell if your dog trusts you.
1. He learns your routines
Trust is perceived differently for humans and animals, says Vicki Stevens, senior marketing communications manager for companion animals at the Humane Society of the United States. Pets rely on routines to feel normalcy and have comfortable, happy lives. So the best way to build a relationship with your dog is to make these routines positive interactions.
If you feed him every day at 8 a.m. or take him for a walk as soon as you get home from work, he becomes conditioned to expect those things at those designated times. Once a routine is set, he’ll be on time to get that food or that walk, and he’ll trust you’ll hold up your end of the arrangement. (Related: If your dog is a new member of the family, beware of these dog training myths that could hurt your puppy.)
2. Her eyes say it all
A recent study from the University of Japan found that when dogs and their owners stared into each other’s eyes during a 30-minute period, both of their oxytocin levels increased. Oxytocin has also been called the love hormone and the cuddle hormone (see where we’re going with this?). It’s used to help mothers bond with their babies and it spikes when we’re around someone we love and trust. Lead scientist Takefumi Kikusui believes that this result could mean that the dogs were trying to form bonds with their owners—definitely a sign of trust.
Kenny Lamberti, acting vice president of companion animals at H.S.U.S., cautions that since dogs are individuals like humans, staring doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing every time it happens (for instance, if you notice her eyes are cloudy, she could be trying to tell you she’s actually sick). Body language and environment should be taken into consideration too.
3. He sleeps in your room
“Typically, dogs sleep in a place that they are comfortable,” Lamberti writes, “so sleeping in an owner’s room could certainly be an indication of comfort.” He also noted that environment can affect whether your pooch settles down in your room or on your bed. However, you may want to carefully weigh your pros and cons before you invite him into your bed.
4. She doesn’t see you angry often
It’s normal to get frustrated at your dog, but a study from Brigham Young University suggested that she can read your emotions, and she’s less likely to trust you when you’re in a bad mood. Researchers tracked how dogs reacted when they saw humans point to a hidden reward silently, and then using positive or negative facial and vocal expressions. When dogs saw the negative behaviors (frowning, furrowed brow, and a harsh voice), they were less willing to search for the treat. (Related: Here are more secrets your dog knows about you.)