Our bond and relationship with dogs date back centuries, estimations go as far back as between 10,000 and 30,00 years when Nomadic hunters first interacted with dogs.
Throughout much of scientific history, dogs have been dismissed, but in recent decades canine sciences has taken the spotlight and our understanding of dogs continue to grow as this field of science matures into an established, impactful, and highly interdisciplinary field.
When you spend time with a dog, it doesn't take a long time to quickly realise that these animals are capable of bonding with humans, and like all relationships, trust is a huge factor.
The question is, how do you know whether or not your dog has confidence and certainty in you as its owner?
Let's explore the common signs that show your dog trusts you:
- Are dogs capable of trust?
- Do dogs naturally trust humans?
- How do you know if a dog trusts you?
- 5 signs that your dog trusts you:
Are dogs capable of trust?
Like humans, dogs need to have trust in their companions, and it’s up to us to foster their willingness to build it. As science continues to explore these lovely creatures, our understanding of how their brains and emotions work is broadening.
A wide range of experiments have found that dogs are capable of some amazing and complicated social feats - including intelligence and emotional sensitivity.
One pioneer in this field, Professor Stanley Coren, estimates that a dog’s intelligence is as sophisticated as a 2.5 year old human baby, and we all know how vital a role trust plays in the relationship between babies and their caregivers.
Throughout childhood or puppyhood, trust goes on to hugely impact development - setting the tone for the type of relationships that get formed in adulthood.
By giving a dog your complete trust, you will find that these faithful animals are highly capable of doing the same in return.
Do dogs naturally trust humans?
While dogs don’t naturally trust all humans, they are capable of developing deep trust in their human owners. A study headed up by animal expert Dr. Claudia Fugazza at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, found that despite being separate species, puppies intuitively trust human companions in the same way they trust dogs.
Their findings revealed that a dogs' capacity to trust humans is very similar to that of their own dog mother.
In addition, much research has evidenced that dogs learn to use emotional cues from humans to guide their own behaviour, and that these intelligent animals look to their companions to learn more about the world around them.
How do you know if a dog trusts you?
One tell-tale sign that a dog has trust in you as its owner is through its body language. When a dog feels comfortable and relaxed in your presence, it’s likely you’ll notice some of the following:
- Tail wagging
- Mouth is slightly open
- Tongue can loll out of mouth
- Rolling onto his / her back
- Wide, open eyes
- Pawing at you
- Relaxed limbs
- Soft facial expression
5 signs that your dog trusts you:
Many people make the mistake of thinking that dogs give their love and trust to anyone, but this is not necessarily true. The bond between a dog and their owner is one that takes time to build. Based on mutual respect, love and appreciation - once your dog trusts you, you’ll benefit from a loyal and loving companion for life.
Strong indications that a dog trusts you include:
1. Eye Contact 👀
Believe it or not, one of the ways that we know dogs are capable of loving their human companions is through heightened oxytocin levels. Many scientific studies have found that one way this oxytocin (the ‘love hormone’ is released in dogs is through deep and meaningful eye contact.
Without being able to speak the same language, eye contact is an important way for dogs to communicate with us, and only through regularly gazing in your eyes can a meaningful relationship be developed.
For this reason, eye contact is one of the most telling signs your dog trusts you.
2. Rolling Onto Their Back 👋
One of the most vulnerable parts of a dog’s body is the belly. So, when a dog feels comfortable enough to roll onto their back in your presence, it’s more than likely they trust you enough to voluntarily roll into this exposing position. Often, when dogs roll onto their backs, they do so in the hope of a loving belly rub.
Belly rubs and tickles can be incredibly soothing and relaxing for dogs, so if your pup trusts you enough to do this, it can be a fantastic way to further enhance your bond.
3. Cuddles & Sleepy Snuggles 💤
Another vulnerable time for a dog is when they are asleep. Historically, wolves and dogs used to sleep close together with other pack members to ensure trust and protection.
Dogs choose to sleep where they feel most comfortable and at ease, so if your dog enjoys sleeping in your bed, or likes to snuggle up to you for a nap, they feel trust in you that they will be safe to do so.
Research by Dog's Trust shows that as many as 1 in 2 UK dog owners sleep with their dogs, but if you're wondering whether or not your dog should sleep in your bed, it's best to do some research into the pros and cons of this first!
4. Follows Your Lead & Guidance 🧍
As mentioned, like children, dogs learn to use emotional cues from their owners to guide their own behaviour. When a dog finds itself in an unfamiliar situation, it’s likely that it will look up at its owner for comfort and trust that they are there to provide moral support.
This is particularly evident in new environments - remember that dogs look to humans to learn about their surroundings, so if a dog sticks near and looks to you for reassurance, as well as following your lead, you can rest assured they feel trust in your presence.
5. Responds Positively to Training 👏
Many aspects of dog training can be difficult and time consuming. However, a big part of ensuring successful training is when there is mutual trust between an owner and their dog. When dogs receive positive reinforcement, trust is enhanced, and a dog is far more likely to respect their owner’s guidance.
This is often the reason why training rescue dogs can require more time and dedication. Stray dogs and rescue dogs experience trauma through abandonment and abuse, completely diminishing their trust in humans and creatures around them. Once that trust is gone, it can take a huge amount of time to heal.
Can I lose my dog's trust?
Yes, you can lose your dog’s trust. Despite being incredibly faithful animals, a dog’s trust is never guaranteed forever.
While we know that dogs are capable of demonstrating unconditional love and loyalty, this relationship is based on a mutual respect between dogs and their human companions. It’s like the old saying goes - trust takes years to build and seconds to break.
While a dog’s trust can be reduced through actions like inconsistency in routines and negative reinforcement during training, trust can seriously be broken in the following situations:
- Abuse and injury
- Violence within their home
Gaining a dog’s trust is one of the most sacred aspects of dog ownership, and one that is not to be underestimated in importance. With dogs being so eager to make lifelong emotional connections with their human companions, all dog owners have a duty of ensuring they provide the correct care for their trusting loved ones.
If you want to form a strong bond with your dog, you must pay attention to building mutual trust and respect from the get-go.