Most dog owners I know of wonder if dogs share the same feelings owners do about them. We wonder if they care, worry and love us humans or if they only see us as a guardian, food source or ball of warmth to lean and cuddle up against. It is one of those quintessential questions that dog owners have, like “what do dogs dream of” and “what’s my dog thinking of when they tilt their head?”
What are some ways your Maltese might be expressing affection towards you? Because your Maltese can’t speak, it can only display love to you through its body language, such as:
- When they are happy when you’re home
- Through facial expression
- Yawning with you
- Display positive reactions to your voice
- Enjoying and being comforted by your scent
- Energetic tail wagging
- Snuggling and sleeping with you
- Leans on and curls around you
It should be noted that animal-human bond behavior is something that is continually studied. Your Maltese might be uncomfortable with wrapping your arms around them in an embracing hug, but it doesn’t mean it dislikes you but just a particular way of conveying that love. Some behaviors are inherited from their wolfish pack animal days, so it’s natural for them to give their cues of affection in subtle ways humans don’t readily pick up.
1) They Become Really Happy When You’re Home
They get really happy. Like giddy happy and jumping around “I-don’t-know-how-to-even-express-myself” kind of happy. Your Maltese is probably ready and waiting by the door, garage, gate or wherever you normally enter (mainly if they know your routine). They’ll be wagging their tail, pacing around excitedly, giving you a sniff or two (in yes, of course, a frantic manner) and maybe a friendly bark. Sometimes they’ll also bring their/your favorite toy, lick your hands and face.
Check out this comic by Matthew Inman at theoatmeal.com for an amusing impression of a dog greeting its owner. All credit and rights go to him – for the full image and page click on this link.
Occasionally, they may even urinate themselves out of excitement – like a little ‘happy pee.’ This tends to happen with puppies instead of adult Maltese dogs and is a sign of submissiveness. Naturally, this can be a bit alarming to the owner, but this can be dealt with through training. Amy Shojai over at thesprucepets.com provides an excellent overview of this ‘symptom,’ click here to read it.
Often it doesn’t even matter if you’re gone for half a day, or from your two-hour shopping trip. They’ll act as though you’re their buddy they haven’t seen in years. Perhaps time passes by a bit differently to dogs than to humans? We may never know.
2) You Can See It in Their Facial Expression
The Maltese are known for having a very expressive face which should make this next point a bit easier for you to identify. Subtle expressions in your Maltese’s face include raised or wiggling eyebrows, perked ears, and a toothy, open mouth smile. Their overall expression should be warm and relaxed, perhaps a little attentive. They may also appear to be “gazing” or seeking attention from you and will look into your eyes when the opportunity arises.
A combination of these signs is your Maltese’s way of saying that you are important to him/her and that they care about you. As in humans, the act of gazing into the eyes of another releases the chemical hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin plays a vital role in social bonding and makes both you and your Maltese “feel good” and encourages further gazing between you and your fur baby.
A paper published by a team of Japanese researchers noted that:
…[the Team] show that such gaze-mediated bonding also exists between us and our closest animal companions, dogs… They found that mutual gazing increased oxytocin levels, and sniffing oxytocin increased gazing in dogs, an effect that transferred to their owners. Wolves, who rarely engage in eye contact with their human handlers, seem resistant to this effect.
Just be wary when a stranger dog does this – it could be a challenge for dominance. And that could include your best friend’s dog you’re seeing for the first time.
3) They Yawn With You
Yawning has been long regarded as a sign of empathy amongst some social animal species such as primates. The fact that your Maltese is yawning when it sees or hears you yawning may be a sign that they have an empathetic bond with their owner. Dogs can yawn for a variety of reasons, like tiredness, stress or to diffuse potential threats, e.g., stranger dogs or humans, which are the traditional ways researchers have interpreted yawning in dogs.
A different study conducted by yet another Japanese research team viewable here gave the following conclusion about human-dog contagious yawning:
Our findings are consistent with the view that contagious yawning is modulated by affective components of the behavior and may indicate that rudimentary forms of empathy could be present in domesticated dogs.
Though they do claim that “our findings go further in supporting the empathic bias of contagious yawning in dogs,” the team did caution that “further research should test for alternative hypothesis and control for factors that are known to affect the occurrence of yawning in animals.“
4) They React Positively to Your Voice
A classic one that you can test right now. If your Maltese is not deep asleep or tired, try calling out his or her name – chances are, your pup will come bounding from a distance away right to your side. I lived in a single story house with false timber flooring, and amusingly this meant that I could hear the frantic tapping of my Maltese’s paws become louder as she approached. Sometimes she would be playing with a toy or sniffing around at the front door and would immediately abort to run to my mom’s voice as though her life depended on it.
Dogs also have the uncanny ability to decipher the hidden meaning behind your voice, based on the pitch and tones. They can tell when we’re happy, sad, excited, etc., even though they have no clue what we’re trying to say (save the words we’ve trained them on). Assuming all is well, they will most likely be happy to see you attempting to communicate with them. They don’t need “meaning” the same way humans do, but it doesn’t matter. And that’s what makes their bond with humans so fascinating.
5) They Enjoy Being Around Your Scent
No, not just you but also your scent. Some telltale signs of this include finding a piece of garment and lying on or near it or sleeping near where their owner recently sat at. Your Maltese might also choose to sleep in your bedroom when you’re gone, or steal any clothes lying around there and move it to their dog bed. If your Maltese is taking clothes from your room while you’re gone, it may be a good idea to look into why and prevent it from happening in the future.
Otherwise, as a harmless one-off occurrence, your Maltese is probably just telling you that it enjoys your company and misses your familiar scent. As a needier breed compared to most, it might just be their coping mechanism to deal with the prolonged absence of their owner so they can feel comfortable, safe and secure.
6) They Can’t Help Wagging Their Tail
A pretty common, and a well-known sign of happiness is wagging. It is perhaps one of the most honest ways that a dog can express its emotions. Food is arriving? “Whomp whomp whomp.” You open your door – is it playtime?! “Whomp whomp whomp.” Maybe you’re just looking their way? “Whomp whomp whomp.”
I can’t tell you how many times that I’ve been able to sneak a glance at my (presumably not sleepy) Maltese on the opposite side of the couch, only for her to notice and start wagging her tail against the sofa like a professional janggo player. Look away, and it stops. Look back, and it starts again! And through all this time, she’s just lying there trying to “sleep,” with her head between her paws. Approaching her would make the wagging more furious and eventually lead to some belly rubbing. It’s like an amusing litmus test for dog emotions.
If your Maltese is standing around and wagging his/her tail, check to see if the tail is raised loosely, and tilted to one side when stationary. Along with the tail, the facial expression of the Maltese should be happy because it is relaxed, comfortable or excited. On the flipside, if the tail is stiff and raised high, your Maltese might be feeling alarmed, wary, defensive or stressed out particularly if this behavior can be accompanied by raised hackles, tense muscles, and flattened ears.
7) They Want to Snuggle, Lean Against or Sleep With You
Your Maltese might seek to lean against you. Ever notice that during intense Netflix session that your pup decides to bound up on the sofa, lie down on one side, only to adjust and prompt plant itself right up against your thigh? It might be feeling a little anxious, lonely or wants a bit of comfort and security and it knows the best way to do this is to snuggle against its owner. It makes them feel safe and secure and will only do this if they see you as a trusted protector. So be honored!
An even better example of this is when your dog sleeps next to you at night. Dogs draw this behavior from their pack animal ways in the wild and this allows them to share body warmth and a sense of bonding and belonging through body contact. While you might suspect that they’re only doing this to leech some warmth from you on a chilly night, it’s probably more than likely that they’re seeking out your bed because YOU are on it, not that electric heat pad over there (although it is probably the second best option in winter).
Vet Street – “Pet Scoop: Dogs React to Tail-Wagging Direction, Firefighters Rescue Dog From Floods” – Link: http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/pet-scoop-dogs-react-to-tail-wagging-direction-firefighters-rescue-dog-from-floods
Mic – “Brain Scans Reveal What Dogs Really Think of Us” – Link: https://www.mic.com/articles/104474/brain-scans-reveal-what-dogs-really-think-of-us#.kcSkgIIsr
Spoiled Maltese – “Why Doesn’t Lacie Love Me?” – Link: https://spoiledmaltese.com/forum/59-everything-else-maltese-related/144049-why-doesnt-lacie-love-me.html