As a puppy parent, you’re probably used to giving your dog all manner of attention. If your dog is anything like mine, they probably demand it of you. We feed them, walk them, pick up their... well you know, but are all these things “love” to a dog? In some ways, they are, though some things might get lost in translation. So, how do you tell your dog you love them in a way that they will fully comprehend? The answers might surprise you.
How to tell your dog you love them:
Dogs are fairly easy to read, especially if that dog has been a part of your family for a while. We know if they are happy if they are scared, excited, hungry, or just a bit off. We even know when they are showing us affection. The best way to ensure that your dog knows you feel the same way is to understand a bit about canine communication.
Offer them food.
When in doubt, feed them. It might seem stereotypical but it's an irrefutable fact that when feeding time comes, our pets look to us for help. According to PawCulture, that instinctual food drive is a great way to engage and interact with them. Treats and even mealtimes are a great way to build upon that innate pack mentality in a dog. Trust us, they appreciate the treats.
Dogs are one of the most observant animals out there when it comes to interpreting and reacting to human expression. One behavioral study actually showed that they were more attuned to human expressions than apes. Another more recent study indicated that dogs communicate with us in similar ways. That raising of the eyebrow? That’s your dog indicating something to you in a completely nonverbal way.
The more expressive you are with your gestures, the more you’ll be able to demonstrate your love for your dog. And if the aforementioned study is correct, raising your left eyebrow might be a clear indication of your affection for your pooch.
Talk with them.
Talking with your dog is a good way to show that you regard them. Studies using MRI technology have shown that dogs do possess a cursory understanding of human language. In this case, they mostly respond to words like treat, stay, walk, or good. Even if they cannot fully understand you, they know you’re talking to them, and they will appreciate the attention from their favorite human.
If you’re really dedicated or you work from home like me, you could even talk for them! Longtime readers may be familiar with my Shorkie, Leia, but they might not know that she has a silly voice I like to use when conversing with her. Don’t judge, I know plenty of you do it too!
Use your head to cuddle.
I learned this with my dog a long time ago and it’s worked wonders for our relationship. According to Canidae, dogs lean their heads on each other as a sign of affection. Something as simple as leaning up against your leg is a sign your dog loves you and if you do the same thing, they will know you love them back. It’s a subtle gesture, but it’s effective. On top of that, some dogs might feel threatened if you go in for a big ol’ hug.
Share your personal space.
The jury is still out on this, but according to Time Magazine, letting your pet sleep with you isn’t just good for their mental health, it’s good for yours as well. Dr. Michael Sanwald of Fetch My Vet, explains that allowing your pet to sleep with you demonstrates to them that you are part of their pack. This, in turn, strengthens the bonds of love and trust you both feel for one another.
Even reaching down to pet or cuddle your dog a few times a day can go a long way into reinforcing that familial bond of love. It's not like you will have to go looking for them when you want to pet them. Most of the time, your dog will be right next to you — right where they want to be.
Make time for them.
This is perhaps the most important one. We all have things that keep us busy or distracted throughout the day, be it work, our cell phones, chores, or the internet. Pet parenting is more than just picking up a dog, training them, and taking them for granted. You are everything to your dog, so take a few minutes now and then to show them that they matter. It’s good for your mental health and it’s good for theirs. The love you give is, and always has been, the love you get in return.