When my dog Hank was a puppy, I thought that the thing he liked most in the world was trying out tasty new treats. Whenever he seemed especially bored or sad, I would pull out a crunchy bone or a long-lasting rawhide for him. But I soon began to realize that what he really wanted whenever his mood wasn't great was one-on-one time with me. If he's anxious, he'll walk over to me and rest his head in my lap. If he's bored, he'll come and sit on me until I scratch his back. It can be hard to know how to show your dog love sometimes, especially since they can't verbally communicate with you. But, according to experts, once you figure out your pup's love language, you'll have plenty of options for ways to show just how much you care.
"Enrichment and meeting your dog's needs is the number one way to show love for your dog," Russell Hartstein, CDBC, CPDT-KA, a dog trainer, behavioralist, and CEO of Fun Paw Care tells Elite Daily. "People many times misunderstand love and simply love the way they want to love. In essence, it may be a selfish type of love." In order to figure out whether your pooch loves being scratched behind the ears or wants a fun session of fetch at the local dog park, pay attention to what makes them excited, Hartstein suggests in an email to Elite Daily.
1. Tell Your Pooch You Love Them
Telling your SO how much you love them is an important part of your relationship. In a similar way, telling your pooch how much you care for them is a great way to show love, says Hartstein. Just be sure to pay attention to how you're saying sweet things as much as what you're saying, because being spoken to in a high pitch, baby voice shows your pup love.
"It’s prosodic of speech (pitch rhythm and tone) that matter, not the actual words," Hartstein tells Elite Daily. "Our energy, through limbic resonance and emotional contagion, evoke feelings of love and care for our family members."
2. Make Eye Contact
“Dogs watch and wait for moments to gaze and connect with humans," explains Phil Tedeschi, a Rover human-animal connection expert. "This eye contact stimulates bonding and the 'love' hormone, oxytocin, which has human health benefits such as making us friendlier, more optimistic, happier and trusting," he tells Elite Daily. Try holding your cute canine's face gently in your hands and telling them what a good baby they are, all while looking into their sweet eyes.
3. Cuddle Up Together
I'm willing to bet that a good snuggle session with your cute canine fills you with joy, but it's likely that they're appreciating the physical contact, too. "Cuddling is the canine parallel to handholding or hugging," Jodi Andersen, co-founder and chief dog expert at How I Met My Dog tells Elite Daily in an email. "Pack animals like to be as close to their pack members as possible, and what better way to stay connected than snuggling and cuddling." So, grab your fluffiest blanket and pull your pooch close for a soothing belly rub on the couch.
4. Respect Their Boundaries
Even though you may feel connected to your dog on a spiritual level, they aren't human. That means that they may not react to your loving gestures the way you may expect.
"Many times, the problem that people have in working with dogs is humanizing them too much, and not recognizing or respecting their needs and boundaries over the preference to do what you as their person wants," says jme Thomas, executive director of Motley Zoo Animal Rescue.
You might want to show your pup love with a big hug, but make sure to pay attention to whether they actually want to be hugged in that moment.
5. Go On An Extra Long Walk
While some dogs just love being shown attention, according to Ashley O’Hara, founder of Compass Key Service Dog Training, bonding while going on a nice long leash walk is a more common way your dog feels love, so get ready to hit the dog park. "While most dogs really like routines and structure," she says, "switching up play and exercise routines is a fun way to keep a dog engaged and feel appreciated."