Our dogs tell us they love us all the time. It’s evident in the way they greet us when we come home from work with their wiggly butts, their enthusiastic kisses and their paw tapping, jumpy happy dance. But how can we tell our dogs how much we love them?
If you’re a dog-obsessed loving dog parent (which you obviously are) it’s safe to assume that your dog knows you love them. But there are things you can do that will enrich your dogs’ lives and show them how special they are.
Here are some suggestions for ways to tell your dogs you love them in a way that a dog will understand.
As a species, dogs need to walk every day. Unlike cats, there is no such thing as an “indoor dog” — at least there shouldn’t be. And we can safely say most dogs live for their walks. (How many happy dances have you seen when you get out the leash?) Walks provide dogs with exercise, mental stimulation, fresh air and a dose of daily adventures.
A walk or two a day at fairly regular times is a great way to bond with your dogs and reinforce your love for them.
2. Keep Talking — You’re Not Crazy
Dogs react to the sound of a human voice, particularly when it’s high pitched and includes dog-related words. Called “dog speak” by researchers, dogs respond to words they understand, especially when delivered in what most refer to as “baby talk.” Things like, “Who’s a good boy?” or “Do you want to go for a walk?” will capture your dog’s attention and strengthen your bond.
Even if you decide to have a heart-to-heart with your dog about your day, scientists have discovered that dog brains and human brains process language in the same way — although dogs respond most positively to human speech when they believe they’re being praised. So go ahead and tell your dog about your terrible boss; just throw in a “good girl!” or “good boy” every other sentence or two to keep your dog interested.
3. Learn Your Dog’s Language
Dogs communicate their emotions partly through vocalizations. If you want to show your dogs how much you love them, you need to learn how to speak their language. Some dogs have a larger range of vocalizations than others, such as Huskies, Rottweilers, Basenjis, Shibu Inus and others.
For those breeds less conversationally talented, there are six general dog sounds your dog uses to communicate: barking, whining, sighing, growling, howling and groaning. Sighing, for example, indicates pleasure and contentment when the dog’s eye are half closed, but when the eyes are fully open, they are telling you how disappointed they are. Once you learn the general meanings of these sounds, observe your dog’s body language.
4. Read Your Dog’s Body Language
More than sounds, dogs rely on body language to communicate. They use every part of their body to tell you how they feel: the eyes, tail, mouth, hair, panting, and body posture. The tail alone can indicate a wide range of emotion.
A wagging tail does not mean always mean your dog is happy. If the tail is slightly raised and wagging, your dog feels happy. But if its raised high and wagging back and forth rapidly, it could mean your dog is about to defend herself. You need to look at your dog’s whole body to figure out what your dog is saying. Your dog will know you love her if you learn to understand dog language.
5. Take Your Dog on Adventures
While dogs thrive on routine, most love a great outdoor adventure. Whether to break up the routine or to get out of a city environment, a trip to someplace exciting (to a dog) will perk your dog up and strengthen your bond — not to mention the benefits of added socialization.
Check out nature trails and dog beaches. Strap on a doggie lifejacket and go for a trip by canoe or kayak. Hit a rugged path up small mountains for dog that love to climb, or try backpacking for a day or overnight hike. Even a day trip to a different dog park will keep your pup happy. Or check out a local agility class. Bring along plenty of treats or even a dog-friendly picnic, and your dog will think she’s arrived in paradise.
6. Invite Your Dog to Spoon for an Afternoon Nap
Dogs are nap specialists. They can fall asleep practically anywhere and often in the weirdest positions. But there is one nap experience that dogs love above all others: snoozing with their special person.
This is particularly effective if you don’t normally let your dog in your bed. For an afternoon nap, invite your dog onto the couch, the bed or a cozy lounge chair. Spend some time cuddling, stroking and spooning. You may even be rewarded with a deep doggy sigh of contentment right before you both drift off into dreamland.
7. Take Your Dog on Vacation
Instead of dropping your dog off at your pet sitter’s home, plan a dog-friendly vacation. There are plenty of B&B’s, hotels and even summer or winter camps that are pet friendly — and some even cater especially to dogs. Check out places like Camp Dogwood or Camp Unleashed. There are even “travel agencies” like City Dog Country Dog. Or check out a dog-friendly Bed & Breakfast.
If you have a small dog, air travel is easier for exotic vacations that teach your pup about the big, wide world. For larger dogs, consider a road trip: rent an RV and head for the coast. Or book a room in a dog-friendly city, and check out the parks and dog-friendly attractions.
8. Give Your Dog a Present
Even something as simple as a new stuffed dog toy or some gourmet treats will communicate your great love for your pooch. You know your dog better than anyone, so pick the one thing he loves the most.
If you have a hardcore chewer, pick a toy that will stand up. Does your dog live for fetch? Give him a bag full of new squeaky balls. For the food obsessed, consider a high-quality chicken jerky treat. Give your dogs whatever they love best, and they will reward you will unconditional love and affection — and they will know just how much you really love them.