Whether you’re happily partnered up or a strong, independent bachelor, Valentine’s day doesn’t have to be all about romantic love. It can also be a great reminder of all the other people and creatures in our lives that we love too! We’ve talked about how to know your dog loves you and why they do. This week let’s talk about 8 ways you can show unconditional love to your dog too!
1. Spend Extra Time Playing
While we’re all pretty busy these days, or maybe even a little impatient, it’s sometimes difficult to really give our dogs enough dedication when it comes to play and exercise. This valentine's day is a great occasion for you to show your love for your dog with some extra quality time!
When you take extra time to play, you’re going out of your way to meet your dog’s needs. Being in tune and setting aside a dedicated time to focus on your dog will strengthen your bond- and you’ll both reap the benefits of the exercise and de-stressing. Your dog will definitely love an extra-long play session!
2. Give Them A “Sniff Walk”
Extra time to explore and smell things gives your dog more than a change of scenery. “Sniff walks” provide an opportunity to utilize a dog’s incredible sense of smell and engage their mind. Having the chance to stop and smell the roses (or whatever uniquely appealing scents they fancy) can give your dog a sense of relaxation and calmness. By giving them something to do that they have evolved to do very well your dog may also engage in fewer “bad” behaviors like being hypervigilant or extra wary of other dogs. In a way it can fill in a dog’s sense of having a “job” to do too. Finally, it can tire out your dog on a mental level! By fulfilling your dog’s need to think, they will be more content to relax when you get back inside.
By the way, it may be a good idea to differentiate a sniff walk from other types of walks you take with your dog. Having a clear purpose during your dog walks can make it easier to meet specific goals in a timely manner. That way, when you need your dog to focus on a quick potty break before you go to work in the morning, you don’t wind up being late while being unable to fulfill your dog’s needs or confusing them. You can do this by either teaching your dog different words for different walks, or by having designated areas where your dog routinely fulfills certain needs, like having one spot to potty versus a special area for a relaxing bout of sniffing. Just be sure you take the time to get out there and have a good walk!
3. Learn Their Language
You can also use their body language to tell them you love them! Things like the proper loving stare, happy facial expressions, and other appropriate gestures can be the most direct way to say “I love you!” in doggy language!
4. Chat Out Loud
Even though your dog can’t say “I love you” out loud, it doesn’t mean you can’t! Dogs actually really like hearing you talk. Even if they haven’t learned all the words you use they are really good at putting together the way that you speak! Your dog picks up on things you normally don’t consider- your tone of voice, facial expressions, body language, and really your overall vibe. So using your special happy voice when you talk to your dog actually makes them happier!
Now you can also feel a little less weird when you’re stuck at home and find yourself having full-on one-sided conversations with your dog. It helps you relieve some stress, helps fill in some of the quietness of the day, and let’s face it, it’s a little therapeutic. You’re not crazy for talking out loud with your pup- your dog is a great listener and loves hearing your workday chatter!
5. Give Them Confidence Through Training
Training is another way to show your love through quality time! It is an incredibly beneficial way to spend your time together, engage your dog’s brain, and even give them more confidence. It’s a great way to actually apply your newfound communication skills and work as a team. Whether it’s sit and stay, or training to compete in races and competitions, training will give you both the ability to be on the same page when it comes to expectations and learning new skills.
When your dog is more confident, not only does it behave better, it also becomes more adaptable in a wide range of situations! A well-trained dog knows exactly what you want and what you expect from it. They are more likely to approach new places without feeling the need to be hypervigilant, agitated, or anxious. Your dog also gains a better sense of independence, which is really important when it comes to your dog being comfortable when being cared for by other humans or when it comes time to be home alone. Spending extra time training your dog both shows them you love working together, and gives them new tools to approach new situations.
6. Spend Time Cuddling (on their terms)
But what’s the best way to cuddle your dog? First off, I want to mention that there are some stories out there that claim that it has been proven that dogs hate hugs. This isn’t necessarily true and shouldn’t be taken as scientific fact. There are situations where a dog may not be comfortable with a hug- if you had a stranger suddenly wrap their arms around you in an uncomfortable way, you wouldn’t be happy about it either. Recognizing this can help you be aware of your dog’s boundaries and ensure that you respect them. Especially if your dog is still warming up to you or has a less-than-stellar history when it comes to its past relationships with humans, loving your dog means always giving them what they need in the moment, not necessarily what you want.
The best way to make sure you’re giving high-quality cuddles to your pup is to let them choose when and how to do it. Some dogs may prefer to have more contact than others. Allowing your dog the choice of when to snuggle up and when to have their own space eliminates situations where your dog isn’t comfortable or happy to be around you. You can encourage your dog to sit with you with a special word or treat to let them know it’s snuggle time. And when it’s the right time for cuddles, your dog will truly love it!
7. Share Extra Physical Contact
Besides cuddles, there are optimal ways to do things when it comes to things like pets and scratches! Different dogs love different styles of petting. There are several different techniques you can try, and if you keep a close eye on your dog’s response, you can really find their specific sweet spot!
When it comes to the places your dog loves to be scratched, there are a few different spots you should try. Behind the ears and under the chin are always a good start. Some other sweet spots can be either your dog’s upper back or just above the base of the tail. Some dogs also like getting their chest scratched, but that’s kind of hit and miss- Cookie tolerates it but really prefers the back scratches, or right at the base of the ribs.
By the way, it’s important to be gentle and slow, and give your dog the option to opt out of physical contact if it’s uncomfortable. Allowing your dog to establish appropriate boundaries for itself helps it know that it is in a safe place. You should also teach children the right way to pet a dog- even if your dog is generally tolerant of children, knowing the appropriate way to pet a dog can prevent unfortunate situations where a less comfortable dog snaps at them when they don’t recognize or respect a strange pup’s boundaries.
Finally, grooming your dog is a great way to show that you love and care for it. Grooming is good for your dog’s physical health and is also a great way to promote bonding. Taking the time to brush your dog, even if it has short hair, can help stimulate natural, healthy oil production in its skin and give it a shinier coat. It removes dead hair, prevents extra shedding, and overall helps your dog to feel more comfortable in its own skin. Regularly caring for your dog’s skin and fur can also help you keep an eye out for health problems, so you can continue giving your pup the gift of good health. The act of grooming directly tells your dog that you love it and care for its well-being. Of course, having a clean, well-groomed pup makes it even nicer to snuggle up to too!
8. Put A Ring On It!
What’s your favorite way to show your pup you love them?
Whether it’s something you read here, or something you didn’t see us talk about, we’d love to hear your thoughts! I’m so glad to know you made it this far- it really shows how much you care about your favorite four-legged friend! Thanks for reading, I hope you stay healthy and happy, and I look forward to writing for you again next week!