Pup parents know that our dogs love us deeply, even though they do not express it in the same manner as humans do. Recently, behavioral research saddened dog lovers when it showed that most dogs don’t like to be hugged.
That’s not to say that our pups don’t enjoy receiving affection; they live for our love and approval! Try showing them your devotion in a language they can understand.
1. Gaze Deeply Into Their Eyes
Dr, Brian Hare, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at Duke University topped the NY Times bestseller list with his book, The Genius of Dogs. In an interview with Anderson Cooper this past Spring he told the dog-loving newsman that when your dog stares at you he is “hugging you with his eyes.”
This doesn’t mean you should stare deeply into the eyes of the dog that guards your local junkyard! Direct eye contact is still considered a challenge or threat in many situations. But with your own, trusted pet, try gazing into his eyes when the two of you are calmly relaxing.
Speak softly, stroke him gently, and maintain eye contact. According to Hare, these quiet moments stimulate the release of Oxytocin in the canine brain – the same hormone that bonds mother and child.
2. Raise Your Eyebrows
A Japanese study published in the September 2013 volume of Behavioral Processes found that dogs raise their eyebrows – especially the left one – when greeted by their owners. Using a high-speed camera, they scrutinized the facial movements of the dogs when seeing their owners vs. seeing strangers.
When the strangers came along to greet them, the test dogs displayed far less facial activity and most of it was right-sided. The significance is that the right brain controls the left side of the face and is tied to emotion, while the left brain controls the right side of the face and is tied to analytical behaviors.
The more facial activity you display when greeting your dog, the more they know they are loved. If you are able to raise one eyebrow (sadly, I cannot) then make it the left one. Your pup will really feel special!
3. Lean on Them
Not just figuratively, actually press your weight against your dog physically. Not to the point where he feels cornered (or crushed!) just a little to show that you trust him. This is something our pups do to display their affection for us that is often overlooked.
Have you ever had your pooch press up against the backs of your legs while you’re busy in the kitchen? That’s a type of dog hug! Try giving him one right back.
4. Let Them Sleep With You
Emory University neuroscientist Gregory Berns is the author of How Dogs Love Us and he has spent decades studying the canine brain using MRI. According to his research, sleeping with a human is the ultimate display of love and trust our dogs can give because that is when they are at their most vulnerable.
It also shows that they consider us a member of their pack. If you have a No Dogs in Bed policy, try snuggling up on the sofa or the floor for a few minutes each day to show your affection.
5. Rub Their Ears
A pat on the head might feel like a natural way to show praise, but rubbing your dog’s ears may express more love. When you rub your dog’s ears, their bodies produce endorphins. Endorphins are hormones that cause pleasure for your pup. A gentle ear massage in a circular motion is enough for your dog to know how you feel.
6. Spend Quality Time Together
Engaging in fun activities with your dog is a great way to help your bond grow. Going for walks, playing fetch, or working on training are all ways to show your dog you care. These activities bring you and your dog closer together.
When your dog sees you having fun, they’ll feel happy too. In addition to feeling loved, your dog will also get the exercise and mental stimulation they need.
7. Keep Using the “Baby Voice”
We all do it! As dog parents, it’s hard to resist having conversations in a high-pitched voice with our dogs. It might be embarrassing for us to admit, but dogs actually enjoy it. They respond well to the exaggerated emotions in your voice, and it helps them know you’re addressing them.
So, there’s no need to feel crazy if you talk to your dog. Odds are, their love for you grows even stronger when you do. Reading to dogs is another special way to bond with them.
8. Give Them a Loving Touch
Not every act of love has to be grand. You can show your dog you love them just by petting them. Touching a dog releases oxytocin for both of you, which is a hormone that makes you feel good. So, if your dog enjoys it, there’s no reason to hold back on the pets and belly rubs.
Adding extra touch to your dog’s routine, such as a massage, grooming session, or extended petting time, might make your dog feel more loved. Most dogs will happily welcome the extra attention.
9. Just Be Yourself
Throughout his extensive research Dr. Berns has found that although it’s sometimes hard for us to tell what our dogs are thinking, they definitely do not have the same problem reading our emotions! If your love is true for your pups, they already know it just by reading your voice, body language, and actions. So just keep doing what you’re doing and your dogs will reward you by showing their affections in their own special ways.