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How to Show Your Dog You Love Them: 9 Great Ways

Kristin Hitchcock

By Kristin Hitchcock

man cuddling a dog

We all want our dogs to know that we love them. However, they can’t speak our language, and some things that we humans consider love signals may be off-putting to dogs. Understanding dog body language is important for communicating with our pups.

Here, we’ve listed several ways that you can let your dog know that they are loved. Many of these are simple adjustments in the ways that you interact with your canine. While they don’t take much time or effort, they can help you communicate your love a bit more clearly.

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The 9 Tips on How to Show Your Dog You Love Them

1. Give Kisses

red-haired woman kissing pappilion dog outdoors
Image Credit: Reshetnikov_art, Shutterstock

Surprisingly, many dogs seem to enjoy human kisses. While dogs obviously don’t engage in this behavior themselves, there is evidence that kisses from their owners are linked to a rise in oxytocin levels in dogs.1 In other words, when dogs get kissed, they are a bit happier.

That said, you probably shouldn’t go around kissing every dog you meet. Not only is it unsanitary, but some dogs may also interpret the closeness of your face as a threat. However, if you’re already with a dog that you know and love, you probably don’t have anything to worry about when it comes to kissing. Plus, your dog might enjoy the attention.

We’re often told to avoid things like kisses and hugs when interacting with our dogs. While none of these things are natural behaviors for our dogs, domestic canines have evolved next to people for thousands of years. They’ve had a chance to get used to how humans do things, so many of them are much better at understanding us than you may think. Dogs have even evolved to eat a diet similar to humans because that’s what was most available to their ancestors.

2. Schedule in Cuddles

When we get busy, it is easy to forget to pay attention to your dog. We recommend scheduling a regular cuddle time. Preferably, this should be tied to something that you already do. For instance, you may want to stay in bed for an extra 10 minutes for early-morning cuddles, or you can cuddle your dog while you watch the evening news. New habits are often easier to form if we attach them to a habit that is already there.

This schedule ensures that your dog always gets at least a bit of attention, even on days where you’re too busy for much else. The extra cuddles can be important for your wellbeing too, since physical affection with dogs is known to lower a human’s stress levels.

3. Ensure That Your Dog Has Plenty of Mental Stimulation

border collie puppy practicing tricks
Image credit: Geertes, Shutterstock

Everyone knows that most dogs need physical exercise. While some dogs are more energetic than others, they all need to move around at least a little bit each day. However, dogs also need to exercise their mind. Again, this varies from breed to breed. More intelligent breeds need quite a bit of mental stimulation to stay happy. Otherwise, they may try to make their own fun, which often leads to destructive behavior. If you’re wondering why your dog insists on digging out of the fence, this is probably the answer.

The easiest way to ensure that your canine gets enough mental stimulation is to take part in obedience training and plenty of playtime. Training sessions are a great way to bond with your pet and exercise their brain. Many dogs will master the basic commands in only a few months, so you’ll likely need to move onto tricks and more involved commands. If you’re interested in canine sports, that is a great option as well.

When you’re gone, you can provide them mental stimulation with puzzle toys. These often require mental power for the dogs to figure out, so they’re great for keeping them entertained when you aren’t home.

4. Listen to Your Dog

While our dogs obviously don’t talk, they do try to communicate through body language. The best way to love a dog is to pay attention to what they’re attempting to tell us. This can help you respond to their cues easier, which will make your communication much more efficient.

Dog language is often more complicated than most people think. For example, while many people interpret panting as a sign that their dog is hot, it can also be a pain response or a sign of anxiety. Understanding the sometimes confusing parts of dog language can help you respond to your dog more appropriately.

There are many resources out there for learning about dog body language. However, you should be careful when choosing which resource you use, as there is a great deal of misconception out there. For instance, it is common for resources to state that eye contact with a dog is a sign of dominance. However, this has been long disproven. In fact, dominance theory in general has been disproven, even among wolves and similar wild canines.

5. Use Your Face

woman looking at her doberman
Image Credit: Pixabay

Studies have shown that dogs are good at reading human facial expressions. This is a result of thousands of years of evolution spent next to humans. Therefore, if you show your dog you love them with your face, they’re likely to understand.

Of course, dogs are also likely to tell if you’re faking your facial expressions. You probably aren’t going to fool your dog into thinking that you’re laidback and calm when you aren’t. That said, don’t be afraid to let your dog know how you feel with your facial expressions.

6. Schedule Playtime

Dogs are fairly specific about whom they play with, especially as they get older. Playing can be a considerable bonding activity for many dogs, especially if they tend to be more energetic and playful to begin with.

While you may not feel like playing after a long day at work, even a few minutes can be all your dog needs to feel loved. Consider having a regular rotation of toys as well, which helps keep them fresh and new for longer. After your dog hasn’t seen a toy in a few weeks, they’ll likely consider it to be completely new.

7. Go on Walks

a labrador walking with his owner in the park
Image Credit: dekazigzag, Shutterstock

While many dogs need walks for physical exercise, these can also be great for bonding with your pooch. One of the best ways for different dogs to bond is through shared walks. The same is true for people and dogs. You’re also taking care of your dog’s physical and mental needs while walking.

The most successful walks are those that go slowly so your dog can sniff around.  While it may look like your dog is doing nothing when they’re sniffing, they’re actually using their brains quite a bit. This helps them meet their mental exercise needs, and they get to do it all with you!

8. Focus on Physical Affection

Physical affection is the easiest way to communicate love with your dog. There is a reason that our first instinct is to pet a dog — it is a sure sign of love and affection. Petting feels quite good to dogs, especially if you’re scratching in places that they can’t reach. It is like getting a massage for people. Oxytocin is released, which is the bonding and happiness chemical.

Simply scratching behind your dog’s ears when on a walk is an easy way to show them affection without adding much to your everyday routine. Remembering to pet your dog whenever you get the chance can go a long way to increase your bond and make your dog feel loved.

9. Use Proper Training Techniques

teaching a dog to lie down
Image Credit: encierro, Shutterstock

There are many training methods out there. However, some are based on the outdated dominance theory, which has been disproven many times. Instead, you should rely on positive reinforcement for training. Attempting to assert dominance over your dog is likely only to result in confusion on your dog’s part, since this is a foreign concept to them. This can ruin your dog’s relationship with you and lessen how much your dog trusts you.

If you need help learning how to properly train your dog, there are many resources on the internet. If you want to use an in-person trainer, be sure you ask them about their training philosophy to ensure that they are following modern, science-based training techniques.

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Chances are that you’ve been doing many of these tips already. After all, most owners readily enjoy petting their dogs and taking them out for walks.

Still, we hope that you’ve learned something new and will use these ideas to become closer to your dog. Remember to get to know your pet’s body language better! This will prove to your dog that you understand them and most definitely love them.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: ASDF_MEDIA, Shutterstock

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