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We love our dogs so much. They are truly part of the family. But because they don't speak our language, it's hard to tell them how much we love them. Fortunately, there there are some ways to show our affection that our pups can understand. Here are a few:
Our dogs use their eyes to communicate a lot of things, including expressing affection. One way they do so is by making eye contact and engaging in a loving gaze with us, which research has shown releases oxytocin in both humans and dogs. So you, too, can use eye contact to tell your dog you love them. Just be careful because forcefully staring into a dog's eyes can be interpreted as a challenge or aggression. So try gazing kindly into your dogs eyes while petting him or her gently and speaking softly.
Japanese behavioral scientists have found through research that dogs who feel bonded to someone raise their eyebrows (especially the left one). You can also use this method to show your dog that you feel bonded to him or her. Try raising your eyebrows (the left one more, if possible) while smiling in a relaxed way to show your affection.
Some dogs lean against us to display their love and trust, in addition to seek affection. They may lean against your legs while you're standing or press themselves against you while you're sitting. You can lean into your dog to show your affection for them as well. But it's not so easy to do so while standing, so try leaning against them while you're both on the couch.
MRIs have shown that dogs can understand human language better than we thought. The technology has even shown that dogs experience the most happiness when they hear speech in a praising tone or actual words of praise. So having a one-way conversation with your dog is a great way to display your affection. Try using "baby-talk" because research shows that dogs actually enjoy it. In addition, you can read to your dog. Reading has been shown to calm anxious or high-energy dogs, as well as help shy dogs open up.
Dogs enjoy being close to their family - both figuratively and literally. Being physically close makes them feel safe and secure (not to mention the added benefit of warmth). Many dogs love to cuddle, so try snuggling up to your pup on the couch, bed or floor. In addition, letting your dog sleep with you is a significant display of affection. This is because we are at our most vulnerable while sleeping, so it tells our pups we trust them. If you prefer not to let your dog on the bed, you can also take a nap together on the couch for the same effect.
It may seem obvious that petting or scratching your dog is a great way to display your affection for him or her. But there's some science behind this. Studies have shown that simply touching your dog releases oxytocin in both you and your pup. So try giving a good scratch session or gentle massage to express your love. Even grooming your dog can get the message across.
You can go one step further and gently massage your dog's ears to express your love to them. Dog ears are packed with nerve endings and feeling receptors that send impulses through the body. So rubbing their ears results in the release of feel-good hormones like oxytocin (which promotes feelings of love and bonding) and endorphins (which relieve pain and promote feelings of pleasure).
Some dog experts suggest that feeding your dog by hand can increase the bond between you two. This is because it's an intimate experience that displays trust in your dog and tells them that you are the provider of food. Feeding by hand can be especially beneficial with puppies. And although the significance of this may decrease as a dog ages, you can still offer treats by hand for similar effects.
Spending time doing things your dog enjoys is an excellent way to tell them you care. This can be more routine activities like daily walks and playing together. Or it can be more special adventures like hiking, going to a dog park or something else altogether. No matter what, your dog will come away feeling happy and loved (not to mention less hyper and antsy from the energy he or she got to expend).
Training is another great way for you and your dog to build trust, work on communication and display affection. This is because it's full of positive reinforcement, which makes you the provider of something your dog enjoys - be it food, treats, praise, physical contact or playtime. They'll also be able to recognize that they make you happy when they obey your command (by reading your body language, facial expressions and tone of voice). So you'll both be making each other happy, which strengthens your bond further.