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 best seller 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 into analytical behaviors.
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Basically, 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.
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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. Give Them a (Fun) Job!
Most dog breeds were bred with a specific goal in mind. Embedded deep in your dog’s DNA is a deep desire to perform a task, likely using their nose. (which is why we’re big fans of nose work!)
Puzzle or treat dispensing toys are a great way to exercise your dog’s brain and show you love and recognize their need for this kind of engagement.
6. 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.
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