Most of us dog lovers and pet parents have an incessant desire to tell our furry pals just how much we love them. Sure we pamper them with the best dog beds and dog toys as well as give them only the best possible dog food of the highest possible quality, but do they really understand what our gestures mean? One of the things that dog owners ask, and we are pretty sure you’ve asked this yourself, is how can we say ‘I love you’ to our dogs in a manner that it understands what we’re trying to convey. As it turns out, it really isn’t that difficult for dogs to understand the concept of human love and affection for their furry four-legged companions. Here are 5 ways you can easily say ‘I love you’ to your dog in such a way that it understands what you’re saying.
Talk to Your Dog
We always have this thinking that dogs do not understand a word that comes out from our mouths. We believe that even if we train them and associate certain behaviors with the sound of the word that we use as magic cues, they don’t necessarily associate it with the emotional content of the word.
Boy, are we wrong! There is now conclusive evidence to show that dogs can comprehend human language far better than we gave them credit for. This is not to say that they understand every word there is in the dictionary or in our own vocabulary. However, what is quite notable is that dogs can somehow understand the meaning of certain words.
So, when you tell your dog that you love it, it will immediately understand it, right?
Well, not exactly. As it turns out, MRI images of a dog’s brain are not that different from what we have in our thick skull. The way dogs process language is surprisingly similar to how we develop our own language. Their right side of the brain works to process the emotional content of any given word while the left hemisphere is involved in processing the word for its meaning. Only when the left and right sides of the dog’s brain produce the same result will you expect understanding of any given language.
Unfortunately, processing the emotional content of words is not very straightforward. However, the tone or manner in which the word was delivered – the sound created – is often picked up by the right brain and processed for emotional content.
For example, if you say “I love you” to your dog in a neutral tone just like giving it a command, then the left side of the brain will process it to mean ‘love’. Sadly, the tone of the word ‘I love you’ is not processed by the dog’s right brain as an indication of the emotional content of the word. Since there is no congruence between the results of both left and right brain language processing, the dog will not be able to understand it.
But if you try to say “I love you” to your pet in a happy and delightful tone, its right brain will interpret this as such. Together with the word meaning processing of the left brain, your dog will understand that you really mean it.
As such, whenever you talk to your dog, it is imperative that you be very mindful of the tone or the sound in which the word is delivered. You can say “I love you” while giving your pet its favorite yummy dog treats or even allowing it to play with its dog toys.
In other words, when you say “I love you” to your doggy, make sure to deliver it in such a way that it conveys all the emotional meanings of the word ‘love’ such as warmth, affection, happiness, delight, and all the other positive words you can think of.
Listen and Be Mindful of Your Own Body Language
Talking to your pet and telling it “I love you” is one thing. But, did you know that dogs want you to listen, too? They may not have the faculty to talk to you in a comprehensible manner, but they do want you to listen to what their bodies are telling you.
The thing is that dogs don’t only rely on the sounds of the words that we make. They also look at our own body language and facial expressions to process the words we are telling them.
Let us go back to our example above. You are giving your canine its dog treats yet the manner in which you give its yummy snack is such a way that you’re shoving it as if you don’t want your dog to have it. When you give the dog treats standing up and then telling your dog just how much you love it, there’s a chance that it may not believe you. Why? Try imagining someone telling you this towering above you and you are lying down looking up. How will that make you feel? Your left brain knows what this person is telling you, but your right brain is telling you it doesn’t add up.
If you’ve been ever proposed marriage to, then you know that the best way to convey love and affection is when the person telling you this is slightly lower than you or at least at eye level. Have you ever seen someone get proposed to with the guy standing taller and looking down on his future fiancée and wife?
The same is true when saying “I love you” to your dog. Not only do you have to be mindful of the way you say it, you also have to watch for your own body language that may tell the dog’s right brain that something is not making sense.
Your facial expression matters, too. It should brighten up whenever you tell your dog “I love you” so that its right brain will interpret it correctly. Will you believe someone who tells you he loves you if he has a poker face? We didn’t think so.
Since your body language is crucial to your pet’s understanding of what you’re trying to tell it, then it is also imperative that you listen to your dog’s own body language. Watch its tail as it wags or move from side to side. There are times when the tail wagging is slow and deliberate while at other times it’s more frantic and frenzied.
Learn your dog’s body language and try to adjust the way you show how much you love your pet.
Go for a Walk and Share the Experience
Walking your dog doesn’t only take care of its exercise requirements. It is also a means of saying ‘I love you’ to your pet. No living organism would ever want to be cooped up or restricted in a confined environment. You may have a nice home complete with all the dog accessories like an automatic fetch machine, dog treadmill, and a gamut of dog toys to keep your hound entertained and pleased. The real world offers a lot of experiences that these temporary things can provide. As such, when you take your dog for a walk, make sure to integrate meaningful rewards.
We are always taught to walk our dogs with us leading the way. We need to control their movements, where they are going basically for their own safety and as a means of showing respect for others. However, this is not really different from keeping them at home. The walk should be both physically and mentally stimulating.
If you walk your dog just for the sake of walking as a means of exercise, don’t expect your dog to look at you lovingly. For your pet, you are walking it simply because you need to and not because you want to and you like your dog to experience the many wonders of the outside world.
But if you integrate rewards in the walk, you will find that your dog will be able to interpret this as your means of showing care, affection, and love. You can give your pet a dog treat or two every 5 minutes of walk or so. You can even take a break from the walk and allow your pet to explore the beautiful things in the surroundings. Just make sure that it’s safe for you and your pet, though.
If you’re walking in the park or even in an open field, why not let your dog run free or even entice it to play with its toy ball? An automatic fetch machine would definitely come in handy. Throw a dog Frisbee and watch your pet jump as high as it can and grasp the flying disc with its mouth. Roll a tennis ball or throw it as hard as you possibly can and watch your pet run after it. For us, this is just playtime. But for your dog, it means more than that. It is telling your dog that you are taking this moment to share the outdoors with your pet.
Don’t forget its water when you go for a walk.
Technically, taking your dog for a walk is a golden opportunity to say “I love you”. Spending precious time with your dog is often enough for dogs to understand just how much they mean to you. So, the next time you bring Fido to the park or anywhere else you usually go for a walk, plan it well to make it a more memorable, more meaningful, and more special experience for your pet.
Establish Deep yet Soft Eye Contact and Raise Your Brows
We said that facial expressions matter when talking to your dog, especially when telling it you love it. But there’s a more specific facial expression that is guaranteed to make your dog feel loved.
Raising your eyebrows is believed to send the same message to the right brain of the dog as saying “I love you” meaningfully. Studies show that dogs that love their owners will typically raise their eyebrows, specifically the left, whenever they are around their human masters. This is often seen together with a warm and vibrant smile on the dog’s face.
That being said, it won’t hurt to do the same. Slightly raise your left eyebrow whenever you tell your dog you love it.
Now add to this establishing soft eye contact and you can easily convey the message of love to your pet.
It is not known why a soft gaze can elicit warm feelings of love in dogs. What is known is that when they do make a soft gaze with their owners, the levels of oxytocin in dogs are increased. In the scientific community, the hormone oxytocin which is primarily involved in the contraction of the uterus to facilitate the process of giving birth, is also known as the “love hormone”. Its levels in the body shoot up whenever folks bond socially or snuggle up. The same phenomenon is seen in dogs.
Get Real Close to Your Dog
One of the best ways to tell your dog “I love you” is by getting real close to it. Cuddle it. Let it sleep beside you on your bed. Dogs that have their bodies lying close to their owners’ have been shown to have elevated levels of oxytocin. As we have already mentioned in the preceding point, this hormone happens to be elevated during moments of tenderness, intimacy, or social bonding. Your dog may not know what oxytocin is, but it sure will be very happy being close to you.
Aside from the message of love, getting really close with your dog can also give them a sense of warmth, safety, and comfort. They will feel as if their mothers were there to cuddle them all over again. And nothing can beat a mother’s love for her young. This message is conveyed to your dog every time you snuggle up close to it or draw it closer to your body for a much-needed cuddle.
To tell your dog “I love you”, you’ve got to really mean it so your dog will understand and believe you. It must be evident in the tone of your voice, your facial expression, your body language, and the other small things that you do to make your dog feel special.