As dog owners, we're often guilty of making our faithful companions too much the center of our lives for the simple reason that we just love them that much. These furry, adorable, occasionally troublesome creatures bring so much joy into our lives, and we really want them to know that.
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But do they know that? Do our dogs understand how deep our affection runs? Do they really know that we love them?
The answer, you'll be happy to know, is yes. Our dogs do understand our love for them, on several levels, in fact. Our canine companions can take signals from our behavior, our actions, and even our inflection to understand that we do, indeed, feel deeply for them.
The bond between dogs and their humans is strong, and it has a biological basis.
According to Dr. Brian Hare, a canine cognition specialist, our dogs do know that we love them thanks to a special neural connection. "Dogs and humans have a very special relationship, where dogs have actually hijacked the human oxytocin bonding pathway that is normally reserved for our babies. When you stare at your dog, both your oxytocin levels go up, the same as when you pet them and play with them," he explained to People Magazine.
That makes sense, because we definitely feel a surge of joy when our dogs make eye contact with us. We're glad to hear that there's some scientific explanation for why playing with our dogs makes us and them feel so happy.
Dr. Hare goes on to say that when our brains are flooded with these chemicals, it just strengthens our love. Dr. Hare explained that the flood of oxytocin, "makes you both feel good and reinforces your bonding. Does your dog ever stare at you for no reason? They are just 'hugging you' with their eyes."
Well that might possibly be the sweetest thing we've ever heard. And we hope our pups know that we are hugging them back with our eyes. Although, usually we can't resist hugging them with our arms, too.
According to evolutionary psychologist, Dr. Deirdre Barrett, our dogs probably dream about us, too.
While Barrett told People Magazine that any theories about animal dreams are purely speculation, she feels confident that animal dreams probably don't differ that much from human dreams. She explained that dogs have a similar sleep cycle to humans, including rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is when our dreams happen.
Dr. Barrett explained, "Humans dream about the same things they're interested in by day, though more visually and less logically. There's no reason to think animals are any different. Since dogs are generally extremely attached to their human owners, it's likely your dog is dreaming of your face, your smell and of pleasing or annoying you."
While we know it isn't necessarily a fact, we hope that we fill our dog's dreams, because that's just another sign that our dogs understand our love for them.
Even though our dogs know that we love them, there are ways to show a little extra love that they'll definitely understand.
Whether you want to make sure your dog is feeling extra special one day or just because you want them to feel special every day, there are a few simple things you can do that communicate your love clearly for your pet.
- Work on Training: the positive reinforcement of training helps build your dog's confidence and strengthens the bond between you. It also shows your pup that you are the provider of the things he or she craves.
- Rub Your Dog's Ears: your dog's ears are full of nerve endings that send impulses throughout its body that release endorphins, the love and happiness hormones.
- Feed Your Dog By Hand: similar to the rewards in training, this practice strengthens the bond between you and your dog and makes you into the provider. It also helps reduce any food aggression, which is a side benefit, particularly if you're training a puppy.
- Tell Them You Love Them: even if your dog can't understand your words, they can often understand your tone and intention, so expressing your love can help pass on your feelings to them.
As long as you're showing your dog love and affection, they will understand it.
Although, if you want to throw in an extra treat or belly rub now and then to really drive home your point, they definitely won't say no.