Dog guardians know their companions have a rich emotional life, and there is science to back that up. A 2012 study done by the University of London found that dogs show empathy to people who show signs of distress. Showing love to your dog involves responsible pet guardianship, regular medical care, companionship, and affection. Like people, dogs are individuals, and the unique things you do for your dog will let him know he's part of the family.
Touch and Physical Affection
Dogs respond to touch. They enjoy pets, hugs, and play. Mary Dell Harrington, certified pet therapist in the New York metro area with Pet Partners, advises owners to reach out and touch their dogs to deepen their bond. Harrington recounts how her young daughter grew up around their chocolate lab who enjoyed her gentle caresses, ear scratches, and belly rubs. These actions can be as important as toys for your dog's emotional well-being. Dog trainer and author Cesar Millan also emphasizes the importance of affection, specifically when a dog is calm or has just demonstrated good behavior.
Companionship and Outside Excursions
All dogs, especially large breeds, need frequent exercise and time in the outdoors. They also need companionship. Let your dog know he's loved by spending time with him doing activities that contribute to his well-being. Regular walks and playtime will help him physically and mentally, and help you develop a stronger bond. Even if you have a large backyard and amenities for your pooch, you should limit the amount of time he spends on his own. Your dog should spend most of his time with his family to increase his feelings of contentment.
Medical Care and Nutrition
Caring for your dog's physical well-being through regular medical visits and good food is part of responsible guardianship; it's also one way to show your dog you love him. You can take steps to reduce your dog's stress at the vet clinic by bringing along treats and a toy. Going to the clinic for a social visit, to meet with the staff and receive attention, can make the vet a less scary place for your pooch. Reduce his pain by treating any injuries, infections or other discomfort he experiences.
Family Time and Bonding
Dogs are an important part of the family, and family members can reinforce this fact by including them in family events. Harrington describes how her daughter would make a homemade Valentine's Day card for her dog every year. Many families purchase Christmas gifts for family pets as well as for the human members of the family. Taking your dog on vacation, and making provisions for his well-being by bringing his necessary comfort items and securing pet-friendly accommodations, is another way to bond with your pet.
- ASPCA: How to Show Your Dog You Really Love Him
- Humane Society of the United States: Ten Dog Care Essentials
- Cesar's Way: The Importance of Giving Your Dog Affection
- Live Science: Canine Comfort -- Do Dogs Know When You're Sad?
- ASPCA: Fear of the Veterinary Clinic
- ASPCA: Four Must-Dos for Vacationing With Your Pet!