7 meaningful ways to love your dog
There are millions of ways to love your dog, but which ones are the most meaningful to your faithful companion? How can you express your love, honor, and concern for your dog in ways that he or she will understand and appreciate? As an integrative veterinarian, it’s my mission to help you help your dog live the healthiest, happiest life possible. What makes your dog happy? Here are seven meaningful ways that you can love your dog.
# 1 Love your dog by taking a daily walk (or even two) and making it part of your routine.
When dogs were in the wild, they traveled. They were on the move for miles and miles each day. Now in our homes, a dog’s only exercise may consist of running to the front door to greet us. But lack of physical activity is really hard on a dog’s body and spirit.
The health benefits of walking your dog can’t be overlooked. Over 50% of American dogs are overweight or obese. This can be caused by a dog getting too many calories (overfed), not getting enough exercise, or a combination of both.
In addition to the physical benefits of walking, it’s also emotionally and psychologically healthy–for both ends of the leash.
#2 Love your dog by giving them fresh water.
It may seem obvious, but fresh water is a simple way to show your dog love. We all have different numbers of dogs that live in our homes. My family has three dogs. When I give my dogs a bowl of fresh water–cold from the tap–they get really happy and excited about it. Almost as excited as if I’d given them a dog treat. Plus, staying hydrated is key to the health of many body systems in our dogs.
You can love your dog by:
- making a point to change your dog’s water often.
- filling your dog’s bowl with cool, fresh water.
- running your dog’s bowl through the dishwasher to disinfect it and get rid of any slime build-up.
#3 Love your dog by being consistent.
It’s important that we’re consistent in what we ask our dogs to do and the boundaries that we give them to live within. Recently, I hurt my dog’s feelings (and that may sound like anthropomorphism, but I could see it my little dog’s face) when I expressed disappointment for a behavior that he didn’t realize was off-limits. I was inconsistent. One time I let him get away with a behavior and the next time I discouraged it.
I’m not saying you can’t change the rules. What I am saying is to establish the rules and be consistent.
#4 Give your dog time to follow his nose!
If I had to give up one of my five senses (sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell), it would be an easy decision. I would give up my sense of smell.
Granted, I would really miss my sense of smell. For example, just the other day, my daughter was out of the shower wrapped in a fuzzy towel. I hugged her, put my nose in her hair, and nuzzled her for a moment.
And I said, “Wow! Your hair smells great!”
And my sweet, little girl said, “Thanks! It’s dog shampoo.”
I would miss moments like that.
But honestly, in my line of work as a veterinarian, it may be an asset to lose my sense of smell!
For dogs, however, their sense of smell is so keen. I’ve read various findings and, while I’ve never been able to actually find a definitive answer, a dog’s sense of smell is certainly many, many times greater than ours. (The numbers range from 1,000 to even a million times greater than our sense of smell.) Also, the part of the dog’s brain that’s related to smell is 40 times larger than ours.
A sense of smell is crucial to how dogs perceive the world around them. I believe that dogs derive great joy from picking up information from the world through sniffing.
So, when you’re on those walks with your furry family member, make sure to allow time for your dog to follow his nose. He’ll love taking time to stop and smell the roses!By giving your dog plenty of 'sniff time' in the great outdoors, you're giving them something most dogs truly love. -Dr. Julie BuzbyClick To Tweet
#5 Ear rubs. Chin scratches. Belly rubs.
Another little way we can love our dogs–and, incidentally, the people in our lives as well–is through physical touch. Not all dogs respond equally to physical touch, but I think taking a few minutes throughout the day to give a little ear rub, chin scratch, or belly rub is a meaningful way to show your dog your love. In less than 20 seconds, you can communicate with your dog in an affectionate way that’s meaningful, fun, and pleasurable for her.
#6 Love your dog by playing games together.
Our dog Luke, a five-year-old lab, pitbull mix who’s a sweet guy, plays a game with my daughter we call “Go Find.” He looks so happy and proud of himself while he’s playing it. Here’s what we do:
- My daughter chooses a hiding place. (When Luke was learning the game, she chose easy spots–behind a door or piece of furniture, for example.)
- I take Luke to a different place where he can’t see her hide. (Yes, I’m an accomplice in the game.)
- After Abigail has found a hiding spot, she calls to Luke.
- I say “Go find! Go find!”
- Over time, Luke has learned the cue and goes to find her. If he’s having trouble, Abigail calls his name.
- When Luke finds her, it’s a grand reunion! He’s found his person. He’s so happy and it’s fun for everybody.
So love your dog through playing games! It’s a way of investing quality time, stimulating your dog’s mind, and enjoying doing something fun together.
#7 Say “I love you”.
Well, here's what I know to be true. Dogs may not understand word for word what we're saying, but dogs absolutely understand our intent. - Dr. Julie BuzbyClick To Tweet
Say “I love you” to your dog. Some skeptics–probably not anyone reading this post because you understand me and we share common ground–may scoff and suggest that dogs do not understand the words “I love you.”
When we communicate through language, we convey an intent, too.
I’ve had many, many deaf dogs as my patients over the years. (At this stage of my life, my patients are predominantly senior dogs.) Many times as I’m examining a dog, the owner shares that the dog can’t hear me. I nod in understanding and continue whispering sweet nothings in the dog’s ears. I explain that, while the dog might not be hearing my words, by simply speaking them, I am communicating an intent. Dogs pick up on that. I have no doubt.
Whether it’s “I love you” or other heartfelt phrases, words of affirmation really do mean a lot to our dogs. I believe this.
Thank you for loving your dog!
Belly rubs. Games. Walks. Loving words. All of your actions and words speak volumes to your dog! They all say “I love you” in ways that your dog will appreciate and understand. That’s happiness for your dog.
Did you know? You can listen to my podcast to hear more!
The complete story of 7 Little Ways to Love Your Dog is available on my podcast. In addition to sharing more advice on ways to love your dog, I recount the late-night “slushy emergency” that was the inspiration for the post. I hope you’ll listen in as I talk about driving to our neighborhood gas station in search of a blue-raspberry slushy for my feverish son who looked so sad and said, “Mom, can I please have a slushy?”
Tap the green arrow, to listen…
What are some meaningful ways that you love your dog? Let’s build a list together.
Please comment below.