National Pet Day is April 11 this year. How will you show love to your dog? Although chocolate and flowers might thrill your wife or girlfriend, your dog won’t be impressed (and besides, chocolate is worse than bad for dogs).
It would be great if your furbaby could stay with you all day, wouldn’t it? Unfortunately, unless you’re retired or you work for one of a handful of companies that allow you to bring your dog to work, chances are you have to leave him alone at home for 9 or more hours every day. And every day you are faced with his sad eyes when you walk out the door.
There are lots of ideas for making them feel special on this annual day set aside to celebrate the relationship between furbabies and their pawrents. We’ve gathered 10 of the best ways to show love to your dog, in ways he’s sure to understand.
1. Give him a loving look
In dog language, looking directly into a strange dog’s eyes is a challenge. But your pet recognizes you as his leader, so gazing deeply into his eyes sends a different message. Dr. Brian Hare, author of The Genius of Dogs and Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at Duke University says that your dog’s stare is “hugging you with his eyes.” He says that during these peaceful junctures, oxytocin is released into the brain. This is the same hormone that is present when a mother and child bond.Not all dogs like to be hugged, but they all understand the “visual hug” that looking into their eyes with affection provides.
2. Rub his ears
Dr. Allen Schoen, director of the Center for the Advancement of Veterinary Alternative Therapies says when you rub your dog’s ears, he’s “getting high on his own hormones.” That’s because a dog’s ears are full of nerves that release endorphins when rubbed, making your buddy feel mellow and relaxed.
3. Let your face show your love
Behavioral Process published a study that focused on how dog’s faces respond to their owners. Interestingly, dog’s lift their left eyebrow when greeted by their owners, but didn’t respond that way when seeing strangers, and most of their facial response was right-sided. The idea is that since the right side of the brain involves emotion, the left side of the face shows those feelings. Try raising your eyebrows—especially your left one, if you can—to convey your feelings of love to Fido.
4. Snuggle up
Ideally, sharing your bed with your him is the best way to show love to your dog. Packs in the wild all pile up on each other to sleep, providing safety and comfort to each other. A recent American Pet Products Association survey found that almost half of dogs in America sleep in their owners’ beds. If you’re not allergic and it doesn’t disturb your sleep, it’s a terrific way to let your dog know he’s a valued part of your family.
5. Use your body to touch
Although some dogs don’t like to be hugged, they virtually all like it when you press your body firmly and gently us against theirs. Perhaps your dog leans on you when you’re standing in the kitchen, or against your legs when you’re sitting in a chair. Don’t crowd or crush your pup, though. Dr. Michele Wan found that ears, eyes, lips, tongue, even the way a dog leans can all reveal what a dog thinks about something like a human hugging them, and although they don’t particularly like hugs, they enjoy the feeling of leaning against their human.
6. Take a walk
This one is obvious. Dogs get so excited when you pick up their leashes, and the question “Do you want to go outside?” elicits wild joy. But perhaps your furry friend is small and tires easily. That doesn’t mean you have to cut your walk short. Consider a doggy backpack! Tuck the little guy in and continue exploring with him along for the ride.
7. Give him a good brushing
If just touching your dog releases oxytocin, imagine what a good brushing or massage will do for him! Use gentle strokes with a brush that doesn’t pull his hair or dig into his skin. Don’t tug and pull at mats, either. Use a coat conditioner or mat spray and leave it on for a few minutes before carefully working the mats out with your fingers.
8. Tell a story
One of the kindest and most loving things you can do is talk to your dog. He needs to hear your voice, and believe it or not, dogs can have an understood vocabulary of about 165 words for the average dog, according to Stanley Coren, and dog intelligence expert. Your intonation is as important, if not more so, than what you say. So talk to your dog, and keep it fun and encouraging.
9. Leave toys and treats when you’re gone
Imagine having to stay within the four walls of your home for hours on end with nothing to do. Anxiety can set in and make your furbaby very unhappy. Interactive toys keep him entertained and mentally challenged through the day. But put away toys like rawhide chews when you’re not there, as they can be swallowed and allow the dog to choke. Many dogs experience separation anxiety; having something positive to do, like work on puzzle toys or finding unexpected treats can really help.
10. Use a remote dog monitor
We’ve saved perhaps the best for last. Remotely interacting with your dog when you’re not home can make all the difference in his life. Furbo Dog Camera lets you see, talk to, and reward your dog even while you are gone. It works with a mobile app and was designed with the input of veterinarians. Curious to know what he’s doing when you’re not around? This camera will help you find out and join in the fun with him!
Have a wonderful National Pet Day this year. Wishing you and your furbaby a full 365 days full of love and happy times together!