Those three words. We reserve them for the special-est people in our lives, and we yearn to hear them from those we love. But what happens when our furry little loved ones don't speak the same language as us? While we ponder over whether dogs will say "I love you" or "Gib me treat" if they were able to speak the human language, we thought it would be fun to explore how we hoomans show love to our dogs.
Humans typically perceive love through five ways, explains Dr Gary Chapman in his bestselling book. Preferences vary from person to person, but they usually fall within the categories of words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch. Because that's how we're conditioned to also show love to each other, we invariably do the same with our canine loved ones. Here's some ways we've seen this happen over the course of our years in the pet industry running Ohpopdog.
1. Word of affirmation: Using praise as part of positive reinforcement training
The proverbial "good boy/girl" strikes back! Nothing shows that you love your dog more than using positive, humane methods of communicating with them what we want. In positive reinforcement training, pups are taught desired behaviors (such as "sit") through repetitive reinforcements of that behavior with rewards as a feedback mechanism. The idea is that if the dog does something that you want him/her to do, they get a reward for it, and over consistent repetitions the dogs forms a positive association that this particular behavior results in good things coming their way. The reward is usually a treat for food-motivated dogs, but can also be praise, petting or a toy.
For those who are thinking that your relationship with your dog is at risk of turning into a transactional one or that your dog is going to balloon in size with such a training method, don't worry. Praise (such as exclaiming "good boy!!" in your baby-talk voice) is usually coupled together with the treat reward such that the dog also associates the praise as a reward. Over time, praising without having to treat often can become a significant reward for even food-motivated dogs, especially for behaviors that they are already familiar with.
2. Acts of service: Taking care of their daily needs
Whether it's taking the pup for twice-daily walks or preparing meal times to be fed in our gorgeous collection of non-slip bowls, small but essential acts of service really show the love we have for our dogs. The moment we welcome them into our homes, they immediately become family, and we shower upon them the same care as we would any family member of ours. The untold sacrifices that we make - rushing home early to make sure they get lunch on time, braving the cold and rain so that they can do their business, setting aside hefty sums so that they can get the best medical care possible - our dogs will never understand nor comprehend, but that's alright as long as we see that derpy grin and helicopter tail day after day.
3. Receiving gifts: Birthday presents
Special occasions like birthdays or adoptdays call for special gifts, and cake is definitely on the agenda for this one! Choosing a cake is an entire experience of its own - going from opting for premium meat selections to requesting for customized designs - all in the name of celebrating Fido's big day! Besides picking up a birthday cake at pet bakeries like Knibbles, we often show our love by bundling that together with toys, treats and even the latest capes to look fab in birthday photos. Planning the perfect experience for our pup's birthday not only makes the day an eventful one, it also creates beautiful memories that we'll remember for life and gives us an opportunity to show our love through gifts.
4. Quality time: Weekend playdates
We spend the bulk of our time working and our dogs spend the bulk of their time watching us work. Hey, somebody's got to pay the bills and be able to afford the treats right? So when it comes to the weekends, the roles are reversed and we center our weekend plans around making sure our pups have fun. Cue a trip to the groomers (Bubbly Petz and Pawfessional are two of our favs) to shape up that fluff, pick out the perfect brunch date outfit, and then head down to meet some besties at the usual dog-friendly cafe! If your dog loves socializing and interacting with others, weekend playdates are a great way to spend some quality time together!
| Photos by @honeyidressedthepug
5. Physical touch: Tummy time and head scratchies
What's the commonality between being favorably mentioned in a speech by your country's President and a dog that flops over in front of you asking for belly rubs? They're both a great honor (with the latter being slightly more so than the former)! Being able to say "I love you" to your dog through tummy time and head scratchies is one of the ways we feel most connected to our furry companion, and there's a certain closeness and intimacy to it that speaks of the relationship between you and them. Because we can't understand what the hell the dogs are barking about most times, having touch as a mutually understood way of showing affection is something we fall back on a lot as pet owners. And to know if dogs are enjoying that physical affection, give just a little of it and see whether they ask you for more - usually if they want more they'd give you a nudge with their very wet nose or their paw.
As pet owners, we care for our furry loved ones unconditionally and always want the best for them. Expressing our love for them in the various ways in which we know how brings us closer together as a family unit, and even though being a pawrent comes with sacrifices, ultimately seeing them happy and healthy makes it all worth it.