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The Gift Of Love

The Most Meaningful Ways To Show Your Love To Your Best Friend

"And they called it puppy love." — Paul Anka, Puppy Love

The relationship we have with our dogs and cats is fascinating. As a practicing Veterinarian of over 35 years, I have learned so much about how amazing and special our furry companions are and how impactful they are to our well-being. 
Valentine’s Day is a special time of year, during which we make efforts to show those important to us just how special and loved they are. There are literally mounds of data proving that having a dog companion in your life is beneficial to you, your family, and the community. One of the benefits of falling in love with our dogs is that you are the recipient of boundless, unconditional, non-judgmental love. They are our confidant and companion, walking alongside us, supporting us while we plod through life. In this relationship, we benefit by being more active in our daily lives and are happier doing it. We experience better sleep, less stress, and lower blood pressure, resulting in general better health and greater resistance to disease and illness.

Dogs bring so much joy into our lives. Whether on Valentine’s Day, birthdays, or just because, our four-legged companions need and deserve some love!

Here are a few ways to show your dog affection and appreciation.


Go ahead and stay in with your dog. Snuggle up on the couch and watch a good movie – I recommend Art of Racing in the Rain, A Dog’s Purpose, Secret Life of Pets, and Hotel for Dogs. Give your pup some extra attention with a dog massage. Massages are just as beneficial for dogs as they are for humans to improve circulation, reduce stress, decrease pain, and improve the bond between you and your dog.

You don’t have to get too creative here cause simply “hanging out” together is great.  Dogs have been our friends for centuries. They love hanging out with us around the house or even running errands with us. You will love the company, and it will be a great bonding moment for you both!

Our dogs love it when we pet them while relaxing in front of the T.V. or reading a good book, but every now and then, they need your undivided attention. Play with them somewhere free of distractions. They will love your focused presence.  Most dogs love being face-to-face with their humans, and it's said that spending time snuggling with dogs can actually keep humans happy and healthy, too. Instead of making your pup jump on the bed or couch, set up a comfy spot on the floor to lay with him and cuddle up together.

2. Have warm and Hearty Conversations with your dog.

This may seem a little strange, but it’s a great way to bond with your dog. They may not understand exactly what you’re saying, but they will pick up on your tone and affection. Dogs can’t talk, but you may be surprised at how much they understand. The average dog can learn roughly 165 words, mostly terms related to their everyday life, like “dinner” and “walk.” If you say “I love you” often enough, you can absolutely make that phrase part of their vocabulary.

Your tone of voice does matter. Dogs especially love it when you compliment them in a sing-song voice. Human infants and dogs find the exaggerated rhythm of baby talk easier to understand and more stimulating. When talking to your dog, be sure to emphasize the good things they do. It is much better to talk to them when they are calm and relaxed and praise them with simple terms like “Good Girl!” rather than “Excellent canine.” Focus your attention more on the good things your dog is doing, and be quiet when they offer less-than-desirable behaviors. Take note, if you tease your dog in a praising tone, you’re more likely to confuse and excite them.

Dog behavior and training expert Jennifer Arnold says, "If you want a happy, well-mannered dog, love him as unconditionally as he loves you." Show your dog the love by straight up telling him how you feel each night before going to bed.

3. Listen to Your Dog

Communication is a two-way street. Observing your dog’s body language can tell you a lot about how they’re feeling. For example, if your dog is enjoying a petting session, they may make happy little moans or slowly and rhythmically wag their tail. But if you’re scratching your dog too hard, they may whine nervously or lift their paw at you. Signs of anxiety and discomfort can be subtle, so pay close attention to your dog to ensure they enjoy the activity as much as you are and respect their boundaries.

Take the time to learn your dog’s body language. It is interesting that dogs can understand more than 160 words, but humans know little to any “dog words.” We humans often spend more time talking than listening.

Some tools you might find helpful include

4. Maintain Loving Eye Contact

Between dogs, direct eye contact is almost always a challenge or conflict. But between a dog and a trusted human, staring can be a sign of love. Due to selective breeding practices over hundreds of years, it is inherent in all dog to use eye contact to communicate with their humans, whether it’s to check how you’re feeling, get information, or ask for food.

When you and your dog maintain eye contact, both of you get a boost in oxytocin. This hormone strengthens social bonds and lets your dog literally “feel the love.” Long, soft gazes (No hard, unblinking staring, please) boost your dog’s oxytocin more than short glances. Make eye contact with your pup when you talk to them or give them a directive. It can strengthen the bond you share and helps develop trust between you.

5. Pet Them Often

Dogs often express their love by leaning on you. Dogs cannot “hug” and often this act is nerve racking for dogs. Most dogs aren’t large or sturdy enough to let you fully lay on them in turn. “Dogs that lean on you typically don’t want to be leaned back on, per se. Instead, they are just very into tactile stimulation and love touching a loved one,” says Russell Harstein, a dog behaviorist at FunPawCare.

A good petting session gives your dog a loving touch without crushing them. The most frequently preferred areas are usually around their head and shoulders. A gentle scratch behind the ears and along the jawline will make almost any dog happy. The jawline, cheek, and behind the ears are their “Sensitive” areas. When gently scratched, it triggers impulses throughout the entire body, thus releasing endorphin hormones. These hormones act as painkillers. Therefore, a gentle scratch will make your dog feel relieved.

6. Prioritize Cuddles & Sleep time

Dogs evolved as pack animals whose members often rest together. When you invite your dog to nap on the couch or sleep on or in your bed, you are showing your love for them and consider them a part of your family.

Research on free-ranging dogs (those living without humans) suggests dogs are more anxious and less relaxed when they are isolated or sleep alone than when they sleep with others. Perhaps this is because when a dog sleeps alone, they must keep vigilant for danger such as a “burglar.”  It’s harder for an enemy to ambush multiple dogs, which means a cuddle pile is safer as well as cozier.

7. Play on Their Terms

Dogs often wrestle or chase each other as a peaceful way of establishing a hierarchy and blowing off steam. With humans, their play is less about competition and more about communication and bonding. When you play with them you are strengthening that bond and loving them.

Additionally, games are fun and help your dog understand your expectations and boundaries. For example, if your dog gets too rough and tackles you during a game of chase, and you stop playing, they’ll likely be gentler next time so that they can play longer. 
For most dogs, winning or losing the game matters less than the fact that they have your full attention. That said, it couldn’t hurt to give them a victory occasionally. Dedicated playtime with your pup can seem like an added chore, especially after a long day at work, but your pup will love the time you can spend tossing a ball or toy with them. They will feel a great energy release afterward, and so will you in the process!

8. Stay Active

We love exercise, and turns out our pets do, too! It’s well known that most dogs love to go for walks. They enjoy exploring the world with you, whether you’re collecting neat sticks or helping them mark your pack’s territory. What better way to share some quality bonding time with your dog than with a long walk? Whether you head around the neighborhood or bring them on a hike in the woods, taking a walk is a fun way to get some exercise and show your dog affection at the same time. The purpose of a walk is exploration and social communication. It is important for our dogs to investigate all the scents left behind by others and leave their own “Neighborhood Posts.” Sniffing trees and fire hydrants on a walk is the doggy equivalent of reading through the local news. Let your dog sniff and explore as long as he wants. By allowing your dog to do what they find important helps them to listen better and do what you want later.

9. Treats

Whatever you choose, remember a little goes a long way. Be careful not to overfeed your pup their Valentine’s Day dog treats to avoid weight gain or tummy troubles. Break the treats into small pieces and play hide-and-seek to get your dog to work their nose and make it a fun adventure.

If you’ve ever seen a ravenous pup devour their food, you know that dogs love to eat. Keep them on their regular diet (remember, you are the parent), but they can certainly have a nice treat. Remember that foods containing chocolate, raisins, macadamia nuts and any artificial sweeteners are toxic and off their menu.  Your pup will love the surprise, and you will love that look on their face when they know they’re getting something special.

10. Bring joy with new toys

Who doesn't love new toys? Your dog may be perfectly content to gnaw away on the same chew toy forever, but that doesn't mean he doesn't deserve a new one every now and then. Give him a new toy to play with that will stimulate his mind and excite his senses.

Remember, the greatest gift you can give or share is the gift of your time.

The best way one can express to another just how much they are loved is to give them the most valuable thing a human can possess. This possession is not something you can save, borrow, or purchase more of. Time is the most valuable commodity of our mortal existence and if you really care about another, give them your undivided attention. Stop, put down your important work, look into those soulful soft eyes, and say, “I love you.”

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