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Love is more than just a feeling. Love is also the actions we do and the consideration we show for those that we love. Since Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, what better time to talk about just some of the ways we can love our dog?

The Gift of Understanding

This is a big one for us because not understanding when our aggressive dogs are stressed ca have disastrous results. But this is appropriate for all dogs.

One of the greatest gifts any of us can receive is that of understanding. Not only can you understand that sometimes your dog just needs to be a dog. But also understand that your dog gets stressed. Help remove or reduce the unexpected and overwhelming stress. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Here are common signs of stress to look for:

  • Licking lips
  • Turning head or body away
  • Panting
  • Pulled back ears
  • Whites of the eyes showing
  • Stiff body posture
  • Growling, showing teeth, barking
  • Dilated pupils
  • Legs and tail are held in tight
  • Resisting “doing what they’re told”

SEE ALSO: Health and Your Mixed-breed Dog: Can Science Predict Future Problems?

The Gift of Joy

Your dog LOVES walks. Research shows that dogs become attached most to those that walk them.

If your dog is nervous when he or she sees a person or dog in the distance, use your excited voice and do a jolly, joyful dance away. Not only will it help them expend their nervous energy, but they may eventually become convinced that seeing a person or dog might mean fun.

The Gift of Communication

Your dog might sense what you don’t want, but do they know what you DO want? Teach your dog how to come to you, rather than scold them for getting on the couch or bed. Teach them to go to a mat and relax rather than be a pest. Give your dog a task when you get home rather than jump up. Clicker training makes this fun!

The Gift of Novelty

We all like a little excitement in our lives. Novelty that is not overwhelming can actually produce dopamine in the brain. Dopamine stimulates our pleasure centre. But did you also know that novelty can kickstart the brain’s process to rethink and learn? Novel things could be new locations, new smells, new toys, new treats or anything that provides a new experience.

The Gift of Accomplishment

While stress is not good, neither is boredom! If your dog gets a little bratty from time to time, he or she may be trying to tell you something! Mental stimulation and accomplishment can satisfy a dog in ways exercise can’t. But did you know that mental exercise can also help to ward off cognitive deterioration due to aging? Encourage your dog to think and solve puzzles, from clicker training games to working with novel food puzzles and toys.

The Gift of Love

We love to pet dogs and some dogs love it! Petting dogs that like it increases oxytocin in both you and the dog. Oxytocin can foster trust and reduce aggression.

But a surprising number of dogs don’t like being petted (or don’t all the time). They may only just tolerate it. Instead of producing oxytocin, the dog might just be irritated. If they are only tolerating it, how can you tell?

Do the Consent Test. Pet the dog for a few moments and then stop and wait. What does the dog do? If the dog turns his or her head away, or they move away, then they are not enjoying the contact. But they may be content to sit nearby.

Show your love for them by giving them space if and when they need it.

How to Love Your Dog: Giving the Gift of Peace of Mind

When we love, we care. There are many things we can do to help our dogs become more happy and content. We can help by:

  • Creating a predictable schedule.
  • Teaching an anxious dog how to relax.
  • Ensuring they get enough aerobic exercise.
  • Learning the signs of stress and acting on them.
  • Creating a consistent communication system.
  • Keeping them mentally stimulated.
  • Spending time with them.

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How to Love your dog (Click to expand)