Scientific research has helped us understand the complex thoughts and emotions our beloved dogs are capable of. They may feel, interpret and express love differently than humans, but they definitely understand the sentiment.
Dr. Brian Hare is an associate professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University and founder of the Duke Canine Cognition Center.
When asked by People Pets whether dogs realize how much we love them, he answered:
“Yes, your dog knows how much you love him! Dogs and humans have a very special relationship, where dogs have actually hijacked the human oxytocin bonding pathway that is normally reserved for our babies. When you stare at your dog, both your oxytocin levels go up, the same as when you pet them and play with them. It makes you both feel good and reinforces your bonding. Does your dog ever stare at you for no reason? They are just ‘hugging you’ with their eyes.”
Aside from gazing into your pup’s baby-browns, here are 4 scientifically proven ways to express your love to your dogs.
1. Massage their ears.
Most dogs love having their ears rubbed. This is because their ears contain a network of nerves that extend throughout the body. Gently massaging your dog’s ears stimulates nerve branches running to the hypothalamus and pituitary glands which secrete feel-good endorphins. Many pups will become incredibly relaxed or even fall asleep thanks to this natural “hormone high!”
2. Tell them how you feel.
A 2016 study published in the prestigious journal, Science found that dogs are capable of understanding some human speech. The subjects were placed inside an MRI scanner and their brains were monitored as people spoke to them. Results showed that the pooches only truly expressed happiness when a praising tone of voice was accompanied by words of praise. This suggests that they comprehend more than tone, but the actual meaning of our words as well.
3. Learn their language.
Our dogs love us enough to learn our complex language, but can you understand theirs? For example, can you tell if your dogs dislike being hugged? Do you know what it means when they lick their lips? Canine communication is mostly non-verbal, relying on body language. Taking the time to learn and comprehend canine language can help reduce your dogs’ stress, increase the trust between you and strengthen your bond.
4. Provide plenty of rewards.
Whether your dogs’ favorite form of praise is a food treat, play session or verbal reward, positive reinforcement is an excellent way to strengthen your bond and communicate your love. Your dogs will come to see you as the provider of the things they love most. Positive reinforcement has also been proven to help dogs learn.
With these simple methods you can be sure your dogs know how much you truly love and appreciate them for all that they do!
H/T to Dogtime