Remember that book in the '90s about the five love languages? It was made for people, but it turns out the same idea can be used with dogs, too.
If you want to know whether your dog loves you and how to tell your dog you love them in a way they can understand, you need to know their love language. But dog love languages are slightly different from ours.
Most of us are familiar with the five human love languages:
- Acts of service
- Words of affirmation
- Quality time
- Physical touch
The idea is that everyone prefers one or two or several of these ways of showing and receiving love. You have to figure out a person’s preferred love language in order to show them love in a way they understand.
So, back to dogs. Let’s see how the five love languages translate to dog love language so you can say “I love you” to your pup.
Dog Love Language 1: Acts of Smelling
The fastest way to a dog’s heart is through their nose. Scent is everything to a dog, probably because their sense of smell is so much better than ours. And guess whose scent they love the most? Their favorite person, of course.
A study found that smelling the scent of a familiar person activated the reward center of a dog’s brain, meaning they had a positive association with the scent.
When a dog finds a scent they like, they want to lick it or roll in it and just cover themselves with it. You can tell a dog loves you if they love your scent. If your pup loves licking your feet or legs, or steals one of your shoes to have a private licking session, or you find them curled up in a pile of your dirty laundry, that’s love right there.
If your dog’s love language is acts of smelling, here’s how you can show your dog some love:
Take a towel or blanket that you no longer want, or get a new one especially for your pup, and put it on your pillow for several nights. Then you can put this scent-soaked gift in your dog’s bed for them to cuddle up with.
Dog Love Language 2: Sighs, Snorts, Howls, Grunts, and Barks of Affirmation
Some dogs have a lot to say. They might bark to warn strangers that they’re big and tough or to alert you when they want to go outside. But then there are some special sounds that they reserve just for you.
It’s kind of like a whole love language in itself. Your dog might use it to communicate with you when you’re playing, snuggling, or spending some other quality time together. These sounds could be anything from playful grunts and snorts to a sort of bark talking while staring deep into your eyes.
If your dog’s love language is barks of affirmation, it doesn’t mean you have to bark back. But you can do something called “dog-directed speech,” aka doggy talk. Researchers found that people tend to talk to their pets at a higher pitch, with exaggerated intonation.
Apparently, according to the study, it’s slightly different from the way we talk to babies–it’s a voice we only use for our pets. And the best part is that dogs love it–but only when you talk about doggy things, like treats and who’s a good pup.
Dog Love Language 3: Clingy Time
Ever felt like someone was watching your every move, like you’re being followed? If you’ve gotten used to hearing your dog’s breath in your ear and feeling their paws on your heels, you may have a “velcro” dog.
These dogs are forever clingy, following their people everywhere they go. This is definitely a sign that they love you, or at least they see you as the person who can give them the things they want, like walks and belly rubs.
This isn’t a problem unless your dog didn’t used to be clingy and has suddenly become that way, or if they become extremely stressed after you leave the house (separation anxiety). Then it’s time for a vet visit.
It’s probably obvious how to show love to a “clingy time” pup. But here are a few pointers. Make sure you put away your cell phone and engage your dog in their favorite games, or just a cuddle session in their favorite spot.
Dog Love Language 4: Physical Smothering
Some dogs love physical contact, but sitting next to you just doesn’t cut it. These are the dogs that sit on your feet, lean their full body against you, put their paws on your arm and pull it closer to them, or sit right in your lap, no matter how big they are. Basically, they love you so much they need to be as close as possible to you at all times.
If this sounds like your dog, and you want to show them how much you love them, you might want to invest in a doggy sling or backpack (for smaller dogs!). Make sure you give your pup plenty of cuddle time, and you might as well save any money you might spend on a dog bed, since your bed is their bed.
Dog Love Language 5: Toy-Giving
Why do some dogs greet you by bringing you one of their toys when you come home? Or maybe you’re just sitting on the couch and your pup has dropped a toy at your feet.
There are a bunch of theories about why dogs do this–maybe they want you to play with them or throw it for them, or maybe they want to give it to you as a gift and share their prized possession with you. But one thing is certain–they wouldn’t be sharing it with you if they didn’t love you.
So how do you show love to a toy-sharing dog? Dogs love the novelty of getting new toys, but it doesn’t mean you have to keep buying new toys to show your love. For one, you can show interest in the toy they bring and start a spontaneous play session. Or they just may want you to chase them while they play keep-away with their toy.
You can try a toy rotation system to keep their toys exciting to them. Of course, you can also have a monthly “new toy day,” too. Offer your pup a range of different toys to find the ones they prefer. If they don’t like one kind of chew toy, they may love another. Or maybe they’re into stuffed animals or rope toys. Once you’ve found out the kind of toys they prefer, you’ve found a way to their heart.