The Five Love Languages (For People)
This post is inspired by the concepts in Gary Chapman’s #1 New York Times Best Seller, The 5 Love Languages. I’m not affiliated with the author, but I think some of you might also take an interest in it.
The book is about romantic relationships, though the author has also written about relationships between friends, with children, and teens. You can take a quiz on his website to find your primary love languages, and learn a little bit about how you can better communicate love with your favorite humans.
I thought that was pretty eye-opening to learn about. If you’re like me, you’ve spent a lifetime trying to show love to people in your own language, and could never understand why they didn’t seem to receive it, and may have been on the other end of that, too.
It’s the same with dogs. If you show your dog love in the way that she’s open to receiving it, you’ll accomplish much more in your bond, your training and your everyday life.
Here’s my version of the 5 Love Languages… for dogs!
1. Sharing Food.
If you’re the one in your family who feeds the dog, they probably have an especially strong connection to you. But mealtimes aren’t the only way to get to your dog’s heart through their stomach.
Using treats to teach new skills and reinforce good behavior is a powerful way to show your dog that you appreciate her. It’s an unequivocal way to say, “Yes! You’re doing great.”
As with most creatures, dogs experience a rush of dopamine (the “feel-good” hormone”) when they eat something yummy. Food literally changes their mood – which is why it’s such an effective tool for changing the way your dog feels about a scary situation.
Another way to connect with your dog through food: share something yummy.
I really think it’s something special when your dog knows that she’s getting to eat the same food as you.
Especially because of that University of Alaska study in which dogs who participated consistently selected the same foods that they smelled on another dog’s breath. If it’s good enough for you, it’s good enough for me!
2. Challenging Their Mind.
When Matilda masters a new cue, there’s such a wonderful light behind her eyes.
I know you see the same with your dog, especially if you’ve gone beyond the basics. If you haven’t, keep working on new tricks, and don’t worry if there’s a skill your dog can’t seem to pick up – just keep trying and see what sticks.
Also, think beyond the bowl. Try puzzle feeders, even if they’re as simple as an egg carton or even just sprinkling your dog’s food across their placemat.
3. Showing Respect.
We’ve heard plenty of talk about getting a dog to “respect” you. Usually, that kind of talk comes from people who mistake fear for respect.
We know that respect is earned, even when it comes to dogs. You really do give what you get.
Respect can take the shape of letting up on training when your dog is getting tired or frustrated.
It can mean teaching your small children to treat your dog kindly, rather than expecting your dog to tolerate abusive behavior without defending herself.
Or, telling stranger’s children on walks that no, they can’t pet your dog, because she might get scared.
Unless your dog likes kids, of course.
But most don’t, and even though it can be hard to put your dog’s boundaries first, it gets easier, and greatly reduces the chances of something awful happening.
It can also just mean petting your dog as much as she wants to be petted, and no more, while avoiding touches she doesn’t like.
When you’re petting your dog, stop every few moments and see what she does. Does she rub up against your hand for more? Does she prefer to snuggle by your feet, rather than by your chest?
When a cat is tired of being pet, they make that known, and we tend to respect them more. As for dogs, we may wrongly assume that they always want to be kissed, hugged and petted.
Respect also means having realistic expectations.
We can accomplish a lot through training, but it takes time, especially when you’re working against your dog’s long-rooted fears or genetic predispositions. Don’t expect instant results from training, and don’t get frustrated if your dog has trouble with a skill that comes naturally to another.
4. Physical Touch.
You already know that your dog loves being cuddled, scratched and petted.
Like food, physical touch can cause a rush of dopamine. It just plain makes your dog happy.
What you might not know is just how you can utilize petting to improve your bond.
For example, when your dog is scared of thunderstorms or fireworks, it’s perfectly fine to comfort them with petting, once they have settled down enough for you to be able to do it.
You can also pet your dog during stressful moments like vet visits and nail trims.
For some dogs, petting can work as a training reward, and can be very effective if combined with food and praise.
Be careful not to bombard your dog with human forms of affection that they might not like.
For example, many dogs don’t like hugs, as they can feel trapped. Then you have Cow, who frequently forces her way into a hug every chance she gets.
Pay attention to what forms of physical touch your dog seeks out, and show her that she can voice her consent without saying a word.
Not every moment has to be a teaching moment.
Let your dog lead you through a play session. See if she likes to roughhouse and roll around on the floor with you. Does she like to play tug-o-war? Does she like to chase you around the yard?
Take a moment today to just BE on the floor with your dog. No toys, no expectations, and definitely no phone. Just be there, and see what she does.
It can help you communicate better with your dog.
Try doing the play-laugh when you initiate playtime. Do the play bow. Unleash your inner puppy!