“It’s the month of love, Luna, the time of year when we shower our favorite people with cards and gifts so that they know how much they mean to us.”
This is strange, rescue dog Luna thought, safe in the knowledge that her people know exactly what she means to her, and she has never bought them a card or gift since the day they brought her home.
That’s not to say that Luna didn’t receive any gifts or even an edible card on a particularly memorable Valentine’s Day, but that doesn’t make her know she’s loved, far from it. The feeling of love is all in her head. Literally!
If you believe the chemistry between you and your dog is real, the science will be yours. It’s all in your head too.
Our “happiness hormones” are produced in our brains. The well-documented trio is made up of dopamine, which is released upon initial attraction, which increases our serotonin levels and then produces oxytocin. When we see a dog, our brain delivers a rush of positive emotions and we don’t think long before declaring our undying love to the cute furball. It’s chemical; Love is really all in our head.
One of the ways we can get a rush of oxytocin is by making eye contact with someone we care about. The genius thing about making eye contact with our canine family members is that they are getting a rush of oxytocin too. Please do not run home and stare into your dog’s eyes as none of you are likely to feel great. However, think about the interactions you have with your dog and the ways you can use eye contact in your everyday life. When I call my dogs’ names I want them to look at me. I just want your attention. I don’t use names for the callback, but this is a blog for another day! Once I have my dogs’ attention, I can ask them to do any of the other things I taught them and the oxytocin outbreak creates instant positive emotions for both of us.
But is the Oxy-Love chemical enough? Just saying our dog’s name and looking at it is not enough to build the relationship you want, is it?
Our dogs are extremely useful to us. Petting our dogs is another way to get an oxytocin hit. Even when we think of our dogs, our oxygen content has been shown to increase. Try it; Close your eyes for a few seconds and think of your dog. Remember your favorite walk together, hanging out at home together, and laughing as they ran away with your new slipper. How do you feel when you think about her? This feeling literally changes your physiology. Oxytocin reduces stress, increases our pain tolerance, and improves our well-being. Even if they are not with us, our dogs can improve our lives.
How can we return this gift? I don’t think taking a selfie by the bed when we go to work will be enough, right?
It is the secret to the success of a relationship! When there is misunderstanding and confusion, we no longer feel safe. We regularly have misunderstandings and feelings of confusion among our own species, the people we spend time with, and especially those who are very dear to us. Of course, there will be confusion when we communicate with another type!
Dogs pay much more attention to what we do than what we say. Every single thing we do in her company teaches her something. Do we show them through our actions that we understand them, that we actively protect them, and that we are a safe haven to which they can turn?
Training is the perfect way to reduce confusion in the way we communicate with our dogs. Being able to share an understanding of certain clues means that our dogs know what is required of them.
If they don’t drop your new slipper no matter how many times you repeat please drop it, just drop it, seriously, drop it!Then they may not understand the instruction. If you spend time teaching them what you mean by these two words, you will have a great time learning the keyword and you can use it when you need it. If your dog hears these words for the first time, when he excitedly bows and you make his newly discovered toy the best tractor game he has ever had, we can assume that this is not an optimal learning situation.
People and dogs that play together have a stronger bond, that’s science. The slipper game doesn’t count unless you actually use slippers to play with the tug, but I imagine the game won’t last long.
Playing in a bond-strengthening way doesn’t mean throwing a ball for your dog. it means you have to get involved. How often did you go to the ball with your dog ?! How often have you been involved in the investigation? I’m not suggesting that you join them at the base of a lamppost, but a simple “what is this?” In an excited tone as you explore, your day will brighten. Playing scent games, running together, drag toys, and mind games can all be enhanced through your commitment.
How much time do you spend with your dog? I don’t mean the times when the two of you are in the house together or when you are on the phone while out for a walk. How much time do you spend sharing experiences with your dog?
When was the last time you explored on walks with them? When was the last time you sat in silence with them? No screens, just sharing a few moments? When was the last time you petted your dog properly, not just a quick head rub when you return home, but sitting with them and petting them?