There’s nothing quite like the unconditional love we get from our dogs. Whether it’s them sneaking into your bed for cuddles, giving you sloppy kisses on the sofa or turbo tail-wagging the second you get home from work, it’s safe to say that there’s nothing better than the warm fuzzy feeling your four-legged friend gives you.
Did you know, however, that there’s a lot of research into the science behind the ‘special bond’ that we have with our dogs. Pet healthcare experts Bob Martin are here to share some interesting insights into our relationships with our canine companions.
One of the most obvious signs of a dog’s affection for you is their wagging tail, however, did you know that you can read a lot into ‘how’ your dog wags their tail. Basically, the faster the wag the more excited the dog, however the wag direction also holds a clue to their feelings.
A recent study on tail-wagging showed that dogs tend to wag more to the right when they feel positive about something, like interacting with their owner. The best wag you can receive however is either the ‘helicopter’ or the ‘full body’ wag. These are usually reserved for the most special and beloved people in your dog’s life.
Your dog’s tail position can hold other important clues about their emotional state however. A dog with their tail pointing down to the ground or even tucked between their legs could indicate feelings of fear or stress.
We all do it, there’s no need to be embarrassed. Talking to your dog (in your own special doggy voice) is good for your relationship and they actually understand more than you might think.
Scientists in Hungary have even done studies using MRI scanner and found that dogs’ brains process language in a similar way to humans, with the right side of the brain interpreting emotion and the left side interpreting meaning.
Dogs will recognise words like ‘walkies’ or ‘treat’ for example, but respond best when the word and intonation matched. This brings a whole new context to the phrase “It’s not what you say, but how you say it.”
Eye Contact & Facial Expressions
Your dog’s eyes do much of their talking and you can actually communicate back to them in a similar manner. When a dog gives you long, lingering eye contact, it’s often their way of saying that they love you and it has actually been proven that levels of oxytocin (the ‘love chemical’) increases in both dogs and humans when they make eye contact.
It’s good to be aware that there is also a wrong kind of eye contact. Staring in a forceful manner for example can be taken as a sign of aggression by your furry friend. Them avoiding eye contact can also be a submissive sign, often if they’ve just been told off for some naughty doggy antics.
Scientific studies have also shown that dogs can read human emotions via our facial expressions, with Japanese behavioural scientists finding that when a dog feels connected to someone, they often raise their eyebrows – bizarrely the left one more than the right. With that in mind, greeting your dog with raised eyebrows and a relaxed smile can help communicate how happy you are to see them.
Did you know that a dog will lean against you as a sign of love and trust? Like most humans, dogs thrive on physical contact. As dogs are descendants from pack animals, close physical contact offers them the connection they crave. This closeness to you will also deepen your dog’s feeling of a pack connection.
Much like eye contact, physical contact with your dog releases oxytocin for both them and you, helping to strengthen your bond. In particular, rubbing your dog’s ears works to release oxytocin throughout their body as their ears are packed with feeling receptors. This is also true of why many dogs will roll onto their backs submissively to elicit a tummy tickle from their pet parent.
It’s Not You It’s Me
It’s worth remembering however that certain human signals of affection may not translate to dogs. Take kissing for example. A quick peck on the head can be interpreted by your dog as a playful nip aimed to initiate a play session, or even as a sign that you’re trying to assert your place in the pack hierarchy.
Hugging is another potential pitfall and it’s important to respect your dog’s boundaries. Some dogs may feel trapped or pinned down when you hug them, so it’s important to keep this in mind. Dogs rarely enjoy being hugged or restrained, preferring to initiate this kind of contact on their own terms.
It’s not just about providing them with food, shelter, and exercise. It’s about forming a deep bond with them and cherishing their unique qualities. This Valentine’s Day, we want to celebrate the love we have for our furry friends by running a social media campaign to share all the ways we show our love for our dogs. Whether it’s through snuggles, playtime, or simply being there for them, let’s show the world just how much we love our dogs. So join us in spreading the love and sharing your own heartwarming stories in the comments below.
For more helpful advice on caring for your pet’s healthcare needs head over to bobmartin.co.uk.