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Does your dog know that you love her?

With humans, we use words to express our love, but more imporant, we use our actions.  We interact physically by hugging,  kissing and playing, especially with children.  We interact emotionally by offering support when times get tough, and we interact  intellectually by working, learning and talking about mutually interesting topics.

When we love someone, we express joy when we see that person, especially if there has been an extended absense.  We take the time to slow down and pay attention, because our well being is closely linked to the well being of those that we love.  We accept them for who they are, even when they make mistakes or make us angry.  Deep down we always love them, even when we forget to show it.  When our loved ones have successes in their lives, we celebrate with them, because we share in their feelings of pride and accomplishment.

And with our dogs?

If you think about it for a moment, it’s not so different.

For the next week, spend five minutes a day with your dog, giving her your undivided attention.  No toys, treats, or training during your special time, nor should there be any other dogs present.  Sit together and talk to your dog about anything that comes to mind.  Scratch her ears, the top of her head, the sides of her neck, and along her spine.   When she looks at your face, smile at her.  If she walks away, let her go without judgement, but if she looks back at you, encourage her to return for more interaction.  If she’s playful and expresses an interest in some quiet play, go ahead and throw that in.  Belly rubs are fine, but maintain eye contact.  You can make silly sounds if she likes that, but keep the tone of the interaction at whatever level is most comfortable for your dog.

Five minutes. Alone.  No other dogs.  For one week.

It is possible that your dog will be confused; she might even avoid you or search you for food or toys.  To minimize this, you might want to start in a place where you never train because this activity is not about food, toys or work.  This is about you, your dog, and your friendship.

When you love your dog, you’ll make better decisions for both of you, and your dog will be more forgiving if you make training mistakes.  When you love your dog, it’s harder to make bad decisions in the first place.

Sometimes we focus so much on our training goals that we lose sight of the big picture; the reason we got involved with animals in the first place.  All dogs have strengths and weaknesses, and the more time you can spend loving your dog as a unique individual, the easier it will be to remember the qualities that you most value in her.

Taking a deep breath and petting a soft, furry head is good therapy.  Sometimes its hard to do, because we’re human beings and our dogs frustrate us, just like our human loved ones.  Taking a few minutes a day to celebrate our personal relationship will help us remember to focus on what is right – what is special and wonderful and unique about our canine friend, regardless of what happens in training.

Try it and let me know how it goes.

About dfenzi

I'm a professional dog trainer who specializes in building relationship in dog handler teams who compete in dog sports. My personal passions are Competitive Obedience and no force (motivational) dog training. I travel throughout the world teaching seminars on topics related to Dog Obedience and Building Drives and Motivation. I own Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, a comprehensive online school for motivational training of performance sport dogs.

23 responses »

  1. 🙂 This is why my dogs are allowed on the bed. We snuggle, we wrestle, we look out the window at squirrels. It’s just about the best time of the day.

  2. First thing in the morning (most mornings, not all) and last thing before bed, is cuddling time with Arie. I tell her how much I adore her, she nuzzles me, sometimes we do belly rubs (more likely in the morning, not sure why!) and we spend time just looking and petting. I absolutely adore this dog!

  3. I try to do this every day. I verbally tell my dogs I love them then I interact with them however THEY want. I have an old dog who wants to climb on the bed and roll on her back for tummy rubs and a game of “I’ll steal those teeth!” I have a nearly-year old pup who just wants to sit in my lap (or at least her top half can get in my lap.) It’s very important time for us.

  4. One on one, just loving and talking to time, is spent with Kylie alone on a daily basis. Morning and night M-F and off and on all day long on the weekends. She travels with me whenever I go by vehicle by herself too. I’m not who it benefits more. 🙂 I LOVE my Spritepup.

  5. I do it every day, in fact I usually do it several times a day. I have 3 dogs so I have to separate them for my ‘alone’ time, but they all dearly love it and so do I.

  6. Great idea, as usual! I love the way you explain thoroughly yet concisely. I especially love the way you always focus on the dog and what’s in it (and best for) THEM. They deserve that. Too many people see dogs as being here to serve “our” needs, I think. That’s natural since they love to do it. But I have seen an entirely different, deeper and life changing level emerge even in my relationships with my rescues and rehomes. Good plan. Thanks for sharing!

  7. My dogs get their individual loves in the bed every morning. First CoCo since she was there first, and then Kaleb after she gets down. Kaleb always makes sure he gets more in the evening. He is quite a pushy beast and makes me laugh as he nuzzles his way onto my lap with his big brown eyes looking up-like his great grandmother he forces his head under the hand for pets. I have to be careful to give CoCo attention later in the day though, as Kaleb will gulp it all up if I don’t think about it. There’s not a lot better than having lovin eye contact with those two. 🙂

  8. Gosh yes I do this. I have such an age gap and breed difference between my dogs that it was obvious that these moments are necessary. I also walk them separately sometimes too, so that each has his/her walk tailor-made to his/her preferences.

  9. Love this – so true. It’s what helped my Service Dog and I to bond so well. Would love permission to repost this.

  10. I rescue all my dogs, so naturally the love of my dogs always takes precedence over my need for accomplishments and titles. I’m coming from such a different mental place than those who purchase performance puppies, that I can’t really relate to the idea of only being focused on performance and titles. On top of that, I have a lot of experience rescuing dogs, so I now take the dogs who will have difficulties with being placed. For example, my youngest dog, was born a feral puppy and had no human contact until she was eight months old. That she has upper level and championship rally titles in several organizations, and is now working on her AKC Open title, is quite a great thing for this girl. My unconditional love for her has a lot to do with giving her the needed confidence to compete and go into the obedience ring.

  11. I do several 1 on 1 sessions a day, I couldn’t survive without our bonding sessions. I just said today, as my 2 year old was in my lap, how much in love we are with one another. I thought it would never happen, she adores my husband, yet, here we are,
    in love :).

  12. Pingback: Pup links! « Doggerel

  13. I’m happy to report my Aussie girl actually seeks me out at night and voluntarily climbs in my lap for what I’ve labeled “mommy and me” time. I scratch her head and tell her I love her, then she lays down her head and she lets out a big sigh. I’d like to think she’s telling me everything is ‘right’ in her world for just those 5 minutes.

  14. Its a worthy addendum to remind us to do this with our children or other loved ones too. Its very easy with the pressures of life to go with “they know it”, but do they? And even so that’s different from feeling it physically.

  15. I have started rotating my dogs in the bedroom. The others sleep in the kitchen and one sleeps in the bedroom. A different dog comes in every night. We snuggle for awhile and then we sleep. I love it and so do they!

  16. Of course we do this every day, its why we get dogs in the first place, right?

  17. My dog knows the words “snuggle time”! Usually around 5pm he’s allowed on my lap – all 80# of him and we snuggle and sometimes talk, but just enjoy each other.

  18. I’ll lay right down on the floor next to my girl, just relaxing and stroking, quietly enjoying eachother. I’ll tell her I love her and thank her for being my best friend. I’ve even jokingly said to my SO: ‘I do love you as much as I love the dog, you know’ It’s become a running joke between us. Whenever the humans hug, she comes over and touches us somewhere gently, usually just resting her head against a thigh until the hug is over. There’s no mistaking that she wants to be a part of it. I feel badly for anyone who has never known the love of an intelligent animal. They are missing out on one of the greatest things life has to offer.

    It is important to be mindful of how powerful showing this is to both dogs and people, how it’s not to be taken for granted. Great post! Thank you.

  19. I find that having a Great Dane in your life changes how much you interact with your dog. Great Danes have such a short lifespan, we try and squeeze every moment we can out of each day we spend with them. Getting up early to feed my previous dogs was a bit of a chore, and I would rather have spent another hour in bed. With my Dane, I am up eager to spend that extra precious time. Brushing each morning was a joy and as long as he wanted me to continue I would. I could never get enough love, touching, and conversation in during each waking moment. Great Dane owners I know, never take their dog for granted.

  20. I do this daily, but I also spend a little extra personal time with my dog after a competition run or training session. At the end of the day, away from the excitement of the trial, I sit down and stroke him and tell him what a good boy he was, how hard he worked, what a great job he did, how proud I am of him. He loves it and I think he does tie that specific praise to his work of the day.

  21. I recently got a rescue dog, Bella, and I have been wondering if she can understand me when I tell her I love her. She just stares at me and is calm, as if she is enjoying the moment. Thanks for clarifying that she does understand and that I should continue to talk to her.


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