Dr. Gary Chapman is a relationship expert and marriage counselor with over 35 years of experience, and his framework also helps learn how best to love our dogs. He has written several well known books, my favorite being The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts. In this book he talks about 5 different love languages that can be expressed in a relationship.
The amazing thing is, you can use these same 5 love languages to tell your dog that you love them. The 5 love languages are:
- Words of Affirmation – telling someone you appreciate them
- Acts of Service – running an errand for a friend when you know they are busy
- Receiving Gifts – sending your child flowers
- Quality Time – spending uninterrupted time with your beloved
- Physical Touch – kissing your partner and holding hands
In a relationship there is a preferred way to receive these love languages and a preferred way to give them. You can visit Gary’s website in order to take the quiz and learn what your love language is! Mine are listed in order of importance below.
- 10 Physical Touch
- 8 Words of Affirmation
- 6 Quality Time
- 5 Acts of Service
- 1 Receiving Gifts
It’s important to know how and when you and your dog feel loved and connected. It’s an awareness that allows you to consciously receive the benefits of that love when it presents itself. It’s just as important to know your partner’s love languages. This awareness provides you with 2 things:
- How to show your partner (or dog) you love and care about them in a language they can receive and appreciate.
- It also provides you with some clarity as to why they might not be giving you the language you want / expect at times as they have a different preferred way to show affection. This is a great communication opportunity to discuss what you may want from your partner.
So why am I talking about love languages?!?! A few months ago, I had a client that wanted to show her love and affection to her dog through physical touch and hugging. When I observed my client doing this, I also observed a stressed out dog. The dog was looking away from the owner, lip licking (coping behavior), the dog’s mouth was closed and her body was tense. While the dog clearly loved being with his owner, he did not appreciate the cuddling as a form of affection!
Once the owner stopped engaging with her dog, the dog walked away from the situation (avoidance) and did a shake off (another coping behavior). It was clear to me that their love languages did not match – at least in that moment.
Examples of Love Languages for Dogs – How to Tell Your Dog You Love Them
- Words of Affirmation – talking to your dog, praise
- Acts of Service – scheduling a dog walker when you’re working a long day
- Receiving Gifts – bones, treats, new toys
- Quality Time – hiking, walking, training, play
- Physical Touch – massage, pets, snuggles
So how do you figure out what your dog’s love language is? Ask yourself these questions:
- What lights up your dog?
- What makes him / her most happy?
- How do you know?
- What body language / postures do you notice?
My dog Sully’s love languages are definitely: physical touch and quality time! We have the same #1 preferred love language: physical touch. This does not mean Sully is giving me massages! He’d much rather lean against my leg or get some face rubs.
However, since it’s the same language, it’s more natural for me to provide it without thinking about it since it’s something I enjoy too! That’s how I tell my dog I love him.
Get curious about how you’re connecting with your dog. This will help you tell your dog “I love you” in a way that they understand!
- Do you both enjoy the experience equally? If so, how can you celebrate your connection?
- If not, what can you shift in order to connect more deeply?