How to Love Your Dog

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Shar-Pei Puppy with a Single Rose in his MouthChildren (and adults too) often want to show love to dogs the way we show love to each other, through hugs and kisses. Dogs do not naturally understand this, or even enjoy it. Hugs and face-to-face contact can be very threatening to dogs. The dog may tolerate this for a while, but at some point may bite or snap to protect himself once he has exhausted all his means of more subtle warning. Some dogs do enjoy a hug from a special person, if it is on their terms and done with some extra scratching on the chest. Few, if any dogs enjoy hugs the way young children do this, which is to clasp around the neck and hang on. Parents should teach their children to avoid face-to-face contact with any dog (even their own dog) and to show love to the dog in ways other than hugging and kissing.

Doggone Safe and Paws & Pals offer the following suggestions about how to love your dog in a way that the dog will appreciate.

Touch Your Dog

Invite your dog to come to you for attention. If your dog turns away or moves away, respect his wishes and leave him alone. Many dogs like to be near you, but not necessarily to be touched.

Scratch your dog on the side of the neck or on his chest.

Avoid hugs and kisses. People enjoy this, but most dogs don’t like hugs and kisses. They might tolerate it, but few actually enjoy it.         no_hugs1

Invite your dog to sit with you while your read or watch TV. Let him lean on you or put his head on your lap on his terms.

Some dogs enjoy a scratch behind the ears. Most dogs don’t enjoy hands coming down on the top of their heads.

Pet your dog and then stop. If he tries to get you continue then you will know he likes it.

Play With Your Dog

Play games like fetch and hide and seek that do not involve chasing or rough play.

Take your dog for lots of walks.

Understand Your Dog

Learn to read dog body language so that you can understand what your dog is trying to tell you.

A happy dog pants and wags his tail loosely. He may wag all over.

An anxious dog might show a half moon of white in his eye or he may lick his lips or yawn. He may turn his head away or walk away. He wants to be left alone.

A dog that suddenly goes stiff and still is very dangerous and might be ready to bite.

A dog with his mouth closed and ears forward and/or with his tail held high is busy thinking about something and does not want to be bothered.

Visit for more information about dog bite prevention, dog body language or to take an online course.

Reward Your Dog

Look for things your dog does right and give him a treat or praise, petting or play. Never hit or yell at your dog.

Give your dog a stuffed Kong™ or other long lasting chew treat to enjoy while he lies on a mat or in a crate.




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