By Kim Gilliam
As Valentine’s Day approaches, it’s a great chance to think of the many ways you can show your dog you love them every day. There’s more to it than just spoiling them with treats and toys!
Positive petting: We like to smother them with hugs and pats on the head, but that’s human love language and can actually be interpreted as a sign of dominance by your dog. Try scratching them under the chin, stroking their ears, or rubbing their belly instead and see how much more they relax and enjoy it.
Setting limits: While we think letting our pup break the rules — letting them on the couch, not making them sit before crossing the street, or giving them scraps from the table — is a fun little treat, consistent boundaries actually help create a nurturing environment and reduce unnecessary confusion. Remain consistent, firm and warm in both your tone and actions and provide lots of positive reinforcement for a job well done. This will help avoid behavioral issues and make them even more eager to please.
Socialization: Bring your dog with you to pet-friendly locations when you can. Dogs are social animals and they love going with you to meet other people or dogs. Old Town Alexandria is a great place to do this with a number of dog-friendly shops. There are pet stores like Olde Towne School for Dogs and The Dog Park, shops like Ann Taylor and Pendleton, the lobby of dog-loving Hotel Monaco, and you can even visit the Torpedo Factory.
One-on-one time: Dogs love your time and attention; let them sit next to you while you watch TV, practice obedience, give your puppy a massage, have the kids read to them, or toss the ball with them. You can also try playing with your dog down on all fours — getting on their level exhibits trust and continues to build your bond.
Winter paw care: The salt used to melt ice on driveways, roads and sidewalks threatens the health of your dogs’ paws. Prolonged contact can lead to chemical burns, so try to keep your dog off the salty sidewalk — think grass or snow — when possible. Dogs that lick their paws can ingest deicing salts and get indigestion. Keep a shallow bowl of warm water and a cloth near the door to your home and wipe off their paws when you come in.
Valentine’s Day gift safety: Sugar-free candies and chocolates are toxic for dogs, so be sure to keep them out of their reach. And if a loved one gets you lilies or roses, make sure your pup doesn’t ingest them. Lily poising can cause vomiting, dehydration and lethargy, and the thorns on roses can cause serious abrasions and punctures of the mouth, throat, stomach or intestines, resulting in infection.
These are just some of the thoughtful ways you can celebrate your love for your pup. They will love the extra care and attention and will realize how special they are to you.
The writer is the co-owner of Frolick Dogs, an indoor dog gym in the Eisenhower Valley.