By Kim Gilliam
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it’s no surprise many of us hold our pets nearest and dearest to our hearts. We show them love in a variety of ways – providing ample attention, a healthy diet and daily exercise – but here are some additional expressions of love that you may not have thought of.
Have you ever fed your pet by hand? It can be a great way to spend focused time together and increase your bond, especially with young or new pets where you are working to gain their trust. You can also use puzzles or find-it games to engage and reward your pet’s instinctual food drive.
Just like for humans, pet massage can have a number of benefits – improved flexibility, circulation, appetite and sound naps. Start small; start with the ears. Your pet’s ears are full of nerve endings that send impulses all through the body. You trigger a release of endorphins and give them a natural “high” when you give their ears a good rub.
Recent research published in the journal “Scientific Reports” found that dogs make more facial expressions when their human is paying attention as a way to communicate with us; similarly, domestic cats meow more than their feral counterparts. When you come home, consider using more facial activity to greet your pup or be vocal while nuzzling your cat to build an even stronger connection.
Does your dog ever lean on you? It’s like a stand-up hug — a way for these pack animals to feel safe and secure and bond with us through touch. Lean back on them for a few seconds to say, “I love you too.”
Teach something new
Working with your pet to learn a fun, new trick like “spin” or “crawl” can be rewarding for you both. You spend quality time together plus you can show off in front of friends and family, making your pet feel extra special.
When you take time out of your busy day to bond with your pet, put your phone away. Not only will they appreciate the extra eye contact and one-on-one attention, but it allows you to be mindful of your pet’s behavior. Are they feeling happy and relaxed or uncomfortable due to a new ache or stressor in their environment? If your eyes are locked on a screen, you could miss what they are trying to tell you.
As you can see, it doesn’t have to take a lot of time, money, or effort to show your pet how much you love them. Try some of these out and see if you don’t reap the rewards with extra purrs or puppy kisses.
Kim Gilliam owns Alexandria’s Frolick Dogs, an indoor dog gym, with her husband Kevin Gilliam.