Photo by Alvan Nee on Unsplash
4 years later, I still share the same bond with my little golden ball of fur, except now he is just as tall as I when he stands on his hind legs. I’ve found that he’s just like a human, in his feelings, thoughts, and emotions. And like all relationships, human-canine or otherwise, they require work. In order to foster a strong relationship based on trust, I’ve used the 5 love languages of physical touch, giving gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, and acts of service. And meanwhile, I’ve also taken some lessons from my human-canine relationship and applied them to foster my human-human relationships too.
Humans show each other love through Physical Touch by hugging or kissing each other.
My dog loves head rubs and holding my toes with his paws while I work on my desktop. But beyond belly rubs, I recognized when he didn’t want to be touched, or where he didn’t want to be touched. If I wanted to rub his butt but he didn’t want that then I had to respect that. This, in turn, translates to respecting him. He may be my pet, but I can’t forget that he’s also another living being, with his own thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
To strengthen your relationship with another person or animal, try adhering to their boundaries. This shows the other person or animal that you see what they are willing to accept and you respect their choice. It will often get you farther than hugging them when they were only ready for a handshake.
Many humans show each other love by giving gifts in the form of a physical object.
My dog loves treats. He loves dry calcium bones or a bowl full of kibble. But my relationship with him isn’t strengthened when I give him a treat. The relationship becomes stronger when I give him the last bite of my meal.
When I eat, my dog sits right next to my chair. He stares up at me with those big brown eyes of his. The last bite of my meal isn’t the only thing that makes him feel loved. It’s the intention I have of sharing foods I enjoy with him, even if it is just a taste. By sharing food with him, it makes him feel like I’m sharing my experience through food with him, whether it is good or bad.
When showing your love through gift-giving, focus on how the gift reflects the love or care that you are trying to express. It will often mean more than the gift itself.
Humans spend quality time with each other by enjoying the other person's presence.
My relationship with my dog wasn’t always this good. But when I started taking him out on morning walks every day, it radically changed. Before our morning walks or quality time together, I always did stuff with him that I enjoyed. But our 30 minutes walking together every day allowed me to meet him where he’s at while we did what he enjoys. Walks build trust. It allows him to see that I assess other humans and other dogs as they approach while making decisions to ensure his safety.
Time is a valued commodity. If you want to spend more time with someone you care about, look for ways to hang out at a time that works for both of you. It facilitates compromise and understanding in the planning of the meetup.
Words of affirmation are how humans show each other support through spoken words.
I call my dog pet names like “baby lion” or “pretty land seal”. He loves it. I can tell because he has these slow blinks, where his entire furry eyelid slowly eclipses his eyeball. Animals slowly blink to show affection. As a predator, purposely removing sight (a great advantage in hunting prey or assessing danger) is a way of showing trust and love. They know you will protect them if a threat is presented.
Figure out what words resonate with the person or animal that you’re trying to support through speech. It’ll be different for everyone but start with words that they continue to react positively to.
Acts of service are where humans do things for another human just to show them that they are cared for and loved.
It sounds simple, but when my dog wants to leave my room, I stand up and open the door for him. This does a few things: it shows him that he’s free to do things that he wants to and I’ll support him and that I will build a physical bridge for his wants and needs.
If you love something, set it free. If it was meant to be, they’ll come back.
After my dog leaves my room, he usually comes back. I’ve found that if I force him to stay in a place he doesn’t want to stay, he hangs out with me less.
By fostering a relationship where he can do what he wants to when he wants to, it shows him that he can trust that hanging out with me isn’t an imposition but rather a choice.
Give people the freedom to do as they wish without trying to control or monitor their actions. They will value you for your self-confidence and your trust in them. This will build a more fruitful, long-term relationship.
Dogs are a lot like humans. We all just want to be cared for and shown that others care about us, after all. The five love languages allow us to think about what truly matters to us, and how loving someone else will allow you to get that love back in a way that you want and need.
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