The art of affection
Of course you love your pup. With those soulful eyes, that waggy tail, and the sweetest spirit imaginable, how could you not? The question is: does your dog know that? It’s incredibly important. “Showing your dog affection is an important part of establishing your bond,” says veterinarian, Dr Katy Nelson. Regardless of age, all dogs need affection and emotional interaction – but they’re unique in terms of their exact needs. “Some dogs crave pets, hugs, scratches, and lots of communication and cooing,” Dr Nelson explains. “ Others are more laid back and independent and will take what you give, but they don’t necessarily love all the attention you may want to give.”
But canine cuddles aren’t necessarily about a dog’s need for love – as we understand that concept, anyway. “Although this may be what humans perceive, the underlying instinct for petting and snuggling is more of a reassurance that the pack leader (or owner) is still accepting them as part of the pack,” says Dr Nelson, adding that the key is figuring out exactly what makes your dog happy. “Knowing your pet’s personality goes a long way when determining how much affection your pet may crave.”
The difference between affection and attention
Before we delve into the signs that you might not be showering your pup with enough affection, it’s essential to understand the difference between affection and attention. Dr Nelson defines affection as a gentle feeling of fondness or being loved/liked. You can show a dog affection by petting, kissing, stroking, hugging, or snuggling them. Attention, on the other hand, has more to do with regarding someone as interesting or important. Ways to pay attention to your dog include playing, walking, feeding, training, or talking to them. For a truly successful relationship, you need both.
It’s important to note that when you’re attempting to do either of these things, you should steer clear of certain behaviours. One biggie is aggressive play, especially with puppies. This can lead to biting behaviour and enforce negative habits, which become even more problematic as they get older. You should also make sure not to show your affection through food; this can predispose dogs to begging behaviours and medical problems related to obesity. Hugging your fog may also be a no-no, depending on your dog and how you’re doing it.
Affection needs vary by breed
According to Dr Nelson, a study published by the journal Royal Society Open Science showed that some dog breeds act more independently than others, more closely resembling their wolf ancestors with their lack of dependence on humans. For example, Labradors were more likely than German Shepherds to look to their humans when solving puzzles. Czechoslovakian Wolf Dogs were even less likely to look to their humans, indicating a closer relationship to their wolf ancestors than both the Shepherds and the Labradors.
“Some dogs have an insatiable need for constant belly rubs and cuddles, while others are content after a few pats,” says Dr Nelson. “Just like people, different dogs have different levels of need for affection, and they will let you know if they’re feeling neglected.” Of course, it’s not always easy to figure out what they’re trying to tell us.