The '5 love languages' concept was developed by marriage counselor and author, Dr. Gary Chapman, as a way for couples to express and experience love in a way that feels natural for them. Knowing your loved one’s love language is imperative to reciprocate affection in a way that they understand.
Like humans, dogs have five love languages: words of affirmation, physical touch, receiving gifts, quality time, and acts of service. Some dogs have more than one, or even all FIVE! Some dogs receive love in one love language and express it in another, but we’ll get to that. We’ll delve into how to appeal to your pet’s love language and show you all the ways they reciprocate affection in their own way.
Positive reinforcement training with an emphasis on praise may lead your dog to develop the words of affirmation love language. On the other paw, a special memory of getting a toy may make your pup lean toward gift receiving as their love language.
Breed, genetics, brain chemistry, upbringing, and even training methods can influence your dog’s love language. Your Retriever and Pug may have had similar upbringing and training methods but still have very different love languages. The science behind this phenomenon is quite interesting. According to Dr. Angela Hughes, DVM, Ph.D., “Breeds were created to have different behavioral traits and to serve various roles. Therefore, each breed group can have innately unique ways of showing their love and affection.”
Keep in mind that the love language your dog expresses isn’t always the one that they want to receive. For instance, your pet may feel the most loved when they have quality time with their parents but show their appreciation by bringing you a bone (gift-giving).
It’s important that you pay attention to how your dog responds to different love languages and how they communicate affection to you. Not only will this help you bond with your dog, but it can also assist with training and help you eliminate unwanted behaviors, which we'll discuss further on.
Below are the 5 love languages and tips on how you can apply them to your pup.
Do you see the way your pup’s eyes light up when you give them praise? Or how about the way their tail goes crazy when you say “good dog”? If your pup is super praise-oriented in training, then words of affirmation might be their love language.
If this is your dog’s love language, praise them and talk to them lovingly more often. Even just asking them questions and telling them about your day can make a dog feel special. But how do dogs with this love language express love? Some bark when you come home or whimper excitedly when you pet them.
Most dogs love physical touch, but not all. For dogs with this love language, cuddling, petting, and grooming can make them feel all warm and fuzzy. Dogs with physical touch as their love language might rub their head on you, lick your cheek, or paw at you to pet them.
Dogs who communicate their emotions by physical touch can typically be found in their parents’ lap or snuggling up next to them in bed. Communicate the physical touch love language by giving them massages, stroking their fur, and brushing them.
Remember that not all dogs like physical touch. Pay attention to your dog’s habits and physical cues to make sure they’re not uncomfortable.
If your dog jumps for joy when they get a new toy, gift-receiving is probably one of their love languages. Communicate your love for them with treats, puzzles, plushes, or bones. You don’t have to buy anything elaborate — just a small toy to show them you care.
Utilize this love language to its fullest potential by saving the gifts as a reward for desirable behaviors. We’re not only talking about obeying verbal cues but also passive behaviors. Give your pup a high-value treat or toy for not begging at dinner time and for staying calm when the mail carrier arrives.
You may be surprised to learn that many dogs practice gift-giving behaviors too. Sharing toys, blankets, and food are all signs your dog shows their affection by gift-giving. What looks like a soggy bone to you is something Fido views as highly valuable. So take that bone and hold it close!
Quality time is a fun love language to share with a pet, but how do you know if it’s your pet’s love language? A dog with this love language will often grab their leash and “ask” for a walk or start jumping excitedly at the mention of a car ride. They might smile lovingly at you when relaxing at the park.
So how do you speak this love language to a dog you spend all your time around? Quality time is much different than just being around your pet. Take them for a long walk, play a great game of fetch, or hit the dog park for some fun socialization. Not only are these fun exercises to do with your dog, but they’re also excellent ways to bond.
Many acts of service for dogs overlap with the other love languages. Things like grooming, massages, going to the park, and long walks all fall into this category. Your pet may exhibit acts of service behaviors by bringing you things, licking you, or “guarding” you. Retrievers, German Shepherds, and common service animal breeds often exhibit these behaviors naturally.
No matter what type of love language your dog has, remember it’s the trying that counts. So snuggle up, give lots of pets, talk to them, and go for a walk. Your dog will appreciate your efforts — and remember, it doesn’t have to be Valentine’s Day to speak your pupper’s love language.