How do I show my dog I really love him in a way he understands?

Interestingly, dogs feel core emotions like happiness and fear, and they make associations. In any situation, if they feel happy, the next time they will feel happy. The opposite is also true. If they experience fear or anxiety in a situation or with a person, the next time they will be fearful (consider a veterinary visit!). But showing them affection might be easier than you think.

What causes a dog to feel happy? Kindness.

If you are kind to your dog and understand their limitations, you have the recipe for showing your dog you love him in a way he understands.

What do we mean by limitations? Since dog brains make associations, this limits their thinking. They can’t conspire against owners, conjure up plans to “get back at you” because they are “mad” and they don’t try to dominate people.

This is great news! Now it is obvious that dog behaviour stems from dog behaviour.

When they jump up on the counter to eat the bread, they really believe that bread was left for their pleasure. If you don’t like this behaviour, that’s ok and your choice, so teach the dog to do something else. But they need you to teach them. With kindness, teach your dog to settle on a mat and reward this desirable behaviour with a piece of the bread.

Importantly, the way to cause fear and worry is to implement punishment, which causes fear. If you punish your dog for jumping on the counter, he might learn not to jump or he might not. This is because for the dog it’s not “bad”. It’s just dog behaviour and for dogs, a loaf of bread or chicken leg is highly rewarding and the way to motivate a dog to repeat any behaviour.

Teach them with kindness!

Article written by Dr. Colleen Wilson, veterinarian at Orleans Veterinary Hospital, ON.