It’s February, Valentine’s Day is on the horizon and our thoughts turn to love, in all its many forms.

The love we have for our dogs – and that our dogs have for us – is a very real thing.  And science has backed it up; it’s all down to a hormone called Oxytocin.  AKA the ‘love hormone’.

Various studies have confirmed that the look of love that passes between dog and owner ups the levels of Oxytocin in both.  In turn, this brings about feelings of happiness and love which are the building blocks of the human-dog bond.

Dogs are universally known to be ‘man’s best friend’ and like all friendships, it must be a two-way thing.  So, how do we, as humans, ensure that we are a dog’s best friend? 

Here are a few things worth thinking about.

Give them your full attention

Dogs like to share time with their people. When you’re out on a walk or free run with your dog, they’ll really appreciate your full attention. Perhaps you could put your phone in your pocket for a little while and take the time to properly connect with them. Maybe have a chat with them as you walk along – just like you would with a two-legged friend. Play with them on a free run – throw a ball, get excited and join in on the fun. If you’re happy, they’re happy.

Communicate with routine

Dogs aren’t human but, like us, they are emotionally complex. They listen and watch and are able to understand certain words and put them into context using our tone of voice. Our actions and interactions with them are also important because dogs use our behavioural habits to predict outcomes. Our Director of Training, Helen, says: “On the weekend, like most people, I have a routine of things I do. Bit of cleaning, bit of shopping and then, I like to go out for a coffee. My dog, Willoughby, knows that when I say ‘I won’t be long’’ in a particular way, at a particular time, it means ‘I’m going out, you’re staying home’ and he’s likely to get a biscuit. He’s used my tone of voice and my behavioural habits to predict that outcome and he happily trots off to settle down on his bed with his biscuit.”

Time for sniffing

Let them sniff.  We realise that endlessly stopping for your dog to ‘satisfy the sniff’ can be a little trying, but, to your dog, a good sniff around is absolutely riveting. It gives them lots of information about other dogs around the neighbourhood, helps them to de-stress and gives them mental stimulation. Allow them the time to do this – just as you would allow a two-legged friend the time to tell you about who they’ve seen, what their day’s been like and what they’ve done that day.

Reward, reward, reward

Our trainers use food rewards as a way of connecting with the dogs they are training. Using food as a reward for good behaviour helps with the bonding process and strengthens relationships. When you’re out on a walk with your dog, remember to take some food rewards with you so they know that coming back and checking in with you is a good thing to do. It’s important to note that food rewards should be taken out of your dog’s daily food allowance – the odd treat here and there is absolutely fine but being a really good friend to your dog also means making sure they maintain a healthy weight.

Above all, a dog is there to share life with you and we hope you enjoy many happy times together.