SEATTLE, WA – February 3, 2021 – Rover.com, the world’s largest network of five-star pet sitters and dog walkers, released its “Decoding Your Dog’s Love Language” report today, which explores the different ways dogs express affection to their human family members. In time for Valentine’s Day, the report reveals how pet parents plan to spoil their beloved dogs after a year in which they proved their importance to human health and happiness throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report presents new data revealing that the majority (69%) of dog parents plan to purchase a gift for their furry family member this Valentine’s Day to show their dog that they care. And, after a year in which 80% of pet parents said that their dog has positively impacted their mental health and well-being during the pandemic, it’s no surprise that the majority of respondents revealed this year’s gift will be even more significant than last year’s. Gift giving is just the beginning, as the majority (60%) of people consider their dog to be their actual valentine this year.
According to Phil Tedeschi, clinical professor at the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work, Institute for Human-Animal Connection and member of Rover’s Dog People Panel, humans and dogs both have the ability to send and receive love messages to one another. Through thousands of years of interaction, humans and dogs have co-evolved strategies for connection. For dogs, that means wagging their tails, leaning into you, asking to play fetch, staring at you, licking and even wrestling. To reciprocate, humans can express words of affirmation, like “good dog,” share resources like treats, cuddle their dogs and engage in active play.
“I have been studying dogs for decades and one thing is abundantly clear: Dogs have the ability to love their human counterparts, reciprocate love shown towards them and communicate that affection in a number of subtle and overt ways,” says Tedeschi. “Perhaps more than any other time in recent history, humans have learned to rely on and appreciate their dogs for mental and emotional support during this pandemic—and this report provides reassuring evidence that people plan to use Valentine’s Day as a way to say thanks for everything you do for me.”
A Dog’s Love Language
The Decoding Your Dog’s Love Language report found that most pet parents believe they have a working understanding of their pet’s communication strategies with 88% of dog parents saying they know their dog’s love language. Here are some examples of your dog’s love language, inspired by The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, and tips from Tedeschi on how to celebrate them this Valentine’s Day:
- Words of Affirmation: Does your dog wag their tail when you come home? They are likely looking for acknowledgment, much like they do with each other by noticing a new arrival at the dog park. Find a good voice and tone to say how much you care (“Samara, will you be my valentine…you are sweet!”) and use their name to give them recognition. Dogs value being part of the conversation, hearing their name and being acknowledged and included.
- Acts of Service: If your pup is constantly asking to play fetch or nuzzling you for a hike or a bath, they might enjoy what’s called “acts of service,” which is simply showing your dog you care through your actions such as special time together, gentle grooming or a specially-prepared meal.
- Receiving Gifts: A dog who is constantly pawing at their bowl or angling for more treats or toys might be one who appreciates gifts. A dog’s sense of smell is about 100,000 times more sensitive than that of a human.1 Sharing resources (especially treats that smell good!) builds affinity, trust and connection—after all it’s how we co-evolved together.
- Physical Touch: If your dog’s love language is physical touch, you likely know it! They are the dogs who are constantly wanting cuddles. Many dogs love a special physical connection, but like people we all have our own preferences when it comes to physical contact. Research has documented that dogs change our brains and interpersonal neurobiology. By cuddling with our dogs we can share “doggie love,” because oxytocin, informally called “the love hormone” due to its relevance to mother-infant bonding, increases in both humans and companion dogs and can offer a sense of secure connection with one another.2
- Quality Time: If your dog is leaning on you, it’s not because they’re lazy, it’s their way to connect. To show them love, try just being with your dog without any distractions, leave your phone behind and take your earbuds out, take them on a walk or simply look into their eyes, which promotes bonding. Dogs are watching and waiting for moments to make that gaze and connect with you. If you have more time, engage in play with your dog: it’s critical to all mammals and an important part of health.
Decoding Your Dog’s Love Language: Survey Findings
“Dogs have once again proven how much we rely on them for love and companionship,” said Kate Jaffe, trend expert for Rover. “Whether it’s snuggles, playtime, or just being great company during a year of social distancing, dogs have helped so many of us through these difficult times. This year, perhaps more than ever, the vast majority of us plan on going out of our way to express our love and adoration for our pups on Valentine’s Day. They deserve it.”
- I get my dog: The vast majority (88%) of dog parents say they know their dog’s love language.
- What are the most popular Love Languages for Dogs?
- 41% Physical Touch
- 21% Quality Time
- 13% Receiving Gifts
- 11% Words of Affirmation
- 8% Acts of Service
- The top three ways that dog parents say their dog shows that they love them include that they’re excited to see them when they get home, they snuggle/cuddle, and their dog’s body language.
- The top three ways that dog owners show their love for their dog include pets, hugs or cuddles, special food or treats and new toys.
- The overwhelming majority (94%) of dog parents think their dog loves them.
A Unique Valentine’s Day
- Sixty percent of dog owners consider their dog to be their Valentine this year.
- Treat yo’ self: Half of dog parents said they would be purchasing treats or food for their dog this Valentine’s Day.
- The majority (69%) of dog parents plan to purchase a gift this Valentine’s Day for their furry family member. Nearly half of pet parents said they’re buying a gift because they want to show their dog that they care and 40% said it’s because their dog brings joy to their life.
- The majority of respondents [dog owners] (61%) said they were in a relationship; 39% are single.
- Pandemic Puppies: Nearly half (49%) of pet parents said they got a new dog during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Dogs are the true MVPs of COVID-19: The majority (80%) of dog parents said that their dog has positively impacted their mental health during the pandemic. When asked how the top three reasons include feeling loved by their dog, offering much needed companionship and providing stress relief with their antics.
The Decoding Your Dog’s Love Language report is based on a survey of 1,000 US-based dog owners via Pollfish in January 2021.
1 Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce, Unleashing Your Dog: A Field Guide to Giving Your Canine Companion The Best Life Possible, pp. 41-54.
2 Miho Nagasawa, Shouhei Mitsui, Shiori En, Nobuyo Ohtani, Mitsuaki Ohta, Yasuo Sakuma, Tatsushi Onaka, Kazutaka Mogi1, Takefumi Kikusui1,* Science 17 Apr 2015: Vol. 348, Issue 6232, pp. 333-336.
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