Sunday, February 6, 2011

How to Love Your Dog - Valentine's Day Tips

Children want to show love to dogs by giving hugs and kisses, but many dogs don’t like this. Most dog bites are to children, by the family dog or another dog known to the child. Hugs and kisses are a major cause of facial bites to children. Doggone Safe offers suggestions for safe ways to love your dog that the dog will appreciate.

Children (and adults too) often want to show love to dogs the way we show love to each other, through hugs and kisses. Dogs do not naturally understand this, or even enjoy it. Hugs and face-to-face contact can be very threatening to dogs. The dog may tolerate this for a while, but at some point may bite or snap to protect himself once he has exhausted all his means of more subtle warning. Some dogs do enjoy a hug from a special person, if it is on their terms and done with some extra scratching on the chest. Few, if any dogs enjoy hugs the way young children do this, which is to clasp around the neck and hang on. Parents should teach their children to avoid face-to-face contact with any dog (even their own dog) and to show love to the dog in ways other than hugging and kissing.

Doggone Safe offers the following suggestions for Valentine’s Day about how to love your dog in a way that the dog will appreciate.

Touch Your Dog
  • Invite your dog to come to you for attention. If your dog turns away or moves away, respect his wishes and leave him alone. Many dogs like to be near you, but not necessarily to be touched.
  • Scratch your dog on the side of the neck or on his chest.
  • Avoid hugs and kisses. People enjoy this, but most dogs don’t like hugs and kisses. They might tolerate it, but few actually enjoy it.
  • Invite your dog to sit with you while your read or watch TV. Let him lean on you or put his head on your lap on his terms.
  • Some dogs enjoy a scratch behind the ears. Most dogs don’t enjoy hands coming down on the top of their heads.
  • Pet your dog and then stop. If he tries to get you continue then you will know he likes it.

Play With Your Dog
  • Play games like fetch and hide and seek that do not involve chasing or rough play.
  • Take your dog for lots of walks.

Understand Your Dog
  • Learn to read dog body language so that you can understand what your dog is trying to tell you.
  • A happy dog pants and wags his tail loosely. He may wag all over.
  • An anxious dog might show a half moon of white in his eye or he may lick his lips or yawn. He may turn his head away or walk away. He wants to be left alone.
  • A dog that suddenly goes stiff and still is very dangerous and might be ready to bite.
  • A dog with his mouth closed and ears forward and/or with his tail held high is busy thinking about something and does not want to be bothered.

Reward Your Dog
  • Look for things your dog does right and give him a treat or praise, petting or play. Never hit or yell at your dog.
  • Give your dog a stuffed Kong or Chewber or other long lasting chew treat to enjoy while he lies on a mat or in a crate.


  1. Here is a link to an article with some easy ideas about how to teach your dog to accept and even enjoy handling by children:

  2. Hi Joan,
    I enjoyed your article and I really believe this is serious business. Affection to your dog regardless of size or breed doesn't matter. A dog is a dog is a dog and they will bite if induced.

    I have a chihuahua. She is 15 months old and I am very careful about how she is handled by people. Because she is tiny, it is so easy for children and adults to say "Oh she's so cute!" They want to swoop her up give kisses, which I will not allow. I calmly and nicely say, she doesn't really like to be picked up. It works everytime.

    She is a very kind dog, and very social, but it is my job to protect her from human harassment. Once in awhile I just want to kiss her too, but I know it has to be annoying and can be threatening.

    She isn't a german shephard, so if she happened to snap at someone (which she has never done so but doesn't mean she wouldn't) the damage wouldn't be as bad, but I still take it seriously and treat her with respect.

    I have done a lot of research on doggies because of her and I have learned so much about their behaviors and most of the odd beliefs I used to have about dogs were wrong. It is very important that owners educate themselves before choosing thier new family member.

    Thanks for the great information!

  3. Hi Raena Lynn: You are doing a great job being a guardian for your dog and protecting her from unwanted attention. Many cute little dogs have to tolerate unwanted attention because of the way they look. HOw would people like it if someone came along and picked them up and cuddled them out of blue several times a day? Good for you for educating yourself and others!