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Before we got married, my now-husband was into this thing called the Love Languages.
“The Five Love Languages,” a concept developed by Dr. Gary Chapman, is a framework for understanding and expressing love in relationships. By identifying and learning how to “speak” our partner’s love language, we can enhance our connection and happiness together.
There are five “languages”:
- Words of Affirmation
- Acts of Service
- Receiving Gifts
- Quality Time
- Physical Touch
The first few times I took the test — when we were living in different countries and separated by a seven-hour drive — my love language was Words of Affirmation. I needed to hear that I mattered and was being thought of.
I’ve taken the test several times since we moved in together and got married and now I test for Acts of Service. And that’s kind of funny because as someone who did everything for herself from 19 to 39, I assert my independence with regularity and ferocity.
But it’s nice to get help reaching for things on the top shelf.
His was — and always will be — Quality Time. I’m not sure I put too much effort in figuring out what we were supposed to do with this knowledge.
Then I found out you can get find our your dog’s love language.
SIGN ME UP.
Learning your dog’s love language
We didn’t need to answer a quiz to know we needed to go for an adventure this week. Bella and I threw the backpack in the car and went snow-hunting at Mt. Spokane State Park earlier this week.
We came home exhausted and happy.
Because Bella’s love language is Quality Time.
Both quizzes returned the same result for Bella and Rover.com says:
Whether it’s a long walk, a fetch session or snuggles on the couch, quality time shows your dog how much you care. To make quality time count more, mix it up once in a while. Practice a new trick. Leave your phone at home and go for a one-on-one walk. Try a new dog sport together.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence I’m stuck with a dog and a husband who both want quality time from me.
At least for my husband, I wasn’t the one answering the questions (which is why I think online quizzes from your dog’s love language to your Meyers-Briggs personality test are bunk, we can answer the questions the way we want and manipulate the results).
How a dog communicates their love language
Dogs, of course, have ways of showing and receiving love that are different from humans. At the risk of being overly anthropomorphic, they talk to us through their actions and behaviors.
Bella has the shmoop look.
When we say, “She’s looking awfully shmoopy,” it means she might be sad or wishing there was something else going on … like, I dunno, Mama giving her quality time on a hike in the woods. Or belly rubs … Maremma sheepdogs don’t always come looking for affection — they’re too damn independent — but they do love it when you give it to them.
A recent study, The Influence of Interactions With Pet Dogs on Psychological Distress, showed that spending time with your dog can have a positive impact on your emotional state. Tell a dog lover something she didn’t already know, amirite?
Studying the interactions of 73 dogs with their owners, the researchers found the humans who interacted with their dogs after undergoing a stressful task experienced significant improvements in their emotional well-being.
“When you are feeling distressed, spending time with your pet dog could comfort you more than some other activities do,” study author and assistant teaching professor at UC Santa Cruz Hannah Raila told PsyPost. “So keep your pup in mind when you’re feeling down and are looking for a mood boost! Our findings show that this isn’t just a correlation, but that your pet dog actually causes you to feel better in those moments.”
I can’t argue. When I get home from some of those tougher end-of-life sessions, the first thing I do is lie down next to Bella for some love and affection.
For the other love languages:
- Words of Affirmation: Some dogs thrive on praise and encouragement, and they’ll respond to your “who’s a good boy” with tail wagging and general happiness. They communicate their own needs and emotions with barks and other vocalizations. You ever watch one of those husky Reels on Facebook? I’m addicted to them.
- Acts of Service: Other dogs want to be helpful to you. They might bring you their favorite toy to coerce you into playing ballballballball. They might alert you to potential threats and protect you. If Bella has a second love language, this would be it since it’s her natural instinct as a Maremmano to protect her flock.
- Physical Touch: Dogs and humans share an appreciation for gentle touch. And I am all on board with having a codependent relationship with your dog in this area. You might be one of the fortunate ones to have a “velcro dog” — you know, the one that never leaves your side, always has to be touching you in some way. She needs that touch and might be signaling to you that you need some touch time too.
- Receiving Gifts: Uh, show me a dog who doesn’t enjoy treats and I’ll tell you to slap my ass and call me a cowgirl.
When we try to understand our dog’s love language, we can create a stronger connection with them. Making their needs a priority builds the trust and reassures your dog that you’re in this for the long haul and she can rely on you for safety, care, play, nourishment and more.
Anthropomorphism is a big word
Oh sure, these things are flawed
Like I said, we can manipulate the answers to the questions to get the results we want.
We also engage in anthropomorphism, which is the act of attributing human characteristics, emotions and intentions to nonhuman entities.
As much as I’m convinced Bella is as close to a human child as a dog could possibly get, she is still a dog with dog thoughts, dog emotions and dog needs. She has her own way of communicating and experiencing the world, and she has her own way of reacting to it all.
If I don’t stay cognizant of that, I put her, me and others at risk because a livestock guardian dog in guardian mode is no joke, folks. They have been bred over thousands of years to hone natural instincts of detecting predation and defending their flock against it. An offleash dog charging at us on the trail — no matter how friendly or happy their owner may think him to be — could be perceived as a threat, and that’s not a fight in which I wish Bella to engage. It just won’t end well.
It’s so important that we as humans, the ones who supposedly have executive thinking capabilities, strike a balance between recognizing our dogs as sentient beings with feelings and not seeing their behaviors too much through the lens of human emotions.
We should seek to understand their body language, methods of communication and behaviors as dogs. That way, we ensure they are well cared for and our bond grows stronger.
So, while a love language may be fun, it isn’t the perfect translation of the human-dog relationship.
What is perfect, though, is the love.