Celebrating Valentine's Day with your dog? Survey says that's not weird

Dog on the beach, Photo Date: 7/18/2016 / Photo: Pexels / CC0 1.0 / (MGN)
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(GRAY NEWS) -- Are you planning a special Valentine's Day date with your pup? According to a new survey by Rover, you're not alone. About a third of people said they planned a Valentine's Day celebration with their dog to include things like buying them a new outfit or baking a dessert.

Rover.com released a report on the "real power of dog love" just in time for the romantic holiday. In January 2019, they interviewed 1,450 adult dog owners via SurveyMonkey who are dating or in a relationship.

About half of those surveyed said they snuggle with their dog more often than their partner. Women are more likely to choose a canine cuddle companion.

And if a partner couldn't live with their dog, a majority of people said they'd pick their pet. Fifty-three percent said they'd consider ending a relationship if their partner didn't like dogs or was severely allergic. From an opposite perspective though, about 25 percent of those surveyed said they stayed in relationships with friends or romantic partners because they liked that person's dog.

It's not uncommon to bring a dog along on a date, and one in three people who responded to the survey do it. Some said they bring their dog because it is a good judge of character, and others said having their pup around makes them feel more comfortable.

Being a "dog-person" is a big draw for many seeking a romantic relationship. Sixty-nine percent of people said they'd be more interested in dating a person after finding out he or she is a dog lover.

If the camera roll on your phone is mostly pet pictures, that's not unusual either. A quarter of those surveyed said they take more photos with their dog than friends, family or a significant other.

Speaking your dog's love language

All of this love and affection we have for our dogs is not one-sided.

According to Phil Tedeschi, a human-animal connection expert with Rover.com, dogs intentionally return our loving gaze as a way to connect with us.

"The chromosomes of dogs hold unusual evidence of dogs having a special place in the genetic makeup, affiliative attention to people and super-socialability. This genetic predisposition doesn't mean every dog loves people, but rather that dogs are looking for evidence in their relationship that you are also gazing and want to be friends. This confirms that a dog's love does go deeper than the treats," Tedeschi told Gray News.

The majority of people surveyed (67 percent) said they return that loving gaze into their dog's eyes. The eye contact actually increases a "love hormone" called oxytocin.

Your dog might tell you often how much he loves you; you just have to know the signs.

"To understand the significance of these nuanced communications we need to recognize that people and dogs adore each other because we have co-evolved for tens of thousands of years," Tedeschi said.

According to Tedeschi, play is one of the biggest ways your pup is saying, "I love you." Look for body language like a play bow. In a dog's world, playing sends a message of love and friendship.

If you want to express love to your dog, it's pretty simple. Tedeschi says you can mimic their mothers who lick, nuzzle and comfort young pups. Humans can show this type of maternal affection with gentle petting and nuzzling.

Also, dogs are excellent animals when it comes to communication with humans. Tedeschi said they actually can read human faces and body language to understand how we are feeling; especially with people they know pretty well. He said a great way to express love is by communicating with words and hand signals during play.

Your pup may tell you all the time how much he loves you, but you could miss the subtle clues. Tedeschi said they show their love through actions like being underneath your feet, waking you up from a nap, protecting you from the mailman, or even wanting to share your food. (Yes, you read that right, begging is a dog's way of telling you how much he loves you.)

It is important to remember though, that dogs do not communicate love in all the same ways people do. Tedeschi said many will tolerate our displays of affection, but may feel fear, anxiety and distress despite our best intentions.

"This idea of consent is novel and unfamiliar in human-animal interaction, because we often assume that what we enjoy our dogs will also enjoy," he said.

He recommends to watch for any signs of discomfort or hesitation in unfamiliar or uncomfortable situations like being dressed in a costume, interacting with children or crowds, or being taken to a new place. If you notice your dog showing signs of stress, Tedeschi says to avoid training that is coercive, hurtful, fear-inducing or compulsion-based.

Is a dog your heart's best friend?

According to the American Heart Association, your pet just might help you live to an old age. There have been numerous studies on the topic, but so far, no real clear answer on why having pets benefits us with decreased stress, blood pressure and cholesterol.

But of course, if you're not a dog person, the American Heart Association doesn't recommend you to buy a dog for the health benefits. A primary goal of pet ownership should be to provide a loving home to an animal. They also said a more active and less stressed life can help anyone, regardless of pet ownership.


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