New report by Rover reveals how pet parents spoil their dogs

A Valentine’s Day report by Rover.com reveals how pet parents plan to spoil their dogs more than ever this year, after ‘pandemic pups’ saved the day in 2020.

Rover.com has released its ‘Decoding Your Dog’s Love Language” report, which explores the different ways dogs express affection to their human family members.

In time for Valentine’s Day, the report reveals how UK 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 reveals new data revealing that 41% of UK 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 85% 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.

According to Phil Tedeschi, a human-animal connection expert and part 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.

Phil said: “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.”

“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 86% of UK 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.

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.

Kate Jaffe, Trend expert for Rover said: “Dogs have once again proven how much we rely on them for love and companionship. 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.”

The Decoding Your Dog’s Love Language report is based on a survey of 500 UK-based dog owners conducted in January 2021. You can read the full report here.