How Can I Make My Pet Like Me More?
“Does my dog love me, or just want food?”
“Does my cat know I exist?”If you’re like us, you care that your pet is happy, healthy, and loves you as much as you love them. Sometimes it’s obvious, as anyone who has been woken up by a lick to the face from a smiling, dopey golden retriever will tell you. Other times, it’s not so clear–or maybe you’re worried someone in your family won’t get along with your pet. Don’t sweat it–it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get your paws dirty with some insight for forming a better relationship with your pet.
It really all boils down to communication. Regrettably, it’s still not possible to speak with animals (looking at you Google Translate!). So to make up for it, it’s important for pet owners to learn to communicate effectively with their pets. This falls into two main categories–interpreting your pet’s body language and vocalizations, and learning how to mimic their various forms of communication in a way that makes them comfortable in any situation.
Cats–whether mercurial or affectionate– display a few awesome examples of this body language that are pretty easy to notice. An easily observable is the “slow blink.” Many cat owners have seen this, and it’s a signal that your cat is calm, and totally at ease with the situation. As a human, you can mimic this body language to show them that you are, likewise relaxed, and not a threat to them at all. Learning body language can be the key to “cat diplomacy.”
It’s important to recognize that the same behaviors in different species of animal do NOT mean the same thing. Dogs often roll over on their backs for a belly rub usually as a sign of submission during play, and around people they trust. In most cases, do the right thing and give your dog a belly rub if they do this! Cats, on the other hand, employ this seemingly inviting posture as a defensive position. Don’t try to rub your cat’s belly if they do this–it often means they feel threatened, and reaching for their belly can earn you a little scratch.
These rules extend beyond four legged friends. Birds are extremely expressive, and anyone who has a bird at home will tell you they are full of body language and vocalizations too. Birds use all kinds of signs, such as flapping their wings, ruffling their feathers, and clicking their beaks to convey how they are feeling. Understanding these signs, such as the tail wag of a happy bird, can make the difference between an interaction that leads to a distrustful bird, and one that keeps them perching on your arm and happily chattering to you whenever you’re home.
These few examples cover only the tip of the iceberg in pet body language. Something as subtle as the speed in which a dog wags their tail can signal a totally different emotion. At a minimum, all pet owners should learn to read the signs and signals their pets are sending them. Your pet will thank you, and your relationship will be stronger because of it. Learning the deeper nuances of an animal’s body language can spell the difference between a pet who feels threatened, and one who feels loved enough to curl up in your lap at a moment’s notice. It can be a challenge for some, but with a little patience and a healthy dose of treats, anything is possible.