There are dogs that undergo severe separation anxiety the minute their owner leaves them alone in the house. Others are a lot more well-adjusted and seem to take the separation well in their stride. But meeting their owner after a period of being apart – both long and short – is still an emotionally-charged matter, and with an awareness of this, you can modify your greeting ritual in a way that leaves your dogs feeling significantly more loved and secure.
The secret of this ritual is: touch. Canines derive a great sense of wellbeing and their body chemistry changes dramatically when they are greeted with a loving touch.
A study into dog-human relationships conducted by the Swedish University Of Agricultural Sciences in Uppasala, measured the level of happiness in a group of canines via blood test, after their owners greeted them in three different ways when they returned to their pets.
The first group entered the space and completely ignored the excited, tail-wagging animals. The bloodwork results showed these animals recorded a spike in their oxytocin levels (the `happy’ hormone) that immediately came down and was overshadowed by the production of cortisol (the `stress’ hormone) on account of the owner’s callous and uncaring behavior.
The second group entered the room and spoke to the dogs, but did not physically interact with them in any way. This time, the canine bloodwork noted the early production of oxytocin that depleted quickly because the words were not followed up with physical contact.
The third group spoke cheerfully with the dogs and greeted them with loving hugs and stroking that shot their oxytocin levels up the skies. And kept it there for a considerable period of time. In other words, the dogs maintained their happy frame of mind much longer after the event because the verbal greeting from their human was accompanied with physical touch.
The study does more than record canine body chemistry when touch is included in the moment of greeting. It proves the value of raising a happy dog with plenty of physical proximity, because like humans they absorb millions of positive, subliminal signals when their owner assures them that they are loved in this way.
Regular massages is another way to introduce more touching in your relationship with your pet. Massages help their bodies stay supple and keep blood circulation in good flow. But it also promotes a strong bond between owner and dog and improves the animal’s emotional baseline that has a positive impact on the dog’s general health as well.