Ways to Bond with Your Pets at Home

In the photo: Susannah's dogs, Gus and Maebelle                        04/18/2020

I’m starting to understand why pets try to beeline it out of the house when the front door opens. Being home all day for weeks on end is starting to have its effects. I can tell because I, like my dogs, get excited now when I hear the doorbell ring, signaling that the UPS man has delivered something special. Whatever the delivery may be, thrill and curiosity fills the room as eyes widen and tails start to wag. 

No doubt your beloved furry ones have also noticed that you’re around a lot more these days. Maybe you’re taking them out three or four times a day now, or refreshing their water bowl more times than is necessary. Either way, I’m sure they’ve realized that something is different, and the good news is that there’s more we can do to bond with our four-legged friends other than incessantly walking them. 

Verbalize your appreciation.

Speak to your pet like a friend. We all know those dog owners who address their four-leggeds like newborns, and the ones who bark demands at their dogs as if they were Alexas. Whatever tone you use with your pet, know that they feel and understand the energy you’re directing toward them. Why not try talking to your pet like you would a best friend or beloved (human) family member? Tell them what you appreciate about them. Maybe you love how they always greet you with a tail wag or kiss when you come home. Or the fact that they are one of the best listeners you know, and you can tell them anything. Let your pets know they are loved and seen.

Get down on their level.

The same way we might crouch down to speak to a young child, get down and love up on your furry one close to their eye level. Most likely, you’ll see them light up in some way when you do, whether they rush over to be closer to you or start licking with frantic excitement, like my Corgi girl does. Sitting on the floor with your pet is perfect cuddle height. If that’s not doable for you, inviting them up on the couch from time to time for a good cuddle sesh is equally rewarding. 

Give some loving touch.

I’m sure you’re no stranger to giving your pet a pat on the head or a scratch behind the ears, but you can also offer some gentle massage. There’s science behind this form of connection: Levels of the brain hormone oxytocin—often called the “love hormone” because it enhances feelings of affection and trust—go up in both you and your animal friend when you pet them for an extended period of time. 

To begin, find a quiet space in your home so your pet can feel at ease, and tell them what you’re going to do. Then, with a gentle touch, begin massaging the sacrum, located at the base of the tail between the hipbones, using light pressure and circular movements. Proceed up the length of the spine with gentle strokes, and use very light pressure when in direct contact with the spinal vertebrae. Massage for animals can be helpful for anxiety and arthritis

So while you’re hunkered down with your pets—as it seems many of us are with animal shelters across the country becoming empty—take the time to strengthen your bond with your four-legged loved ones. Show them your love and appreciation for the space that they hold in your home and in your heart.

Susannah Beattie, E-RYT 500, has been teaching yoga since 2012. She has taught at Kripalu for many years leading yoga, workshops, outdoor programs, and mentoring in the Kripalu Schools.

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