For a long time, I’ve been losing sleep over this. Does my dog ACTUALLY love me – or does she just see me as a source of food, comfort and shelter? If so, should that matter? Does that affect the way I feel about her?
Platitudes insisting that dogs love us, adore us, and will be waiting for us at the Rainbow Bridge – I don’t typically tear them down, because I know they make plenty of people feel good, but, this is my blog, and I’m ready to say, “BLAUGH.” It’s made up crap – why believe it? I can’t be the only one who just doesn’t buy it.
This Is A Dog For The Lonely
Dogs make us feel less lonely. Sometimes, we don’t need someone who can solve our problems or talk us through our insecurities. Sometimes, we just need someone to snuggle.
Enjoying the company of a dog is fulfilling and worthwhile. It’s clear that dogs benefit from spending time with us, too.
But why should we think our dogs love us more than they love themselves? Why would we even want it to be that way?
I don’t think we need an extreme amount of love and devotion from our dogs. What they already offer us is more than enough.
When we have complicated people problems, the kind our dogs would never understand, they distract us with their antics. They remind us that, yes, there is something worth living for, and no matter what we do, say, or go through in life, there will always be someone who needs us.
What Is Love? (Doggy Don’t Hurt Me)
It’s hard to define and recognize a dog’s love. It’s harder to understand it in humans.
Sure, our lovers, children, friends and parents can say, “I love you,” but verbally expressing it isn’t the definitive way to know if we’re loved.
Is it the need to spend time together? A tingly feeling in the stomach? A want to cry tears of joy when they’re around, and a feeling of devastation when they’re not?
If so, then do we cease to love each other when we fail to please one another? Are we obligated to love everyone, and if not, why are some people not deserving of it?
I’ve run out of question marks. Instead of tentatively asking questions, I need to write exactly how I feel.
I feel that love is not the sum of benefits a person or dog provides for us.
If we only define love as a feeling, a noticeable, fuzzy feeling inside, we’re not doing our loved ones justice. Fuzzy feelings can be caused by hormones, indigestion, and pulses in the brain. If love only exists when we feel fuzzy inside, we fail to notice the love that is still present when we no longer feel fuzzy.
I don’t feel fuzzy when my dog does something I don’t like – for example, chase after a cat – but I don’t stop loving her… right?
Lovers don’t feel fuzzy throughout the ups and downs of daily life. If you only recognize love when you feel a “spark,” you’re really only acting in pursuit of a bodily high.
We make many sacrifices for the ones we love. Love is the only possible reason I expressed Matilda’s anal glands for the first time today and didn’t even think it was gross. I didn’t feel fuzzy inside, either – I was too busy hoping that I could make her butt feel better.
Sometimes, people do good deeds to earn credit, recognition, or create a debt.
But good deeds and sacrifices created by love are truly selfless. We don’t have to be photographed or recognized – we don’t even have to be thanked – to feel satisfied doing things out of love.
That’s the only way makes sense. Anal glands are love.
Scientific Proof That Dogs Love Us
I’m crazy about dog science. Every few weeks or so, I discover yet another study that shows us a peek inside the amazing canine brain.
Dogs participating in a recent study were trained to sit still in an MRI machine so their brain activity could be observed as they were given a reward hand signal, received a food reward, and were exposed to the scents of an unfamiliar and a familiar dog, their own scent, and the scents of a familiar and an unfamiliar human.
The study showed that the scent of a familiar human greatly activates a dog’s caudate nucleus – the part of the brain associated with positive experiences – more than any other factor in the experiment. The familiar human scent was from a person who was not present. So, these dogs were having happy feelings just from smelling one of their humans.
It’s not as though we dog owners didn’t know this, of course. Our own observations count as science, even if we don’t conduct controlled experiments.
Scientific Proof That We Love Dogs
Another study compared brain activity of women who had both children and dogs. When shown photos of their own children, mothers’ brains indicated a spark of emotion, affiliation and reward – regardless of whether the photos were of their human children or furry children. However, there were some differences that showed our feelings, while similar, are unique.
Dogs are not our children – but they make us feel equally happy.
The Intersection Of Science And Soul
Science shows us that, biologically, dogs are hardwired to love us, seek us out when they’re scared, and they simply love being around us.
I’m still wondering if they can detect the fuzzy feelings we get when they cuddle with us, lick us, and make us part of their silly games. I have a feeling that they do have some inkling of how much they mean to us, but really, they have no idea.
Would they squeeze our anal glands, if things were the other way around? I think they would.
Sunday 22nd of January 2023
I thoroughly enjoyed your article...especially about the anal glands. I ask people to imagine an elevator full of people sniffing each other's butts as they got on. But, I can say from my own life experience a few things about a dog's love which go beyond scent. The first dog which kept me from ending my own life when I was a young boy would see me walking home from school crying, and she would run all the way across the yard to comfort me. Then, comes Bailey...the only dog I ever would call my soulmate. From what I've read, dogs will not keep constant unbreakable eye contact. Bailey, with no food as bait, will have stare downs with me. As I talk to her she looks at me and listens. As far as loving us more than themselves, I believe this can be true, especially if they are protecting us from an attacker putting their lives on the line for us. Scent is only part of it their affection for us. I know both my girls can hear me walking down the hall before I enter the apartment. Bambaloo, who, if I am selected to be a contributor on this site, can her me quietly crying in the other room as I am trying to make a decision about ending her life and comes to lay next to me and we are face to face, eyes connecting, listening music and asking the Kachina for dogs for guidance. She puts her soft tongue on my hand reassuring me. They have a sense which is beyond human capability. True love. I have not found it in one human in ever. But from a dog, 3x, in my life. They accept us for all our faults, and positive attributes. They also will give their lives for us. I don't know about rainbows, but will be happy to be their last meal if no one finds me when it is my time and no one is around but me and them.
Saturday 27th of March 2021
wow a lovely topics!!!1 from my point of view and i have one of my German shepherd. I believe and trust that my dog love me. it's not only for food or for to save his life. I think that love of a dog is much better then a human love. Think's for your great post.
Thursday 17th of November 2016
I think the answer to your question as to whether our dogs detect the fuzzy feeling when we cuddle is yes. A study done at Azabu University in Japan found that eye contact between dogs and their owners released a rush of the cuddle hormone, Oxytocin. It's the same hormone which creates the bond between mother and baby.
Animal behaviorist Takeumi Kikusui who lead the study says this could be one of the reasons why thousands of years ago a friendly pack of wolves evolved alongside us and became our canine counterparts. It's interesting that the study also found that in wolf owner pairs there was no increase in the cuddle hormone even although the wolf was raised by their human.
On a less scientific note - I think dogs have a favorite human. Like in our house Charley and Zè have chosen me as their favorite human. And Lexi adores my hubby - she'll even drop her bone if she hears his car in the driveway. Charley was my rescue 3 years ago and I'm the one who's worked to get her back to her confident self after years of abuse. Lexi was rescued by hubby 18 months ago. And Zè, well he's just a goofy boy who loves his mama! As a family unit we all love each other equally and there's no favoritism from us to them. But I think dogs do have that one person they adore above anyone else.
Tuesday 26th of July 2016
Very interesting article! So thought provoking...I like to believe what I feel from my dogs is indeed love (well, four out of five, one I think is in it just for the food!) The bond that forms is a special one. What they show me and what I feel for them I know in my heart is love and am so thankful for it, every day!
Monday 25th of July 2016
I trademarked "My Heart Beats Dog" (r) because it totally reflects how I feel. I love when science proves what the human heart has known for ages: Dogs are love ;)