Is a Dog Truly a Man’s Best Friend and Can They Show Love?

    Anyone who has a dog should be able to attest to the fact that the love of a dog is something incredible. They show signs of love all the time, whether its following you around the house, greeting you with a wagging tail when you come home, giving you slobbery kisses, or cuddling up when it’s time to relax. This however seems to be a topic of debate with some people saying that it’s not possible for dogs to showcase “love”, that it’s merely a condition placed upon them. Sounds ridiculous to me but let’s dive into it.

Dogs dream about their owners

     A researcher, Dr Deirdre Barret, at Harvard who spent years studying sleep cycles, found similarities between human and dog sleep patterns. She said that, “Humans dream about the same things they’re interested in by day, though more visually and less logically”. She suggests that most mammals have the same sleep pattern as humans. They go into deep sleeps, in which the brain has a lot less activity, followed by a REM sleep cycle just like humans do. Its during this REM cycle where the dreams occur. Although there is no way to prove it she does say, “there’s no reason to think animals are any different. Since dogs are generally extremely attached to their human owners, it’s likely your dog is dreaming of your face, your smell and of pleasing or annoying you.” If this is true, that’s so awesome! The next time they fall asleep and start dreaming, just think that they are dreaming of you! How is that not love? I say it is but I’ll let you be the judge. 

“It’s just conditioning,” some say

Fred Metzger, a veterinarian at State college posed a theory that the so called love that dogs have for us is just the conditioning we have placed upon them. He said, “If we moved our dogs to our neighbour’s house and that neighbour gave the dogs as much love as we gave them and in the same motivational forms, I believe our dogs would adapt to the new life and would become as loyal to the neighbour as they were to us.” I personally disagree with the logic in this theory. It doesn’t show that their love is a condition, it actually makes a greater point for their ability to love. Because just like humans the dog would go through the emotional distress of a loss and learn to love again. Let’s take this theory and put humans in the place of a dog. If a husband divorces his wife and he leaves her. She then grieves for a period of time but then eventually finds another man and falls in love with him. Does this mean her love was a condition placed on her by her previous husband? No! That’s crazy talk whether it’s with humans or dogs. If you give your dog up to a new owner, although the dog will miss you, it will love again. What do you think?

Dogs like Hugs

I feel as though the intent of some of these “dog studies” is skewed.  It’s easy to twist “facts” to prove what you want it to prove. An example of this happened in 2016. There was a study done by a psychologist that analyzed whether dogs liked humans hugging them. The article is called 'The Data Says "Don't Hug the Dog!". It caused a bit of a controversy and a divide amongst a lot of people. I will link it here (even though I don’t want to give this doctor anymore attention then he already received). He took 250 random photos off the internet of humans hugging dogs. He then analyzed each photo for key stress signs that dogs show when they are “stressed out". Meaning, signs like ears down and head turned away to avoid eye contact. He found that in 81.6% of the photos the dog was showing signs of stress, 7.6% showed signs the dogs were happy during the hug, and the remaining 10.8% remained neutral and showed no signs. He finished his article off by telling the reader to avoid hugging their dog because more than 4 out of 5 dogs find it anxiety inducing.  As soon as I finished reading this article I was so upset. After I calmed down I was able to pick apart his flawed approach. He isn’t looking at the whole situation, he is just taking a small snap shot of a much bigger picture. There are so many questions to answer. Is that person who is doing the hugging, the dogs owner or key human? (I bet not) Was it a forced hug? (Most likely. If you cuddle with your dog and you hug them I doubt they are pulling away. But if you just say to someone “get a picture of me hugging my dog” out of the blue the dog may not enjoy it). Was the dog already in a tense state before the photo was even taken? To get an accurate assessment on whether dogs don’t like hugging you would need to document it in person. My thought behind this guys motive was that he has a dog who doesn’t like his attention so he set out to try and prove that dogs don’t like hugs. Sorry man, but your wrong, dogs love hugs (and when I say hugs I mean being close and arms around, but definitely no “squeezing” hard). I know Thor and Storm do! He has since been proven wrong by actual professionals. I know this doesn’t specifically have to deal with love but I think dogs liking hugs shows they are capable of the “love” emotion. (Sorry, this was a bit of a tangent. When I was writing this it brought me back to how frustrated I was when I first read that article last year haha) 

      I think you have to find what love means to you. There quite possibly could be situations where people question if a dog can love but maybe they just have a different meaning of love. If it’s having stuff done for you, then no your dog can’t show that love. But if it’s being there to cheer you up, a dog can definitely do that. I will take it one step further and say that not only can a dog love but they actually have unconditional love for us. Unconditional love is known as, “affection without any limitations or love without conditions.” In my mind that’s exactly the love a dog has for its human. All they want is to make you happy and have fun with you. I don’t think it’s coincidence that every time I’m feeling down or bummed out or sick Thor stays by my side the entire time. This is a sign of love in my books. It’s a sign of genuine care and affection. So is a dog truly a man’s best friend? Definitely! (In my books anyways)  What do you think? Is a dog a man’s best friend? Can a dog love or is it just a condition we place on them? I have my opinion but I want to hear what you think in the comments below. If you like this post and like what we do on this blog, we encourage you to like and share using the social icons below.

- Papa Bird