Do you remember the story of Lady and the Tramp? In this Walt Disney movie from 1955, the pampered uptown cocker spaniel, Lady, and the streetwise mutt, Tramp, fell in love and shared adventures together. They adorably shared a plate of spaghetti and meatballs. Their sweet courtship has been admired by generations.
Ah, but they are not the only furry friends to fall in love. Look around and you will find many examples of dogs who love. These affectionate Fidos love the people and animals with whom they reside and show strong bonds that persist over time. They are capable of loyalty, bonding and show signs of love in their behavior.
Signs a Dog Is in Love
Your dog may not be able to speak words, but they have many ways of communicating their emotions and desires. One of the tell-tale signs your dog is in love is shown with their tail. The tail expresses many emotions from fear and submission with tucked tail, to excitement and love with a wagging tail.
When dogs love someone, they also show their love similarly to how humans show love. The look of love may be apparent in the dog's proximity to and need to nuzzle with the other. You may notice dogs who are attached spending time with one another while engaged in their daily routines of walking, playing, sleeping and eating.
Love is a state of excitement and dogs will show signs of enthusiasm when near their beloved. The dog may get excited and start jumping around or even jumping on to the loved one. Scent is such a powerful sense for dogs that they will actively explore the smell of the loved one, typically sniffing the behind area. The enthusiasm will be seen in the wagging tail that is anticipating the joy of the interaction. Dogs will even groom one another and their humans by licking - we even call those affectionate licks "kisses" when they lick us on the mouth!
The demonstration of love is touchingly revealed in the attentiveness, loyalty, and constant companionship that exists when dogs love another. Dogs have been known to follow their beloved around, seeking constant closeness and even rubbing up against the other. They are playful. You may see gleeful romping, chasing and running about as the dogs enjoy their time together. They like to huddle up and sleep together. It may seem odd but another sign of affection is when the dog will openly pee in the area of the loved one, marking the area as theirs for the keeping.
The History of Dogs Showing Love
Dogs are, by nature, social creatures. The social nature of dogs has been traced to the wilds of the wolf pack, which is not a random union but a family unit. Over time, dogs have become more domesticated and bred to have varying dispositions and roles in their interactions with humans, other species, and with other dogs.
Dogs of varying breeds also differ in the extent to which they have retained tendencies to be dominant. The social behavior of dogs today can depend on a variety of things from breed traits, to temperament, to early experiences, to basic survival needs. The social signals of dogs are important for them to communicate with one another and for us to understand in our relationship with them. It is believed that the relationships between dogs are dependent on motivations for resources and previous learning experiences.
When dogs are together in harmony, it is due to a social signaling in which one is referring to the other for the sharing of the resources. The basis for these relationships between dogs is different than the dog to human bond. The dog-human relationship is shaped by breeding, experience, early socialization and the owner's use of praise and reward with the dog.
The Science of Dogs Feeling Love
Science has taken on the study of physical love responses in humans and in dogs. In some studies, scientists trained the dogs to cooperate with MRI scans. They then exposed the dogs to love objects, typically the owners. They found that the same part of the brain was aroused in the dog as was aroused in the humans when they saw their beloved.
The caudate nucleus is the site in the brain known for love as it attaches memories to pleasure. The scientists believed that this was not simply a reward arousal, like being excited to see food. They believed the study demonstrated a neurophysiological basis to the love that dogs have for others.
Dogs have evolved to have biological and hormonal structures for love that are similar to humans. In studies of the development of complex social emotions, researchers have established that the dog's emotional development has the complexity of a two-and-a-half year old child. Clearly dogs do have emotions with love and affection being among them.
Training Your Dog to be Loving
Experiences during canine social development will play a powerful role in the capacity for your dog to communicate and bond with others. The social development of canines has been broken into three stages.
First, there is the new puppy phase in which the mother is the first socializing agent for the puppy. They are born with closed eyes and good maternal care is critical to their survival. Grooming by the mother arouses the puppy to eat, stimulates elimination, and helps to keep the puppies in the nest. The stimulation provided by the mother will cause the puppy to have less stress and to mature faster. The puppy will also be more resilient to stress later in life.
As the puppy opens their eyes and begins to play with littermates, the socialization process becomes more important. In the next phase of socialization, from about 4 weeks to 12 weeks of age, the puppy is able to be handled and to begin to separate from the litter. These early learning experiences with littermates and humans shape the puppy's social adaptability. This is the time to expose the puppy to others with plenty of praise for positive interactions.
Dogs are thought to develop social maturity at 12 to 36 months. Positive exposures to others will develop the dogs capacity to be social and to bond with others.
With this understanding of how social development unfolds with dogs, it is clear that training to love is an outcome of the positive interactions with the mother, the littermates, other animals, dogs encountered during social development phases, and with the owner. Good training begins with good care of the animal, handling, and safety in the environment. From there, the owner's responsibilities in training the dog to be loving and secure with others is communicated with good basic obedience training and opportunities to have positive encounters with others.
By a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel lover Pat Drake
Published: 03/16/2018, edited: 04/06/2020