It is easy for us humans to assign human traits and emotions to our dogs, but is this going too far, or do they really understand things like we do? Over the years, countless studies have been conducted that look at how dogs experience emotion, namely love. What we've learned is that, yes, dogs can feel some of the same emotions we do, just not on the same level.
An estimated 72 percent of all dog owners believe they understand their dog on a deeper level and can tell what they are feeling, but truth be told, there are only a handful of emotions dogs can really experience. Anger, sadness, fear, joy, and love are a few of the emotions scientists and researchers have determined dogs can feel, which means there is some evidence to support what dog owners have been telling us for years.
Signs a Dog Can Feel Care
Thanks to science, we now know that dogs can display signs of happiness, love, and attachment to their owners. While every dog is different, it's pretty clear when your pooch is feeling the love. As we get to know our dogs better, there will be certain things they do to show you they know how much you care about them. These responses and displays of affection show that dogs can indeed recognize when they are being well-cared for.
All every dog lover wants is to have a canine companion by their side to snuggle, explore, and simply walk through life with. We bend over backward for our dogs, treating them as if they are children of our own. Our dogs show us they know how much they care by cuddling, listening, and making us feel like the most special person in the entire world.
The bottom line? We love them and they love us. While our furry, four-legged friends may not be able to tell us they are feeling the love in so many words, we know it to be true. However, there are a few things your pooch will do to let you know they trust you and feel loved, such as a relaxed demeanor, rolling over for a belly rub (this shows they trust you), soft facial expressions, tail wagging, and an invitation to play with them.
As pet owners, it is our duty to support and encourage our dog's emotional wellness and overall health. In doing so, they will feel safe and loved for many years to come.
History of Dogs Feeling Love
It was once thought that dogs felt only the basic emotions and could really only sense what we taught them. Thanks to advancements in science and countless studies, we now know that is not true. Most dog owners think their canines are very intuitive and even have super powers when it comes to understanding them, and while this may be a stretch, it's not far off. Our dogs can feel anger, fear, joy, sadness and grief, happiness, and love. The connection is real between humans and our loyal, floppy-eared companions.
Since the 1970s, numerous studies have been conducted all over the world trying to get the bottom of our dog's emotional capacity. Results vary from breed to breed and of course there is always an exception to the rule, but the fact of the matter is your dog does know when you are upset, when you are happy, and how much you care about them.
Science Behind Dogs Knowing We Care About Them
According to scientists, dogs have the same capacity for emotions as a two-year-old human. This means that your dog can understand and feel the basic emotions we've discussed. When it comes to love, dogs have the same hormone - oxytocin - that humans do, which governs how we feel love and affection for others.
Researchers have also used MRI machines to measure brain activity in dogs, learning that the very aroma of dog's owner can ignite the part of the brain that feels joy, often referred to as the "reward center".
Let's face it, many dog owners love their pooch more than they love some people. How many times have you run home from work, not because there is another human waiting for you, but because you missed your dog? We talk to our dogs like we do other people, and we know they will listen to us without interjecting their own opinion or judging us.
It's a pretty perfect relationship, if you ask us. Thankfully, the amount of love you feel for your dog is in fact reciprocated. So keep doing what you are doing, you crazy dog owner, you - we won't judge.
Training Your Dog to Feel Love
When it comes to training your dog to understand how much they mean to you, the only thing you can really do is work towards gaining their trust. Depending on the history of the dog, this may take more time than you had anticipated. Rescue animals, for example, often come from abusive pasts where their trust was broken, making it difficult for them to understand not every human is bad.
Start slow and establish a routine with your dog. This is perhaps the best thing you can do for your relationship with your new pup. Once you have a routine in place, you can start to build from it and test your pup. Teach them basic commands, like sit, stay, and come, and always reward them handsomely. Dogs live for rewards, and it helps them understand that they are pleasing you, which is all they really want in the end.
If you are working with a rescue, remember that time is on your side. The more you work with them and show them you would never hurt them, the more likely they are to understand how much you love them and that you aren't going anywhere.
By a Chihuahua lover Allie Wall
Published: 04/20/2018, edited: 04/06/2020