Can Dogs Feel the Love?

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Introduction

You love your dog and your dog loves you - there's no doubt about it. Or is there? Anyone who has ever owned a dog before knows that the connection between human and canine is like nothing else in the world. They are our best friend, our confidant, our constant companion. But how deep does the love really go? Thanks to scientists and their desire to understand the human-dog relationship on a much deeper level, we now know that dogs do, in fact, feel the love.

According to one recent study, not only do dogs love us back, but they view us as their family and will do absolutely anything for us. We've all had that experience with an overzealous dog who goes above and beyond to protect their human, which is just their way of showing us how much they love us. 

We've learned a lot about our four-legged friends over the years, including how they experience and display basic emotions like love, joy, and fear. Today, we are going to dive a little deeper into how dogs love in the hopes it will help you become even closer to man's best friend. 

Signs a Dog Can Feel the Love

Every dog is different, which means sometimes building a loving, trusting relationship with your new pup takes time. Depending on whether your dog was a rescue or what their life before you was like, your dog may take longer than others to warm up to you fully - and that's OK. Bonding with your dog means you will be able to lead a happier, healthier life together for many years to come. 

If this is your first dog or you just aren't sure what is going through Fido's head when you walk through the door, there are a few tell-tale signs your dog loves you more than anything in the world. Most are quite obvious, but there are a handful of other behaviors your dog may display that will clue you into how deep their love goes. And on the flip side, there are many different ways your dog shows you how much they care about you, too. 

Some of the ways they show us they know we'd do anything for them include lots of wet, sloppy kisses, overzealous greetings, and some serious snuggle time. Dogs are unique, beautiful creatures that enrich our lives - there is simply nothing like the love of a dog! 

Body Language

These are signs your dog feels the love:
  • Head tilting
  • Listening
  • Jumping up
  • Wag tail
  • Licking

Other Signs

Here are other signs your dog can feel that you love them:
  • Waiting at the door for you to get home
  • Staring out the window, waiting for your return
  • Giving you wet, sloppy kisses
  • Following you around

History of Dogs Feeling the Love

While us humans have always viewed dogs as family, now we have some proof that they think of us the same way. Many, many years ago, most of the research conducted surrounding dogs and their emotions was church sponsored - such as a famous study by French philosopher and scientist Rene Descartes. 

In this now famous study, Descartes suggested dogs were some kind of machine. He believed dogs didn't have consciousness or emotions, but could be programmed to do and feel certain things. 

Thankfully, we now know this is not quite the case. Dogs, including those with abusive pasts, hold no grudges towards humans and have a deep-seeded capacity for love and loyalty. Even an ounce of affection and kindness from a new person will turn Fido into a slobbery, loving mess. Humans could stand to learn a thing or two from canines when it comes to forgiveness and unconditional love, if you ask us. 

Science Behind Dogs Feeling the Love

Dogs are the only animals that run to their humans for comfort and support when frightened, worried, anxious, or upset. This is a very similar behavior to that of children, so it makes sense that dogs are thought to have the same emotional capacity as a two-and-a-half-year-old. We've come to learn that dogs have the same brain structures that produce emotions in humans, and they also have the same hormones - like oxytocin - that we do.

 Like us, dogs undergo a series of chemical changes when they are in certain emotional states, like love. Given the fact they have the same neurology and chemistry that humans do, it only makes sense that dogs have emotions that are similar to ours. It's important not to get too carried away here, however. Yes, dogs can feel emotions like love, happiness, fear, and contentment, but their capacity to understand certain feelings doesn't stretch much deeper than that. And just like not all people have the same ability to experience all emotions, dogs differ in this regard as well. 

Training Your Dog to Feel Love

You can't force love, but there are a few ways you can teach your dog that you aren't going anywhere and they are now a huge part of your family. Whenever you bring a new dog home, it's important to establish a bond and help them learn to trust you. Depending on the dog's history, this may take more time than you had anticipated. However, once the dog has learned you will never, ever hurt them and only want to care for and love them, the rest is history. 

If you have a rescue, be patient and take your time with them. Their willingness to shower you with love may be a little more reserved, but once they do open up, you are in for a real treat. Rescues, especially those who were abused, have so much love to give, it's almost overwhelming.

When training them, work to teach them basic obedience and tricks. From there, you will be able to move to more complex feelings and behaviors, such as greeting strangers. All of this works towards your goal of helping dogs understand how much you love them and that it is OK for them to feel the same. Love isn't something you can teach, but you can certainly make it easier for your new pooch to display these feelings. 

How to React When Your Dog Feels Love:

  • Reward them!
  • Encourage good behaviors.
  • Show them how much they mean to you!