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Can Dogs Tell if You Love Them?
The canine connection with humans is a rare event and one that goes back a long way to a time when the earth was an open plan environment, littered with predators. There wasn’t much love lost between wolves and early man until something extraordinary happened.
A few friendly wolves put their best paws forward and entered the world of humans. Together, they created history with their unlikely kinship and started a craze that eventually led to dogs like Poodles, Retrievers, and Beagles. Our instant affection for this fluffy family dog held tight for thousands of years as various breeds were inspired to work or hang out with their guardian. Dogs are a phenomenon and an evolutionary surprise, but do they know we love them? Let's go and find out!
Signs a Dog Knows They are Loved
Once science rings the bell of truth, most folks tend to listen. This was the case when an explosion of studies unfolded the real world of mutts and how they can tell if we are happy, sad, or ecstatic. They have us pegged and you only have to look at your besty-Bulldog to know they see love.
The "L" word has the best meaning when generated between man and his mutt. It’s a spiritual interplay that we have created over time. Watch how your Husky stares into your soul and you feel all mushy when they raise their paw. Dogs open up our hearts and remind us we are sentient beings who sometimes get lost in a world of “must do’s”
Your cute, little Pug, panting and drooling, offers time out from a fast-paced life, while the stylish Saluki pacing the living room reminds you it’s a good day for a walk. We are their guardians, but the roles are often reversed. When an avalanche of tears is inevitable, our dog pal is there, listening and comforting as they tilt their heads trying to take us in.
With beautiful breeds like the Irish Setter and Corgi on a vulnerable list, we wonder what a world would be without dogs. Imagine the blind having no one to lead the way or a sad moment without a Labrador licking your face.
What would opening the door after a day at work be without Rusty welcoming you home? As they spin around and bark in glee, you feel love and reciprocate by letting them jump up into your lap. We take them for walks, offer treats, and play Frisbee in the park. If they get sick, we rush them to the vet and spend time helping them recover. They know we love them - it's written in our eyes.
The History of Dogs and Why We Love Them
It’s hard to get our heads around our dogs being a cute, floppy-eared version of a wolf. These are wild creatures feared by predators in their domain. They roam in family packs and if they set their sights on an elk, their speed, strategy, and numbers are generally no match.
The pug snoring their little heart out in your lap doesn’t look like a wolf or have eyes for you as the next meal, so how on earth did a mercenary wolf become a cruisy family pet?
Mankind began breeding wolves and looked for traits they could inspire to herd livestock, guard their homes or be companions. Humans were fanatical about making mutts, as they tested their creation ethic and sped up evolution. The world watched as dogs took over the planet.
Scientists believe when wolves aligned with humans, it altered the path of evolution. Since that grand gesture, dogs have been evolving alongside us in a convergent evolutionary process that sees our genetics overflowing into each other. Early breeding programs would have been looking to create tameness and once they had that in the bag, dogs were able to tune into human social skills.
Dogs are a great way to view genetics at work and also how quickly they can advance a species on earth. While we rule the earth, our genes are busy deciding which characteristics are worthy of development.
It’s a little magical the transition our woofers have made from wolves to cute Pugs and Boston Terriers, but it wasn’t a magic wand waved over an ancient grey wolf that brought forth dogs. Mother nature had her say and "mans best friend" was born.
The Science Behind Dogs Knowing We Love Them
Saving the best for last, we find the science world has taken great pride in telling us why dogs know we love them
In their past life as wolves, our pooches spent most of their life warding off predators and bringing home the bacon. Once they became the new best-ey of humans, their food was on tap with no lions or bears looking for a fight.
Dogs got to like being with us, and in the process, a loved-up hormone known as oxytocin made the connection stronger. This is the elusive element that makes mothers bond with their babies and couples fall in love. The X-Factor of oxytocin sees dogs gazing wistfully into our eyes and us looking back at them.
We refer to dogs as our pet-kids and there’s no doubt they evoke a protective, nurturing instinct, very much like a mom with her child. A researcher from the Vetmeduni Messerli Research Institute wanted to explore the concept and found dogs bond with their guardians like kids can to their moms. This is referred to as the “secure base effect.”
During the experiment, dogs were given an interactive toy loaded with food, but they only seemed interested when an owner was there. Strangers were introduced, but the dogs were happier when their guardians were present. This super-bond between man and dog is made even stronger when high levels of oxytocin are released. It looks like we are pet-parents, and for most of us, happily so.
Training Dogs with Love
The beautiful bond between people and dogs can be broken with training tactics that destroy trust and love.
Many of us grew up with the rolled up newspaper theory being the magic cure for a dog that pees in the house, chews your shoes, or digs up your roses in the garden. Inflicting pain on any living thing is never right and in this age of bully awareness, it’s time to put archaic training techniques in the trash can.
We are an evolving species learning by experience. To keep saying dogs are wolves is like comparing Neanderthals with 21st-century humans. The quick-fix training methods of alpha rolls and shock collars could get you locked up if you did the same to a child.
We are finding out from the science guys that our dogs probably love us, so why would you train them with scary strategies. A study featured on Live Science showed 25% of owners using punitive training methods said their dogs became aggressive. According to the author of the study, carried out at Ohio State University, these dogs acted out because of fear.
Vets, Humane Societies, and Animal Shelters think these old-world tactics are cruel and unnecessary. Training pooches with positive encouragement and rewards will get them gazing at you with affection. The other way makes a dog unpredictable.
Victoria Stilwell arrived in the U.S with a dog training regime that included encouragement and kindness. She brought change and believes that scientific studies support our dogs as emotive, intelligent citizens worthy of respectful treatment. Punitive dog training takes the love out of a canine-human relationship. If you want your dog to know you love them, train them with a fun, caring program instead!
By a Japanese Chin lover Linda Cole
Published: 05/23/2018, edited: 04/06/2020
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