Do Dogs Feel They Belong?

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Introduction

The whole concept of belonging to a society, family or group is etched deep in the souls of all women and men. From the moment we are born, our mothers stare lovingly into our eyes, creating a lasting bond that carries us through life. We make other attachments along the way, cementing our need to be part of something that truly matters. It’s the feeling of belonging that gives us our visibility on this earth. 

To ask a dog if they feel a sense of belonging is to already know the answer. The lucky pooches leave their mothers nest and find a wonderful sense of belonging with their new owners who cherish and nurture them till the day they say goodbye. Not all pups and people are so blessed, as feeling a sense of belonging may not come easily. Let’s take a walk with our dogs to see their thoughts on belonging.

Signs a Dog Feels They Belong

Take a walk around an animal shelter and you’ll see the sad faces of many mutts who have never known what it is to belong. Their spirits have been shattered by careless humans who disregarded their basic needs. Traditional dog trainers are adamant that our dogs have a pack mentality like their forefathers the wolf. When they suddenly become the lone wolf, their sense of belonging is challenged.

Abandoned or abused, rescue dogs show the signs with a dejected body language where they cower in a corner with the whites of their eyes showing, whimpering in distress. Their ears will be flattened back and their tail tucked firmly between their hind dogs. This cheerless pooch doesn’t know where it belongs and it’s a journey of compassion for the shelters who do their best to instill a sense of hope into this forgotten pup.

It’s a far cry from the bundle of fluff lying on the living room floor, paws raised in the air as they enjoy a tummy tickle from their new owner. This lucky pup has a feeling of belonging and exhibits their comfort by making cute, wolfy-howl noises while staking their new toys, all the while wagging their tail. Their body language is relaxed, their ears raised as they listen to the baby talk being generated by their doting pet-mom.

Your new pet-kid came from a caring mom-dog so their expectations would be to continue their life in an ambiance of belonging as they make the change from doggy-mum to human guardian. This transitory period could decide the nature of this dog as an adult.

If a puppy is thrown into a kennel with a lead and left to their own devices, their loneliness would reflect on the neighborhood, as they bark and whimper, feeling distressed. The pup that comes home to a caring pet-mom or dad will feel a little upset at first but soon embrace these loving aliens who are bending over backwards to make them happy.

Unfortunately some pups start out with a high hopes and find their options running out as their aggressiveness causes others to make tough decisions. This confused canine may have feel they belonged but to a person of ill-repute, who took their psychological issues out on their dog. Like a mirrored image of their owner this dog reacts, in a similar way, barring their teeth at anyone who dares to invade their personal space as their jaw tenses ready to fight. The signs are all there as the dog projects its rage, snapping at a child or turning on their abusive guardian.


Body Language

Signs a dog does not feel they belong include:
  • Barking
  • Cowering
  • Tense jaw
  • Whimpering
  • Snapping
  • Tail tucking
  • Ears back
  • Exposed teeth

Other Signs

Signs a dog feels a sense of belonging are:
  • Being content
  • Having their needs met
  • Viewing their owners as family
  • Relaxed body language

History of Dogs Needing to Belong

The grand-daddy of dogs lives in a pack, similar to a human family with a mom, dad, and wolf-pups. The need to belong is ingrained in the wolf and has been inherited by their doggy descendants, who look to humans as their tight-knit group.

The domestication process has taken dogs further away from their wolf heritage and instilled a need to belong to humans. Even street dogs living alone stay close to human settlements where they can access food and shelter. A dog put back into the wild has a limited chance of survival as we have bred the wilderness out of woofers that would have to forage for new kinds of food and defend against wild predators.

It’s our duty as humans to protect dogs, as we tamed them to be pets and working mutts. We owe pooches our allegiance and promise to protect them from due harm. The history of dogs belonging to a human society goes back to the ancients who endorsed this belief, sharing their lives with canines and even being buried alongside their beloved pups.

It seems odd we still have relaxed animal cruelty laws in so many nations. Even in ancient times dogs were part of a human dynasty and deemed content in their role as companion. The wolf who goes through life as part of a pack has become the dog who lives comfortably with a different species. The need for all creatures to belong is founded not only on the biology of creation, but a deep-seated feeling that this is their purpose.

Science of Dogs Feeling Like They Belong

Man has forged a distinctive relationship with canines embracing their differences as a species while inviting them into our hearts and homes. Dogs are good for us. Time spent petting your adorable Akita or bashful Basenji can calm the waters of your health - reducing blood pressure, slowing down your heart rate, and kicking stress to the curb. If aliens landed tomorrow, we might tell them to try another planet, as dogs have already invaded the human race with their upbeat bravado and ability to help in any way they can.

They are closer to us than some people, with their paws in our laps hanging on our every word. We've known them a long time but still ask the question, "Do dogs love us as much as we do them?"

Science Mag has been kind enough to let us know with a daring study of "loved-up looks” between dogs and their owners. This happened in a Japanese University where an animal behaviorist and dog lover, was intrigued to know if pooches feel a rush of emotion when they look into our eyes. We know humans interact this way through a hormone called oxytocin, particularly evident in mothers with babies.

It appears to be true that your ever-loving Labrador shares this amour-hormone, which is released by both owner and woofers when they gaze at each other. In the experiment, urine samples of both canines and companions were taken before and after a session of staring into each other’s eyes. There was a rise of 130% of oxytocin in pups, with 300% being registered with their guardians.

So now, when you’re gorgeous Griffin engages you in an eye-gazing epic, you know its heart-felt. With such an emotional connection there can be no doubt that dogs feel a sense of belonging to their pet-mom or dad.

Helping Your Dog Feel Like They Belong

Research has shown that dogs are emotive characters that feel from the tips of their paws feelings of happiness, sadness, jealousy, and pain. Their DNA is predominantly wolf but along the way to the dog groomer or pet store to find some cute new, doggy clothes - our wild, wolfy-woofers have genetically changed.

We got rid of the flashes of white, wolfy teeth and their aversions to humans by breeding dogs that were friendly with a yearning to belong to a human clan. Oxford Academic highlights a study of Tibetan dogs and people living in the Andes and on the Tibetan plateau. Scientists recognized a genome sequence that was inherent in both the people and dogs, suggesting a convergence between the two species. It seems Mother Nature has taken notice of the bond between man and dog by altering their genetic makeup in a complimentary way.

With such a closeness being guided by evolution, it’s imperative our dogs feel they belong. We domesticated them and re-designed their wolf survival instincts. They now belong with us, as we spent tens of thousands of years ensuring this would happen. They rely on us for food, shelter, comfort, and a great vet when they are sick. By creating the dog, we have signaled a destiny where woofers belong to the human hierarchy and deserve the respect we give to our fellow man.

How to React When Your Dog Looks to You for Reassurance:

  • Stare into your pooches eyes and feel the love come back.
  • Pet your pup and make them feel special.
  • Spend a lot of time with your dog.
  • Be happy your dog is content.
  • Share your story.
  • Read other articles about people and their pooches.