Does your dog love you? Nearly all dog owners will insist that yes, they do. Not only do they love you, but the love they give is unadulterated, absolute, 100 percent, unconditional love. The best kind of love there is.
Experts provide differing opinions on the subject. Many will say they are capable of feeling love, but others claim that what appears to be love is just your dog buttering up his provider of food and shelter.
Psychologist Stanley Coren believes they can feel love, but in a limited way. He said dogs feel emotions up to the level of a two-and-a-half year old child; these include joy, love, anger, fear, disgust, contentment, distress and excitement. Emotions such as pride, shame, guilt and contempt do not surface in humans until later in their development, and therefore never in dogs. (He explains in the article, which ran in Psychology Today, that what you see as guilt or shame over a dog’s transgression is really just fear that he is going to get in trouble!)
In an article published in the Chicago Tribune, author Jon Katz said dogs do not offer love.
“Dogs develop very strong, instinctive attachments to the people who feed and care for them,” he said. “Over 15,000 years of domestication, they’ve learned to trick us into thinking that they love us.”
The enthusiastic greetings, the snuggling, the big eyes are simply “opportunistic, manipulative behavior,” he said. Dogs do not have the narrative minds to process emotions, and are therefore guided by their instincts, and will latch on to anyone who provides food and attention. He disputes the idea of the “Disney dog,” in which people imagine animals have human qualities.
“Dogs don’t miss you when you go away,” he said in the article. “They might get anxious and confused, but don’t mistake that for loneliness or mourning. As soon as they find someone else to take care of them, they forget you pretty quickly.”
Renee Taylor, who spends a lot of time here at All About Dogs in the boarding area, strongly disagrees.
“I don’t feel that way at all,” she said. “I get what he’s saying, but when I look into a dog’s eyes I see a soul.”
Taylor said there is love amongst dogs in a litter or a pack, and we, as humans, replace the pack.
“They look to us for boundaries, for love and for feelings,” she said.
T.J. Brown, who oversees daycare at All About Dogs, echoes Taylor.
“They have feelings and emotions,” he said. “You can see it all over their faces.”
Do you think dogs can feel love? Tell us!