Can dogs love?

April 13, 2012

Whoever coined the saying “Dogs are man’s best friend” have surely been exposed to the loyalty, devotion and love of this furry four legged friend. Humans have many reasons to love dogs. These friends have provided not only protection and undying devotion but unconditional love as well. Can dogs love? Professed dog lovers will answer with a very big YES!

Skeptics would say that dogs don’t love the way we humans do. The affection, the loyalty and the protection given by the dog to its human friends is an act of self interest… an investment if you will. This investment will ensure that humans will regularly fill the doggie bowl, that humans will share the blanket especially on very cold nights. The affection that is shown by the licking and the sloppy kisses will make sure that the dog will not be vanished outdoors when occasional accidents happen inside the house.

Have you heard about the story of the dog that had bravely saved the little master from drowning? The dog has an extreme fear of water but it has jumped into the water without a second thought. What can be a more fitting sign of the dog’s love for its human friend? Dog owners support the theory that a dog can love. Dog owners (that includes me) believe that their pets can feel emotions. Dogs love their owners in spite of the fact that some dog owners forget to fill the doggie kibble and water bowls, in spite of the fact that the owner is too busy to take the pet walking every day. A dog that was left at home all day would still meet the owner with wet and sloppy kisses. A survey conducted on the relationship between couples has a rather amusing result. 56% of the women respondents answered that their pet dogs are more affectionate and loving than their partners.

The theory that dogs can feel emotions have always been scoffed by old schools of thought. The theory that dogs have emotions has always been up for debate. Dogs are affectionate, faithful, loyal, protective and noble. Dogs posses many admirable qualities that benefited humans but dogs are just that… animals. Animals are not endowed with human-like qualities. Dogs do not have emotions and therefore are not capable of loving. It was argued that the behavior of canines perceived as affection is motivated by an incentive like food, a cuddle or a jaunt outdoors.

Dogs have not changed. These loyal four legged friends have remained the same as they were during the ancient times. Theories about the emotions of these animals though have changed in recent years. The notion that dogs have feelings was considered. Dog owners would always aver that they see signs of the pet’s love. Dogs are social animals. In the wild, pack members support and protect each other. The strong emotions the pack feel for each other may not be the same as what humans feel for their loved ones but it is evident that these animals show feeling for the members of the pack.

Studies have shown that dogs, like humans produce Oxytocin, a hormone that is associated with feeling of love and emotions in humans. Physical touching triggers the release of this hormone that is responsible for the formation of emotional bonds between humans. Because dogs produce this hormone too when gently touched, patted or stroked, the idea that dogs have the ability to love was considered. Dopamine, another chemical that triggers feelings of happiness is released when humans and dogs are performing pleasurable activities. This chemical makes the dog feel emotions. Studies have shown that humans and canines are pretty much alike in brain chemistry thus it was considered that similar to humans; dogs can feel love as well.

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