Wednesday, 27 January 2016


At the start of each of my training courses I frequently tell my clients that their dogs dont love them and that all they are doing is satisfying their basic needs. The need for companionship, food, water, exercise and play. I tell them that if someone else was to come along and offer their dogs these things then their dogs wold go with them. I then usually make an example of this by calling one of their dogs over to me with the promise of a nice piece of cocktail sausage. It always works, what dog can refuse a nice piece of cocktail sausage. So I was intrigued to come across an article which suggested that dogs can indeed declare their love for their humans by displaying certain actions. This is a summary of the article and the points highlighted.

So I thought I would share an article I read recently that was extracted from an interview by “60 minutes” Anderson Cooper and Brian Hare supposedly a well know Dog expert. In the interview they were discussing how dogs express love.

According to Hare;

  1. According to Hare when a dog looks you in the eye he is “hugging you with his eyes”. He explains further that when a dog looks at you whilst the two of you are playing with one another, oxytocin is released. Its the same hormone that helps new  mothers bond with their babies. 
  2. A study found that when humans echo another yawn, its because their empathetic, like sympathy pains.Its impossible to measure if dogs are empathetic, but its possible that a dog yawning the same time as a human happens because the dog has bonded with the human.
  3. Sometimes a dog will lean on a human because he is anxious, wants you to do something, or take him somewhere. But leaning is also a symbol of affection. 
  4. Most dog lovers know that pups are motivated by food. But according to Berns, once a dog eats all its food, his next action can signify whats most important to him besides eating. If after a meal he snuggles up to you there is definitely some puppy love going on.
  5. When you leave your dog to go out it will sometimes panic. this is usually down to separation anxiety. But according to Bern if your dog goes into his crate or is accepting of you leaving i.e, they are clam when you leave, it means your dog loves and trusts you and is confident you will come back to him.
  6. If a dog wants to sleep in your bed its a definite sign your dog loves you according to Hare. This is a sign he does not want to be separated from the pack.
  7. If your dog brings you his favourite toy it doesn’t just mean your dog wants to play. It also means he thinks of you as his pack leader. He wants to please you as the pack leader by offering you his most prized possession. 

There are a couple of other examples but you get the idea.
I would like to offer an alternative reason for these actions above.

  1. When a dog looks into your eyes its because he is waiting to see whats happening next. Are you going to satisfy his basic needs. Food, Water, exercise, play or let me out to do my business. Its not love its because your dog wants something.
  2. dogs are great at mimicking and learn all sorts of things from living with humans. We teach them to give a paw, roll over, wash their faces, all sorts of neat tricks. Yawning is just another trick to them. Something they copy and wait for a reward. There is no scientific evidence to support yawning is empathetic in dogs and its just wishful thinking.
  3. My dog Star leans on me when I am at home. she does it because she wants me to get up off the sofa and play with her. She is demanding my attention in the most submissive way. 
  4. After eating their meals my dogs come to me and give me lots of attention. Mostly because they have a routine in that when they’ve eaten they get out to go and do their business.
  5. There are two things a dog will do when you leave them to go out. Resign themselves to some alone time, go to their beds and lie down for a nap. Or they will panic and take it out on the furniture or other personal object that you stupidly left lying out. It has nothing to do with trust or love. Dogs either resign themselves to the fact that you are off to work or they don’t. Its a routine which they follow everyday, like all their other routines.
  6. I love this one where dogs show you how much they love you by wanting to sleep on your bed. Off course they want to sleep on your bed. Its warm because you’ve just left it and its cosy. If I had a choice I would stay in it and not get up and go to work. The dog doesn’t love you it loves your bed.
  7. Again our star brings me her favourite toy every night when I sit down to watch TV. In fact she brings me very toy lying around every night, one after another. She does this because she wants me to throw it for her and interact with her. She has been lying all day whilst I was at work and now she’s full of life and needing attention and play time. she doesn’t care whether its a toy, a shoe or a rag. anything just to get me to move and interact with her.

In my opinion all too often we manifest our own feelings onto our dogs and confuse their actions. We want to imagine that they are showing us how much they love us when in fact what they are really doing is showing us how much they have adapted their basic wolf like skills over thousands of years to communicate with their human pack leaders of what it is they want or need at that moment. And it mostly boils down to satisfying basic needs. I love my dogs and whilst I satisfy their needs and show them love and attention they choose to stay and live with me, that is all. If someone else was to come along and offer them the same thing only better they would be off in a flash.

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