About Dog Love and Loyalty
By Jess Rollins
Do you ever think about what your dog feels towards you and your family? Do you call it love? Scientists debate about whether dogs feel love, but I am not much interested in that. I feel sure that dogs love us or what is close enough to the emotion to call it that. I am basing my belief on the fact that dogs get happy to see us, sad when we leave and seem to seek out our attention and enjoy it.
But I don't know about dogs loving us "unconditionally". Unconditional love means that your dog's love for you is not based on how you behave. Dogs do seem to give us a bit of leeway in our behavior, but our dogs do respond to us based on how we treat them and if someone is consistently unkind to their dog, the dog will usually cease to act loving towards that person. I know my dog is more apt to want to cuddle with me when I am being calm then when I am agitated!
People might think that dogs love us unconditionally because they seem to forgive us quickly. If you get angry at your dog and yell at him, he may be upset in that moment, but a few moments later he may be happily ready for a petting from you. In addition, we may be confusing love in some situations with "appeasement signals". For example, let's say that you are upset and yell at your dog. Your dog may lower his body, put his ears back, give you those big eyes while wagging his tail low. That look could be interpreted as "I love you even though you are yelling at me", but I think it is more accurately interpreted as "Please don't hurt me, I'm just a harmless little dog".
Loyal dogs are celebrated in myths and stories and TV shows. A loyal dog loves you (or your family) more than he loves other people and would rather be with his people than with strangers. It's true that some dogs are only loving towards their family while other dogs are loving to everyone. Positive socialization can help a dog become more loving towards a greater number of people, but some dogs seem to be just genetically disposed towards expressing love towards only a small inner circle. We humans enjoy loyalty because it makes us feel special and loved, but I think a dog that has more love to give is a happier dog as they seem to exhibit less anxiety. Although a dog that loves to meet strangers can be a bit more difficult to keep safely at home and might tend to go visiting when off leash so needs to be trained well to come when called.
What do you think about dog love and loyalty? Do you think that dogs love unconditionally? Do you think the ideal dog is loyal or loves everyone?