dog owner wonders 'does my dog love me?'

How to Know if Your Dog Really Does Love You This Valentine’s Day

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Are you wondering: ‘does my dog love me?’ Sure, dogs perpetually wag their tails at us and don’t hold back on the slobbery kisses. But how can we truly know this means love in ‘dog-speak’ (short of learning how to speak dog)?

Given Valentine’s Day is almost upon us we though it appropriate to delve into this topic now.

Thankfully, there are industry specialists out there doing the data-capturing and analysis for us. In this article we’ll share some of these findings that suggest… Well, best you read on and find out! 😊

I love my dog, but does my dog love me back?

Dogs have been humankinds’ best friends almost since the dawn of time. Ok, maybe not that long, but they’re certainly the first animal we ever domesticated. The history of dogs is a mutual one.

Humans and dogs have evolved together, going from strength to strength because of the security and opportunity we each provide the other.

Another way to put it is that we’ve co-evolved. Dogs are tuned into our behavioral cues and us into theirs Now that’s a match made in heaven. For many of us dog-lovers this pretty much answers the ‘does my dog love me question?’. Because surely if they’ve chosen to stick around since 21,000 BC, it’s a yes?

Actually, there’s even more. Read on to find out….

dog loves it's owner

The neuroscience behind dog love

A team of neuroscientists at Emory University led by Professor Gregory Burns has done some amazing research on dog brain functions, measuring more than 80 dogs’ brain activity using an MRI machine.

The dogs were first trained to sit in the machines using positive reinforcement dog training because they needed to be awake to respond to different types of stimuli with active responses. Like for example, food. But also because it’s a kinder approach to working with dogs on the whole.

But we digress… What did the neuroscientists discover?

Well, it does seem only too natural that canines and humans get on so well. Because firstly the team found out that a dog’s prefrontal lobe activity is quite similar to our own. They solve problems using the same areas of the brain as we do!

Now comes the juicy bit… The team gave the dogs two enjoyable things: hotdogs and praise. Which one would you prefer? Using the MRI machine, that’s precisely what the neuroscientists were able to measure in the dogs based on their brain activity.

The verdict? You’ll never guess. OK maybe you will… Most of the perky pups responded to food and praise with equal zest. But even more excitingly is that the neurological reward centres of one fifth of the dogs had a more powerful response to praise.

Given we have to eat to live (hot dogs included), knowing they respond more powerfully to praise is a significant step to understanding dogs. If you ask us ‘does my dog love me based on these results?’ then if you’re a praise-happy pet parent we’d say yes; it’s a resoundingly clear yes!


Another test of love: A dog’s sense of smell

A dog’s senses are way more powerful than our own. That’s one of the reasons we’ve relied on them through the ages. They can smell the enemy coming from a mile away, and hear them before they arrive.

Because of this, Professor Burns and the team also did scent tests to see which smells triggered the strongest response. They gave the dogs a bunch of smells, some familiar some not. The roster of smells included the dog’s human (or a person from their household) and a dog from their household. These smells were presented together with the smells of a stranger dog and a stranger human.

Still wondering ‘does my dog love me?’ Then this next bit might make you happy in answer. The MRI scans showed that the dogs responded the most powerfully to the scent of their people. Even more so than to their fellow canines! We’re sold: surely that means our dogs love us!

BTW, this research is being used to understand the perceptual and decision making areas of our canine friends’ brains to help predict which dogs will be good assistance dogs! Here’s a video of the study:

The verdict

Yes! We’re sure our glorious doggos love us just as much as we love them! We share a deep and long-lasting bond that will grow from strength to strength. Need more convincing (as if!)?

Now that we’ve looked at how research backs this up, here are some fun ways to show your dog some love:

And last but not least, protect your furry friend with a pet insurance plan. Your plan can help get them the medical attention they need and when they need it. And it will mean not paying hefty bills for vets, hospitalisation, surgery and more on your own. Everyone needs a helping paw – click below to find out more.

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