Do Dogs Love?
19 February, 2013
A review by Barbara Lampert of “Do Dogs Love?” by Nikki Moustaki
Dog Fancy, February 2013
With all the love in the air this time of year, I thought it might be fun to think about Dog Love on Valentine’s Day. I ran across a very good article by Nikki Moustaki in the February 2013 issue of Dog Fancy which attempts to answer the question: Do Dogs Love?
While I’m a firm believer that dogs do love, it appears to be a bit more complicated, according to four “experts” Moustaki mentions.
The first of these, Sonia Charry, a large-dog expert at PawPosse.com in Scottsdale, Arizona, has this to say: “A dogs’ sense of love is not as nuanced or complex as that of a human adult’s, but neither is a 2-year-old child’s. That doesn’t mean the love a 2-year-old child feels isn’t actual love. It’s just that they haven’t had the experience or knowledge to understand love as a complex emotion. The same goes for dogs.”
While Charry seems to contend that dog love may not be as sophisticated as human love, Terri Jay, a pet psychic from Reno, Nevada, contends that dog love may be superior to human love, because unlike human love, which is most often conditional, dogs love unconditionally. Jay states: “They (dogs) don’t care how we treat them, how we look or smell, or how rich or poor we are. I think THAT love is love.”
Bonnie Beaver, a veterinarian in College Station, Texas, and executive director of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, has a very interesting twist in her answer to the question. She thinks that what we may be looking at as love may have more to do with respect for the leader and the pack order – both necessary for the survival of the pack. Beaver states: “There is nothing wrong in believing that your dog loves you as you love her, but the behaviors of ‘love’ within a pack of dogs or wolves is more behavior that we would call ‘respect.’ Respect for each other, especially by social rank, would help in the survival of the pack as a whole.”
And yet another very interesting take on dog love is from Pia Salk, a spokeswoman for Adopt-a-pet.com in Sleepy Hollow, New York. Salk states: “Nonhuman animals behave in ways that show compassion and concern, and yes, love for members of other species … Dogs seem to naturally possess the propensity to be present in the moment and are intrinsically honest in their displays of emotion. How we interpret these displays is often clouded by our own needs and experiences, but dogs are unencumbered by concerns about self-image, previous notions of failure, or any attachment to perceived shortcomings. In this way, they demonstrate a much healthier notion of love and acceptance than do most humans.” Moustaki sums up that reasoning this way: “So, dogs may in fact love better than we do by virtue of being free of a clunky value system. They are open to love whom they want, when they want – even if the object of their love is an elephant.”
Still, the question remains: Are the behaviors that look and feel like love really love? Or do those behaviors mean something else to the dog? Are they done for the sole purpose of survival, out of respect for the pack and the pack order, as Beaver suggests? We may never know. All I do know is that I LOVE being around dogs. Their energy is pure, they engage in loving behaviors, they want to please, they want to connect, they’re loyal, they live in the moment, and they are joyful. Who wouldn’t want to be around that kind of being?
Moustaki’s concludes, “Whether they (dogs) can love us or not isn’t the point – it’s that we get to love them, and that’s the real privilege.” I couldn’t agree more!
Happy Valentine’s Day to you and your Best Friend!