What age do dogs feel love? Let’s Explore

What does research say?

An innovative team of scientists at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia took a clinical approach in investigating the emotional state of dogs. Using MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), the scientists scanned their brains while exposing them to certain odors. Changes in brain function provided data on the emotional state of the dogs.

Why odors? Dogs navigate the world with their sense of smell. In fact, dogs, unlike humans, depend on their sense of smell more than sight to interpret their surroundings. The way dogs process and respond to smells reflects their feelings. The experiment used odors to stimulate the canine brain. Using MRI, scientists measured the neural responses of dogs as they were exposed to odors of both familiar and unfamiliar people and dogs.

The experiment revealed that when a dog smelled the familiar aroma of his owner, the “reward center” of the brain (caudate nucleus) was activated. The caudate nucleus contains many dopamine receptors and in human brains, like canine brains, it lights up when exposed to pleasurable experiences. For example, the smell of your favorite meal simmering on the stove might light up your brain. Of all the smells presented to the dogs, they responded more favorably to human odors than to the scent of canine companions. Moreover, a dog’s caudate nucleus was activated most significantly when the dog actually smelled someone they knew. A similar response occurs in humans when they are shown photos of people they love.

In related research performed in Budapest, scientists studied canine brain activity when exposed to sound to learn what happens inside the dog’s brain when we speak to them. When exposed to happy sounds, the canine brain responded much the same way the human brain does by lighting up the auditory cortex. This illustrates the effective communication that occurs between dog and human, validating the human-animal bond.

Through science, we have learned that our canine friends are social, emotional beings that respond to human smells and voices. They react with joy to our scent and respond to the tone of our voice. Science proves that part of the canine brain is associated with positive emotions and they do, indeed, feel love for their human companions.

The History of Dog Emotions: Soul or Machine?

In the dim, distant past it was presumed that dogs had very rich mental lives, with feelings much like those of humans and even the ability to understand human language almost as well as people. However, with the rise of science things began to change. Mankind was now beginning to understand enough about the principles of physics and mechanics that we could build complex machines. In addition, we were learning that living things were also governed by systems that followed mechanical rules and chemical processes.

In the face of such discoveries, religions stepped in to suggest that there must be more to human beings than simply mechanical and chemical events. Church scholars insisted that people have souls, and the evidence they gave for this was the fact that humans have consciousness and feelings; animals might have the same mechanical systems, they argued, but they did not have a divine spark and, therefore, did not have the ability to experience “true” feelings.

Signs Your Dog Knows You Love Them

Your dog shows you love them through body language and behavior. For example, they will stare at you and make direct eye content. This is their way of saying they trust and love you. They will also have obvious signs like a big smile, a wagging tail and a bottom-wiggle.

  • They recognize your name

  • Dogs understand language more than we may realize. In addition to learning their own name, they have the ability to learn your name – and be visibly excited when someone uses it.

  • They want to share their toys with you

  • Sharing toys is another way dogs express love. If a dog really loves you, they will often bring you their favorite toy. This is their way of showing they care.

  • They will guard and protect you

  • Some dogs will naturally protect you from dangers such as people trying to break into your home, and they will guard your home day and night to ensure this doesn’t happen. You might even notice they are “on guard” while you’re eating. This is their way of showing you belong to their pack.

  • They might try to herd you

  • Some breeds are known for their herding tendencies. If your dog tries to make sure all family members stay together, they could be displaying herding tendencies. This is their way of showing affection for their pack.

  • They will rub their face on you

  • Rubbing their face on you is your dog marking you as “theirs” and is a common way to show affection. Of course, if your dog is rubbing his or her face on everything in sight, you might have them checked by a veterinarian to make sure they don’t have a skin problem, like mites or dandruff.

    Your dog might climb onto your lap if they sense you are upset. Most dogs are very in tune with their owners’ emotions and will often try to be close to you during times of stress.

  • They lean on you

  • Dogs lean on you to be close to you. This is their way of showing affection. They might even lay on your feet!

  • They will bring you things to “fix”

  • Some dogs will bring you a broken toy or other object. This is showing they have faith you will fix the broken item for them.

  • They cuddle with you

  • Because dogs have a pack mentality, they consider you as part of their close-knit pack, meaning they want to show you love and affection. If your dog is cuddling and snuggling with you, it’s a sign they love you and know you love them.

    Do Dogs Feel Emotions Like People?

    Does my dog love me or just my food? If you’ve asked yourself this question, you’re one of the thousands of dog owners who have wondered the same thing. Are they the ultimate scam artists, or do they truly love us?Â

    The short answer: yes. Dogs do love us, and they show it in a lot of different ways.Â

    They’re excited to see you. All dog owners are familiar with this scene. You open your front door to a thunderstorm of furry playfulness. Your dog might jump on you, lick your face, and they’ll definitely wag their tail. Being excited and happy to see you is one way you can be assured they love and miss you.Â

    They seek physical contact. This can come in the form of a quick nuzzle, a cuddle, or the famous lean. All of these signal that your pup wants to show affection. It’s best to let them do this on their own terms, so resist the urge to trap them in a tight hug.Â

    They want to sleep near you. Dogs, by nature, sleep in a pack next to each other. They place their noses to the wind to pick up on any smells that might signal a threat. When your pup snuggles beside you or wants to sleep in your room, it’s a sign that they trust you and feel safe.Â

    They give you puppy eyes. Holding eye contact is a big move for dogs, and it’s reserved for someone they love and trust. In the wild, dead-on eye contact is an aggressive move. They use this tactic to intimidate each other and establish dominance. When your dog looks your right in the eyes and holds eye contact without their pupils getting bigger, theyre gazing at you lovingly.Â

    They check on you. Cooking, watching tv, bathroom visits — your dog is there through it all — or at least they try to be. Your pup might pop in your bedroom once to say hi, or they might be your permanent shadow around the house. Checking up on you is just one way your dog shows affection. Theyre making sure you’re ok!

    They’ll lick you. When your dog licks you, it could be for a few different reasons, but ultimately it’s an affectionate gesture. They want your attention and want to interact. They could be gearing up to play or just giving an affectionate lick before a cuddle. Either way, they want to show you they care.Â

    They share their toys. Your dog might sometimes tease you with their toy when they want to play, but in a true gesture of affection, they’ll present it as a gift. They want to share their most prized possession with the person they care about. Sounds like a whole lot of love.Â

    You’re only second place when there’s food involved. A pup that loves you will prioritize you above all—except a big bowl of food. That’s the only time they’ll be totally and completely smitten with something else.Â