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Does Your Dog Really Love You?

Dog paw and human hand forming a heart

Do dogs really love their humans, or do they just tolerate them because it is in their best interest? Our dogs often seem to be a source of unconditional love. However, many owners wonder if their dog would jump ship should another human come along and offer them a warm bed and full food bowl. If you’ve wondered how loyal your furry best friend is, this article is for you! We will dive into the psychology behind how much dogs truly love their owners…or not.

Proof Is in the History Books

Dogs have been hanging out with people for over 20,000 years [1]. And they, along with sheep, goats, cows and chickens are one of the oldest domesticated animals. Were dogs drawn to people because they wanted to eat the leftover meat and bones after the humans were finished eating? Or did they really want to form a relationship with these two-footed creatures?

Mutual Benefits 

Dogs and humans got along well together because they both provided things that the other needed. Dogs got food and affection while people got protection and, well…affection, too.

Different Breeds for Different Needs

As the lives of dogs and people intertwined, people took note of various characteristics in their canine friends. People began selecting the most friendly and obedient dogs to carry on these characteristics in future dog generations. This process led to closer interactions between dogs and humans along with increased affection in both directions.

Dogs Do Benefit from Their Relationship with People

A female dog owner kissing her dog that is staring at the camera

Today, dogs get many benefits from living with humans. They get food and water, along with shelter and healthcare. While not all doggy parents are as good to their furry babies as they should be–dogs are better off, the vast majority of the time sharing a home with their human family.

They also give back a lot to their human family. Do they give back so that they will get more in return, or do they give back because they love their people? “Some behaviorists believe that a dog's apparent affection for a person is motivated by its self-interest rather than real love [2].

What Does Science Say About the Dog-Human Bond?

The reality is scientists do disagree on your dog’s ability to love you. There is research that indicates that your dog might truly love you. According to Psychology Today, there’s no doubt that people and dogs benefit from the companionship of our poppers. In fact, the benefit is chemical: “A number of studies have shown that when dogs and humans interact with each other in a positive way (for example cuddling) both partners exhibit a surge in oxytocin, a hormone which has been linked to positive emotional states” [4]. But is this love? 

Does Your Dog Love You? It Depends on Your Perspective and Interpretation

Ultimately, the matter of love is extremely complex. And the answer to your question may be found within yourself. To decide if you believe your dog loves you, ask yourself if your dog does any of the following:

      • They are excited when they see you.
      • They make and maintain eye contact.
      • They want to touch and be touched by you.
      • They want to be close to you.
      • They check to see where and how you are.
      • They want to play with you.
      • They follow you.

Now, if a person acted the same way, what would you think of your relationship?

Do Dogs Truly Love Their Humans

A dog owner kissing a dalamation

A better question is “Does it really matter?” If you have a great relationship with your furry pal, and they act excited every time you walk through the door, it matters little if they truly love you the way that humans love each other. It is sufficient to know that they don’t judge you because you are not rich, or good-looking, or terribly clever. They are just overjoyed that you are you. And that is what really matters the most!



[1] Dog domestication and the dual dispersal of people and dogs into the Americas

[2] Does Your Dog Really Love You?

[3] The Power of Oxytocin

[4] The Role of Oxytocin in the Dog–Owner Relationship