Love is what makes dogs special, psychologist suggests

Dogs are intelligent, but love is what sets them apart from other species

  • Dogs and humans became friends 14,000 years ago

Clive Wynne, a dog behavior scientist and the founding director of the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University, says that dogs are special because of love. In his recently published book Dog is Love: Why and How Your Dog Loves You, Wynne says that love is an important factor on why humans and dogs have had a strong relationship.

Wynne began studying dogs in the early 2000s. He and his peers believed that animals, dogs in particular, cannot feel love and thinking that they do does not make sense since only humans can have this type of feeling.

Eventually he was persuaded by existing sources that said otherwise. “I think there comes a point when it’s worth being skeptical of your skepticism,” Wynne told AFP. Studies on dogs have been getting a lot of attention lately, especially towards the level of intelligence that they possess.

The Genius of Dogs by Brian Hare is one of those sources that indicate that dogs are more intelligent than what they are thought to be.

But Wynne says that a dog’s intelligence isn’t the attribute that sets them apart from other species since other animals also possess this. Good examples would be pigeons, these animals are able to identify different objects in 2D images. Dolphins have been discovered to have the ability to understand grammar, and honeybees perform a particular dance to inform others when they have found food resources. None of the things mentioned above can be done by dogs.

The one thing that is unique in dogs according to Wynne is their “hypersociability” or “extreme gregariousness”.

Takefumi Kikusui at Japan’s Azabu University recently published a research that suggests that when a dog and its owner look into each others’ eyes, the level of oxytocin, a hormone produced in the body associated with emotions and bonding, increases in both, which mimics the interaction between a mother and a child.

In 2009, UCLA geneticist Bridgett von Holdt discovered that dogs have a mutation in their gene that can cause a human to have Williams Syndrome Gene, which makes people crave the company of others, just like dogs do all the time.

“The essential thing about dogs, as for people with Williams syndrome, is a desire to form close connections, to have warm personal relationships.”

One test done by researchers to measure the love of a dog was using a rope to open a door to a dog’s home, with its owner standing from a distance with a bowl full of food near them, and the dog approached its owner first. This only means that dogs want praise more than food. A dog can only want praise more than food if they are treated well during their early years.

Dogs were domesticated by humans 14,000 years ago. The Trash Heap Theory is still being advocated by Wynne, which states that dogs first started appearing in humans’ dumping grounds, and eventually got the approval of humans which is responsible for the relationship both have with each other today.

There is another theory that suggests human hunters kidnapped wolf cubs and trained them, which Wynne calls “completely unsupportable point of view” since wolves have always been disinterested and hostile towards humans.

Wynne says that 10,000 years ago, after the Ice age, was when humans started hunting with dogs, and this must have been the time when the syndrome started occurring. This is important to note in order to dig deeper into the welfare of dogs. Shock collars in order to control dogs and to present dominance are not something that Wynne approves of.

Dogs need to be led and to be reinforced positively.

“All your dog wants is for you to show them the way.”

Dogs do not like to be left alone and isolated, so it is necessary to socialize with them.

“Our dogs give us so much, and in return, they don’t ask for much.

“You don’t need to be buying all these fancy expensive toys and treats and goodness knows what that are available.

“They just need our company, they need to be with people,” Wynne added.

Written by paulie walnuts

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