How much does love cost? If you’re a husband and didn’t get your wife what she expected for Valentine’s Day, I bet you’re going to find out just how pricey love can be. On the other hand, with a pet, love can be as easy as a walk down the street or a scratch behind the ear.
A question that I get asked quite often is, “Can my dog feel love and love me in return?” The truth is complicated at best and you are the only one who can honestly answer that question. If we want to get really technical, scientists can run extensive studies and pinpoint the exact part of the brain that reacts when you speak to your dog versus when someone else does and track their responses.
Animal behaviorists can watch hours of video that detail every part of your dog’s body during your interactions with him to determine how your dog responds to you.
Would that tell us if your dog loved you? What about his actions? Does he meet you at the door when you arrive home? Does your spouse? I once heard a story about how you could tell which one loved you more.
Lock your wife and your dog in the trunk of your car for three days and see which one is happy to see you when you let them out.
All joking aside, if we take our dogs on their actions and determine their opinion of us based solely on those actions, would there be any doubt of their love for us? Do we trust that a person loves us just because they say the words “I love you” even when their actions don’t show it? (I think that’s an entirely different column.)
Now we’ve determined that our dogs’ actions represent their love for us, how do we show dogs our love for them and help them communicate their love for us? It’s so easy that you might think I’ve started joking again, but it’s all true. Teaching your dog basic obedience gives your dog a way to please you and a dog who knows what you expect of him is a happier dog because he knows how to please you.
Years of rescue work have shown me that dogs don’t carry nearly as much baggage as people do and their ability to transition from one family to the next is much easier than any person I’ve ever met could do it.
I’ve been told it’s because they don’t bond as deeply as we do but I like to think it’s because their hearts are larger than ours with more room for love. I will continue to believe that my dogs love me and I will continue to love them in return.
If your Valentine’s Day wasn’t all you hoped it would be, take your dog for a walk, scratch him behind the ear and look into those eyes knowing the love you’re looking for is right there.
Kathryn Leisinger is the “dean of wags” for School of Wags, a nonprofit dog training and rescue organization in Harker Heights. Email questions about dogs and dog behavior to firstname.lastname@example.org.