Dogs Don’t Have Emotions or Experience “Love”
Thank you Listcrux for the Photo
How does that headline hit you?
Does it ruffle your proverbial feathers, or do you agree?
Do you think dogs have emotions, or do you think animals and most other mammals are emotionless?
This is the “discussion” I had with a good friend not too long ago; especially in relation to “Love”. He believes dogs are not capable of “Love”.
He is very much a “working dog” person and really doesn’t get into the pet side or “love” a dog or dogs, they are more of a means to an end with him.
Before you hate on him, I think he was yanking my chain mostly (because he likes to do this) and he allows my dog to be a “pet” in his house when I visit; getting up on the sofa with him, his wife and kids and she was even once spotted in their bed with his wife ha ha!
What makes that funnier is that once he swore to me no dog would ever be allowed in his bed (months prior to the sighting); this is because my dogs are allowed in the bed when they have achieved that privilege!
So Let’s Talk About This
What do you think?
I suppose at first it depends on how you define emotions.
The definition of emotion is a natural instinctive state of mind deriving from ones circumstances, mood, or relationships with others.
Actually there are over 90 definitions in Wikipedia.
So this was the beginning of our “discussion” simple or basic emotions vs. complex emotions.
I Think We Can All Agree
I think we can all agree that dogs experience simple emotions such as fear, sadness and joy, but is love a simple or basic emotion or a more complex emotion?
The American Psychological Association defines basic emotions as anger, surprise or fear and more complex emotions being shame, guilt and pride.
I know, having worked with animals for over 20 years that even when they should be shameful, guilty or prideful they don’t experience the thought process needed to have these emotions (good for them).
I personally think “love” falls into the basic side of emotion.
Can Love Be Complex?
Sure it can!! But I think as humans we make love complex instead of the act of “loving” being complex.
If you want to suck some time out of your day Google “Is Love a Complex Emotion” .
You can also Google “Emotion in Animals” and get this Wikipedia Definition (which I found very interesting actually although it doesn’t discuss “love”) click on the above link which will take you to the page and if you don’t like basic science on emotion skip down the page to the part about canines.
Because after our discussion (that got pretty heated but only in an understanding way) I had to do all kinds of Google searches to prove my point and there is all kinds of information out there although very little coming from a scientific place.
Psychology Today wrote an article in March of 2013 that proves that dog brains do release oxytocin like human brains, and that is what we signify with “Love” or that feeling of “Love”. For more on that article click here.
I personally like scientific information and scientific studies because they do more for “proving” than merely providing an opinion or conjecture. And, in order to be truly scientific it needs to be able to be reproduced as a study; which in my mind also goes to more proof than opinion.
The Problem with That
Well, there are many problems with that, actually. It takes money to fund studies, and most people would rather invest money to cancer research (or the like) than study if dogs feel “Love”. And, I can certainly understand and respect that.
And, research needs to be done on awake dogs in an MRI machine.
Have you ever had an MRI? They are notoriously one of the noisiest and scariest (my opinion) machines around and you can’t move while an MRI is being executed.
Gregory S. Burns (more for him click on his name) is executing a study using MRI’s and awake dogs to delve into how their minds work when it comes to emotion.
I think this is great, and yet difficult because the amount of dogs used and capable of training to stay completely still while using an MRI is very small. For more on that research and the upcoming book click here.
I Am a Believer
I can’t scientifically explain it, although I’d like to but I am a believer that dogs have emotions and “Love” is definitely one of them. I know this not only in my heart but also because of my simple interaction with my dogs and with the dogs throughout my lifetime.
I have no doubts in my mind and really can’t be swayed in the other direction unless a lot of research and science proves it (which doesn’t seem that it is swinging that way).
So What Do You Think and Why?
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.