Do Dogs Only Love Us Because We Feed Them?

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There is no greater love than the love you have for your pup! You show your unending love to her with treats, walks, and snuggles because she means the world to you. But does your dog feel the same way? Does your pup genuinely love you, or is she simply motivated by the food you give and services you provide? Let's cross our fingers that the love is real so we all don't have to cry today.


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Is there any scientific evidence that dogs love us?

Let's get straight to the point and ease the minds and hearts of dog lovers worldwide. Is there scientific evidence that dogs love us? Yes! Developments in brain imaging technology show that dogs not only love us back, but look at us like family. Dogs rely on humans even more than their own kind for not only food and protection, but also affection.

MORE: Signs That a Dog Has Bonded With You

A neuroimaging study delved into odor processing in the canine brain. Because dogs rely heavily on their strong sense of smell, the way they process particular odors can show correlations with their social behaviors. Animal cognition scientists at Emory University trained dogs to lie still in an MRI machine and measured their responses to the smell of familiar people as well as strangers. The conclusions of the study were more than telling. When a dog smells his owner's aroma, the "reward center" of his brain, the caudate nucleus, is activated. Out of all odors presented, dogs showed the greatest positive neurological response to the scent of the owners. Why? Because love.


What motivates dogs?

On a basic level, dogs, like most of us, are motivated by food, treats and toys. During training, these rewards are great tools to mold your dog's behavior. Petting and praise also aid in training, however. Because your dog loves you, she will constantly look for your validation in order to please you. A happy human, a happy dog makes.

Beyond training, dogs are motivated by pleasing us on a daily basis. Anecdotal evidence shows that dogs will fetch the paper or your slippers. They will sit and stay not only for a treat, but to hear "good boy" with a pat on the head or a rub of the belly. If your dog knows she made you happy, she will undoubtedly be pleased with herself.


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Does my dog know I love her?

Canines are one of the few animals that take signals from human behavior and voice inflection to understand our emotions, including our love for them. Dr. Brian Hare explained the specific human/dog bond to People Magazine. Hare states, "Dogs and humans have a very special relationship, where dogs have actually hijacked the human oxytocin bonding pathway that is normally reserved for our babies. When you stare at your dog, both your oxytocin levels go up, the same as when you pet them and play with them."


When humans and their dogs bond, they are flooded with neurological chemicals that only strengthen the love that flows both ways. Dogs are domesticated creatures and have spent centuries with humans. They've learned our behaviors and emotions and are the perfect pets to know exactly how much we love them.

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Does my dog love me back?

Your dog surly knows you love her and definitely loves you back. Because dogs think of us as family, you may notice your dog shows you love the same way a child would. Dogs want to impress and please their humans. They also look to their owners for not only physical needs but mental and emotional needs as well. Researcher Attila Andics told Mic, "Dogs are the only species that when frightened, worried, or anxious, run to their humans for comfort, just like children do." Your fur baby turns to you for emotional comfort because there is no one in the world she trusts or loves more. She knows that you will protect her and loves you in return.


WOOF: How Dogs Choose Their Favorite Person

If you want concrete signs that your dog indeed loves you back, look for things like good behavior or signs of attachment. A dog that is bonded with her owner will exhibit good behavior. She will come when you call or patiently sit still while you put her leash on for a walk. When your dog respects you, this is a clear sign that she loves you. If your dog seems attached to you and always wants to be around you (whether treats are involved or not) this is also a sign that your pup loves you and your precious company.


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How do dogs show affection?

Because your dog loves you, she will shower you with the same amount of affection you show her even if it comes in different ways. Dogs will express their love by:


  • Giving you eye contact.
  • Reacting happily to the sound of your voice.
  • Knowing and loving your scent.
  • Wagging their tails.
  • Snuggling
  • Smiling

How can you tell if a dog is happy?

When the love in a household is flowing, your dog is sure to express her happiness. You can tell your dog is happy through her physical actions and emotional behaviors. Happy dogs are eager to play, go for a walk, or ride in the car. They have healthy appetites and tend to lean into your body. A happy dog will appreciate physical touch and likely run to greet you when you return home. A dog's breed, age and general health will all affect her behaviors. It's important to learn your dog's base line and look for any deviations from that normal behavior.


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Treats are great and food is necessary but there is no one basic need that solely motivates your dog to love you. The fulfillment of physical, mental and emotional needs combined is what makes a pup know her human loves her and will always take care of her. If you prove yourself trustworthy and loyal, your dog is sure to shower you in puppy love ... with or without bacon.