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A History of Friendship

Age-old wisdom holds a dog as man’s best friend, but we rarely consider the real depths of this statement and what exactly made such a proverb come about. First of all, this is definitely a relationship that works both ways, as we as humans are also a dog’s best friend. Part of what makes this bond so strong is certainly our inter-dependence, but the connection between people and their dogs is also something that nature herself has honed and strengthened through the ages.

These faithful furry companions haven’t been just lying around on couches and hanging around people for scraps of food over the course of their domestication. Rather, these pets have played countless life-changing roles in the lives of many and, as such, dogs evolved with humans in quite the literal sense.

The implications are much deeper than it first appears, as they concern both the physical and psychological characteristics of our beloved canines.

  • A study that was published in the Nature Communications journal just a few years ago unveiled and hypothesized quite a few interesting things about this ancient relationship.
  • The study established that the domestication of dogs into human households and farms goes back as far as 33,000 years.

It appears that, in that long time, dogs bonding with humans and vice versa facilitated very similar genetic changes in both of our species. Some of these changes concerned metabolism, diet, digestion, and even various neurological aspects, such as the processing of serotonin in our brains.

All this is to say that when we talk about a dog’s unconditional love for his human, we are talking about much more than just a way of attaching familiar emotions to an animal and trying to humanize it.

  • Over that long period of evolving and growing together, dogs have become much more adept at communicating with humans, and that includes a special devotion and also an ability to understand how we feel.
  • As such, we aren’t just trying to humanize them – they have been observably humanized already.

Dogs can read our body language and tone, but they also have an uncanny sense of smell that almost transcends human comprehension. It has long been speculated that, just based on the way we smell, dogs can detect if we are sick or if we feel afraid, happy, or sad. Of course, dogs cannot sniff out a particular emotion, but based on our sweat and other subtle reactions to situations, they usually have a very good sense what’s going on.

Over the coming weeks, we will further explore the depths of a dog’s unconditional love, as well as the many observed and proven ways in which this love can directly benefit our health. You will find that this emotion is very much real in dogs and that it means much more than initially meets the eye. Before that, however, you must understand both the obvious and subtle ways in which our dogs express that love.

Signs Your Dog Loves You

So, how do you know your dog loves you? Depending on your experience and the level of understanding between you and your pooch, this can be a completely reasonable question to ask. Most people who have been dog owners will certainly have a rough estimate of how devoted and loving their dog is, but it’s always worth knowing what to look out for. After all, since dogs are so sensitive to our behavior and body language, we may as well return the favor.

  1. Just like with humans, a lot can be told from a dog’s eyes. Dogs use eye contact to communicate a variety of postures and intentions, including aggression, distrust, but also love.
    1. The general theme of canine body language is relaxation versus tension, and it applies to eye contact to a great extent as well. If a dog stares with an intense glare, showing plenty of white, it’s not a good sign.
    2. However, if your dog’s look is clearly welcoming and pleasant, with relaxed skin around the eyes and little more than his pupils showing, it is a look of affection.
  2. Another way dogs show unconditional love is by relishing in the smell of their owner. An interesting experiment on the subject was performed by Dr. Gregory Berns of Emory University in Atlanta.
    1. Trained and comfortable canine participants were exposed to various smells while their brain activity was scanned in an MRI. Positive emotions were clearly detected when the smell was of someone the dogs knew well.
    2. The response and the area of the brain affected were very similar to a human reaction to being show photographs of their loved ones. There are many ways to tell that your dog enjoys your smell, and one of them is if he likes to play with your personal items, such as garments.
  3. One of the most obvious and certain signs your dog loves you is the way he reacts when you come home. Apart from the clear outbursts of happiness, such as jumping on you, some dogs will show affection by simply approaching you in a very relaxed manner while wagging their tail. As long as the tail is at mid-height and the dog is giving it a full, wide wag, often while also swaying his behind along with it, he is expressing happiness.
  4. Pay special attention to the way your dog reacts to your voice. The familiar, welcoming sound of their beloved owner’s voice will trigger a very positive reaction and usually take priority. Especially attached and well-trained dogs will even forgo food just to see where that voice they love is coming from. Loving dogs are also usually very eager to approach when called upon.
  5. Overall, just like people, dogs want to be close to the ones they love and they will not shy away from physical contact. If your dog is completely comfortable with you, he will let you scratch his belly and lie around without a care in the world. Therefore, another great sign your dog loves you is his willingly sleeping in bed next to you, if allowed. A loving pet dog will generally want to snuggle, cuddle, and play-wrestle with his or her owner on a regular basis.

 

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