Until the day your dog can talk, you'll never likely hear him pronounce "I love you," and in the meanwhile, don't expect him to purchase you a Hallmark card or some balloons with those famous words printed on top. And forget about receiving a box of chocolates or a flower bouquet from your dog when Valentine's Day is around the corner; dogs know better ways of demonstrating the affection they feel towards their favorite people.
The best part is that dogs say the canine equivalent of "I love you" in dog speak on a daily basis, too bad that we're often too busy to take notice and their message is often missed! And for those skeptics frowning upon a dog's ability to demonstrate primary emotions such as love, sadness and fear, they should consider that whether dogs are capable of feeling emotions is no longer a subject of debate. It has been scientifically proven that dogs share the same brain structures that produce emotions in humans.
The fact that animals have primary emotions—and intelligence—is no longer the subject of debate. Primary emotions like anger, sadness, fear, and love are not in contention. ~Nicholas Dodman
1) Gazing into Your Eyes
When your dog adoringly gazes into your eyes with his soft brown eyes, you're not imagining things if you get a warm fuzzy feeling of being loved. A study conducted by Miho Nagasawa of Azabu University in Japan and his colleagues found that when owners and dogs shared a long mutual gaze, both species had higher levels of oxytocin in their urine compared to those of owners of dogs sharing a shorter gaze. Oxytocin, also known as the "cuddle hormone," has been associated with nurturing and social bonding and Nagasawa and her colleagues concluded that their research provided “a manifestation of attachment behavior.”
"When owners interact with their dogs, both sides have surges in oxytocin. That puts a check in the ‘dogs can love’ box.”~ Karen L. Bales
2) Greeting You at the Door
Does your dog get all happy and excited the moment he hears you opening the door? Neuroscientist and author of the book: "How Dogs Love Us,"Gregory Berns may have an explanation.
Based on his brain imaging research, Berns found that dogs could clearly discern the scent of familiar humans and their smell sparked activation of their reward response center in the brain, an area called the caudate nucleus.
Berns claimed that the reward responses in dogs were analogous to the brain responses seen in humans, such as when "seeing a person that's a friend or someone you like.”
Of course, there are likely other mechanisms at play when it comes to those greeting rituals such as relief from boredom and loneliness and even an element of curiosity, but these are in addition to being glad to see us.
“What we’re finding with the imaging work is that dogs love their humans—and not just for food. They love the company of humans simply for its own sake”~ Gregory Berns
3) Listening to Your Voice
Dogs aren't just tuned into their sense of olfaction, does your dog wag his tail when you talk to him in a happy tone of voice? You may not imagining things when you assume Rover must "love" hearing your voice.
In Budapest, Attila Andics, a neuroscientist along with his team of researchers, used MRI technology but this time to study the brain activity of dogs upon hearing human voices.
In this study, it was found that dogs, just like humans, have dedicated voice areas in their brains and therefore happy human voices were capable of lightening up the dogs' temporal pole, the part of the brain responsible for processing acoustic information.
This shows that dogs are physically wired to pick up on our subtle mood changes and they are very good at tuning into our feelings. It's evidence explaining why the bond between humans and dogs is so close, suggests Andics.
"We know very well that dogs are very good at tuning into the feelings of their owners, and we know a good dog owner can detect emotional changes in his dog - but we now begin to understand why this can be."~ Attila Andics
4) Seeking Comfort from You
Does your dog rush to you for comfort after being exposed to some frightening event or stimulus? Scientists at the University of Veterinary medicine in Vienna found striking similarities between the bond between dogs and their owners and the bond between between human parents and their children.
The study conducted by Lisa Horn from the Vetmeduni’s Messerli Research Institute, provided evidence for the similarity between the “secure base effect” found in dog and owner relationships and child and caregiver relationships.
The owner's presence played an important role in enticing the dog to behave in a confident manner. Andics also confirms that dogs act similar to babies when they're frightened and seek comfort from humans with whom they have formed a bond, a totally different reaction compared to cats and horses, animals who would rather flee than seek support!
"One of the things that really surprised us is, that adult dogs behave towards their caregivers like human children do. It will be really interesting to try to find out how this behavior evolved in the dogs with direct comparisons." ~Lisa Horn
5) Showing Unconditional Love
There no scientific study or research to back this up, but it's crystal clear, dogs love us for what we are. We can be rich or poor, happy or sad, young or old, no matter our income, social status or whatever life throws at us, we can always count on our dogs.
Dogs don't hold any grudges toward us regardless of how many mistakes we may have done. It's no wonder why dogs are considered man's best friend, whenever it comes to love, dogs can always outperform us and they're naturally equipped with an endless capacity for unconditional love that they'll willingly dole out for a lifetime.
Regardless of what happens, dogs will always think we're wonderful and they'll love us with all their heart. And the best part of all is that they can say "I love you" without using any words at all!
“The world would be a nicer place if everyone had the ability to love as unconditionally as a dog.”―M.K. Clinton
- Oxytocin-gaze positive loop and the coevolution of human-dog bonds, by Miho Nagasawa et al. ScienceVol 348, Issue 6232, 17 April 2015
- Scientific American, "Is the Gaze from Those Big Puppy Eyes the Look of Your Doggie's Love?, retrieved from the web on February 12th, 2016
- Veterinary Practice News, "Animals Have Emotions, But What About ‘Theory Of Mind’?" by Nicholas Dodman, BVMS, DACVB, retrieved from the web on February 12th, 2016
- The Why Files, The Science Behind the News, University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, retrieved from the web on February 12th, 2016
- io9, We Come From the Future, Why Are Dogs So Insanely Happy to See Us When We Get Home? by George Dvorsky, retrieved from the web on February 12th, 2016
- Scent of the familiar: An fMRI study of canine brain responses to familiar and unfamiliar human and dog odors, Gregory S. Berns, Behavioural Processes Volume 110, January 2015, Pages 37–46
- BBC News, Dogs' brain scans reveal vocal responses By Rebecca MorelleScience reporter, BBC World Service, retrieved from the web on February 12th, 2016
- Horn L, Huber L, Range F (2013) The Importance of the Secure Base Effect for Domestic Dogs – Evidence from a Manipulative Problem-Solving Task. PLoS ONE 8(5): e65296. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0065296