Is it truly 'love'?

Physical intimacy from a dog... leaning on you, demanding petting/attention by staring and whining, playing/mouthing/teeth roughly with you, protesting/disagreeing with your decisions by barking/redirecting/thrashing about, etc. is a very confusing thing for most people... including myself! I really struggled with this several years ago while I was learning how to train my own troubled dog. When we people want to express trust, respect, and love to another human, we allow that person into our personal space where we are most vulnerable and offer them physical gestures like hugs, kisses, hand holding, etc. We also allow and respect their input on our decisions and actions. Now, there is a huge difference between meeting someone with a hug and meeting someone with a handshake. You certainly wouldn't hug and kiss a stranger or even someone that you have just met because you don't know who they are, if you can trust them, if they will hurt you or even if they will be offended by your loving gestures. But after knowing someone for a time and getting closer, developing that trust, we humans like to give significance to that relationship by offering intimate gestures as a sign of love, friendship, trust, and respect. It feels good and it's a huge accomplishment to build these kinds of relationships with other humans. So, what is so confusing is that this is completely opposite with dogs. The dog who truly 'loves' you, respects you and trusts you will not impose himself on your personal space, he will not try to control your decisions and actions nor will he demand petting or intimacy of any kind… he will wait for an explicit invitation. The dog who truly loves you will go lay down on the opposite side of the room because he implicitly trusts and respects your leadership, your decisions, and your ability to protect the family so he doesn't feel like he needs to take over any of these roles (which he is completely ill equipped and unqualified to perform). The dog who truly 'loves' you offers you the ultimate sign of trust and respect which is following your leadership and respecting your space. And this creates confidence in the dog because he knows that you will take care of everything and that all he needs to do is what you ask of him. Now on the flip side, if you have a dog (which I did several years ago!) who follows you every time you leave the room, leans on you or tries to climb in your lap, this is behavior that signifies control, manipulation, insecurity and a serious lack of trust. This dog is so unsure of himself and of your ability to lead and take care of him that he starts trying to control you and your actions... and if you don't comply with his demands and choices (petting, reactivity, resource guarding, your movements about the house, etc.) then because he is so close to you all the time he can easily keep a close eye on you and discipline you with a growl, posture, or bite if you don’t comply with his demands and choices. It is all very strategic on the dog’s part and this behavior from a dog is almost always misinterpreted as ‘love’ by their human counter parts. So, take some time and really observe and analyze the dynamic and relationship between you and your dog… is really ‘love’ from the dog’s perspective? Or from the humans?

Kristen Cameron