It was the last place I expected to see controversy.
If asked if their dog loves them, most people would reply, “Hell yeah.” At least that’s what I thought.
But after seeing the responses to a video I shared on Facebook, I’m wondering if asking if our dogs love us is the wrong question.
I recently shared a video on the Something Wagging Facebook page that featured a five question quiz to know if your dog loves you. After over 100 people shared it, I traveled around the internet to follow the wide range of comments.
Of course there were arguments about whether people should crate their dogs or let them sleep in their beds. One person argued that even asking the question was narcissistic (a point I sympathize with).
But the comments that made me sad came from awesome dog people who noted that their dog didn’t “pass the love test.”
And that got me thinking. If we’re asking a series of questions to tell us if our dogs love us, maybe we’re asking the wrong ones.
Here, check out the video. Then, let’s talk.
If you’re unable to view the video, here are four questions to ask yourself to know if your dog loves you:
- Does your dog want to spend time with you after she’s eaten?
- Does your dog want to sleep near you?
- Is your dog calm when you leave her?
- Is your dog happy to see you when you come home?
Does your dog pass all four of the “love tests?”
If not, I wouldn’t worry. Because there’s something important the test doesn’t consider.
A Dog Walks Into A MRI
Sounds like a joke set up, doesn’t it?
But Billy Higgins of the Wall Street Journal based his video on the research of Dr. Gregory Berns. And Berns conducted his research by training dogs to lie quietly in an MRI machine so he could scan their brains’ response to stimuli.
Read that again. The research is based on dogs trained “to lie quietly in an MRI machine….”
Could your dog lie quietly in a contained space, unable to move, while a machine making weird sounds scans his brain? I don’t think my dog Honey would like it one little bit.
So the questions Dr. Berns suggests as a good way to know if your dog loves you is based on research done using the best trained, most relaxed, and completely trustful dogs.
Dogs who were poorly socialized as puppies or who have lived through a traumatic incident might show their love differently than the “love test” expects them to.
After all, if brain scans of depressed people or folks suffering from PTSD look different from those of happy and well-adjusted people, why wouldn’t the scans of dogs look different based on their temperament or mental health?
Which means that we may need to wait until scientists find a way to scan the brains of dogs who can’t tolerate an MRI machine to understand all the different way dogs show love.
After all, an autistic child will show their love differently than a neurotypical person. But that doesn’t mean they don’t love.
The Right Questions To Ask
If you watched the video, you saw a fifth question that I didn’t mention above. And that question is: Do you love your dog?
And no, I don’t mean do you squee every time you see him sleeping with his fuzzy belly showing. Or that you can’t stop from giving yourself from giving him a big squeeze. In truth, that last one is probably the last thing your dog wants as a sign of your love.
To know if you love your dog, really love your dog, I’d ask these five questions:
- Do you give your dog the best food and medical care you can afford (even if it means giving up some luxuries)?
- Do you allow your dog to make choices when it’s safe to do so?
- Do you give your dog the mental and physical exercise he needs every day?
- Do you avoid situations that make your dog uncomfortable unless you have an action plan for slowly desensitizing him to them?
- Are you committed to giving your dog the best life possible for his entire life?
And if you answer yes to the questions in Pam’s “Do You Love Your Dog Test,” then your dog can’t help but love you. Even if he doesn’t pass the love test set out for him on some video.
Your Turn: How do you show your love for your dog? And how does your dog show he loves you?