You give good treats.
Your dog knows that, and he’s happy to take them any time you offer. He’s likewise glad to take you up on that car ride, and that long walk…? Hey, thanks, Pal. You give good treats but as you’ll ask yourself when reading “Dog is Love” by Clive D.L. Wynne, Ph.D., is that why Puppy sticks with you?
There’s no doubt about it: dogs are special. Yours, in particular, but sometimes you wonder: does Doggo really love you, or are you just a food dispenser? Is it fair to lay a human emotion on a canine?
As a scientist, dog-owner, and a self-described skeptic, Wynne needed solid proof that his pooch, Xephos, felt real affection for him. She’s certainly bouncy-crazy when he comes home and she “radiates affection,” but is that love? Or is it talent or intelligence that dogs have, when it comes to humans?
She’s not the smartest dog, Wynne says of his girl, but she seems “to understand people’s communicative intentions.” That’s something shelter dogs learn quickly, as can hand-raised wolves. At times, Xephos’ grasp of words or actions almost seem like some sort of ESP. Was communication proof of affection?
Studies and trials on canine smarts have been done aplenty, but they weren’t enough to convince Wynne that dogs had “special forms of intelligence,” so he began “developing [his] own theory…” He learned that dogs care, but sometimes they prefer food to folks. They carry their emotions on both ends of their bodies. Many have accomplished heroic feats but studies famously show that dogs may not be big helpers, though there’s often reasoning for that.
Maybe our human-canine bond lies in history; humans and wolves hunted together, right? Nope, says Wynne; researchers show that wolves were much more opportunistic. Is canine affection in a dog’s genes? Maybe, but it also strongly depends on the “dog’s life experiences.” Is it how a dog is raised, then?
But does it matter? Says Wynne, “The essence of dog is love.”
There are two distinct ways of looking at “Dog is Love,” a book that asks, at its core, if you know that your dog loves you.
First: how can you doubt? One look at those eyes, those ears, that wiggle, and most dog owners will agree that this book is superfluous. The answer is yes, paws-down, your dog loves you, even if the level depends on what’s in your hand.
But then, you have to see what author Clive D.L. Wynne has to say. Beware: it’s open-minded, curious, and truth-seeking, with enough conviction to make readers understand why they’re even tackling this topic. Here, what you learn underscores what you know, through fascinating studies, lighthearted personal observations, opinion, and science. In the end, the answer is just as you thought, but you’re left smarter and smiling.
So hug your dog (or not; read why), watch his tail (right wag is best), and don’t worry. Puppers + you = forever, and for you, “Dog is Love” gives good treats.
“Dog is Love: Why and How Your Dog Loves You” by Clive D.L. Wynne, PhD; c.2019; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; $28/higher in Canada; 262 pages.