Love your dog? Sorry, he doesn't love you...
What is love?
People say they love dogs, and their dog loves them. Yet when I observe the relationship between dog and owner, all too often fish love is what I see...(bear with me!)
Love is a human notion, a word that humans use to describe a very wide range of often not very rational set of feelings, emotions and actions.
What love is, or isn't is personal to you. It isn't a universally shared construct, even between people. Love means different things to different people at different times and in different circumstances.
Love is a bunch of horny chemicals, a psychological state, a philosophy constructed in different cultural contexts.
Love is a bit wacky. Sometimes what humans call 'love', is destructive, harmful, dysfunctional, unreciprocated and unequal, controlling, manipulative, violent even.
Sometimes people mean feelings like neediness and co-dependancy, longing, pining or craving. Sometimes it means physical and sexual attraction, sometimes it's 'romance' - whatever that means. Sometimes it's all a bit messed up.
Does your dog love you?
Put aside for one moment the rather weird - when you actually reflect on it - state of mind that love is associated with in humans.
Instead, what could 'love' mean, not from your perspective, but from the dog's?
For one moment, see the world through the dog's eyes.
In the dog's social and biological context, what could love possibly mean? What purpose could it serve?
To project a bunch of (questionable) human emotions on a dog undermines our seeing the dog as a dog, for all the wonderful things that means, and meeting his real, dog needs.
You are a means to an end
A dog is a social pack animal; an animal - not unlike us - that is preoccupied by the acquisition and control of resources - like mates, food, toys - and power and status in the pack.
You are a means for a dog to get what he wants, to control resources, for him to fulfil his needs. He will do whatever works to get those things.
As a social pack animal, a dog is either higher or lower in the pack, has more status, or less status than others. The higher in the pack, the more control he has over resources; he is stronger, more experienced and 'wiser'.
Dogs lower in the pack 'respect' those qualities, 'trust' him and 'defer' to his status, even while they endlessly jostle and posture, and challenge that status and seek opportunities to control. In a dog's social context, you are either beneath him, or above him. It’s what makes a pack a successful social structure.
Is it fish love?
Is 'respect and trust' what we really mean by 'love' - or should mean?
Do we admire the dog for being a dog -for his intelligence, his speed, his problem-solving, his manipulation, his amazing senses, his curiosity?
Do we give the dog what he needs, or what we 'need'?
Is the 'love' all about us,..is it 'fish love'?