Pawsitively in Love: dogs can't help but fall in love

Pawsitively in Love: dogs can't help but fall in love

In a heart-warming twist to canine companionship, a recent study by Canine Cottages has shone a light on the extraordinary emotional connections’ dogs can share.

Can Dogs Fall in Love? A New Perspective

The question of whether dogs can experience love has long captivated dog owners and animal enthusiasts alike. To delve into whether dogs could feel romantic connections, Canine Cottages employed cutting-edge heart rate monitoring technology to capture heart rate changes during interactions with other dogs. Collaborating with expert dog behaviourist Joe Nutkins of Dog Training Essex & Suffolk, we added depth to the study's findings offering a comprehensive perspective on the romantic dynamics of dogs.

Study Methodology: A PetPace heart rate monitor collar was fitted on three dogs in advance of them meeting their favourite canine friend to find the average heart rate. The dogs’ heart rates were then monitored when greeting one another to see if there was a substantial increase in beats per minute.

Heart Rate Insights: Unveiling the Emotional World of Dogs

Heart Rate Increases: Dogs exhibited a substantial heart rate increase of up to +69 beats per minute (116%) when encountering their potential special bond, suggesting heightened emotional excitement.

The Power of Bonds: Heart rate monitoring also uncovered that certain dogs exhibited a significant 116% elevation in heart rate when engaging with their favourite furry companions.

Can Dogs Form Emotional Bonds? Studies Say Yes

Although dogs lack verbal communication, their behaviours, hormones, and brain receptors offer insight. Scientific studies show that while not experiencing romantic love as depicted in human movies, dogs produce oxytocin, often referred to as “the love hormone’. This is released during positive interactions with both humans and other dogs and is pivotal in social bonding with parent-child, friend, and romantic bonds. Research indicates that while dogs might not envision romantic scenarios, they can establish deep and enduring connections with other animals. This suggests that when they form close companionships with other pets, they are, in their own way, "in love.

How to tell if your pooch could be in love

Together with renowned dog behaviourist, Joe Nutkins of Dog Training Essex & Suffolk, Canine Cottages compiled a list of signals that may indicate when dogs have formed unique bonds that surpass usual dog friendships:

Sharing is Caring:  According to Joe, “when dogs share essentials like food, water bowls, and sleeping spaces, it signifies a higher level of trust, comfort, and intimacy. This behaviour goes beyond simple friendships, as dogs display cues like 'soft eyes' and behaviours that go deeper than casual interactions. Snuggling up together, curling up for sleep, and other shared gestures highlight this special bond.” Just as trust is a cornerstone of romantic relationships, the trust evident in these canine connections is undeniably heart-warming.

Letting Their Guard Down: Joe also highlights that “some dogs display adoration for fellow furry companions even when it's not reciprocated.” One dog might follow their favourite dog around attempting to lay close or engage in friendly gestures like licking, rolling on their back, or toning down their excitement. The other dog will show no affection in return. If this isn’t giving unrequited love, we don’t know what is.

Body Language

Ears: According to Joe, "Specific signals, like the base of the ear lifting or appearing relaxed and floppy, might suggest a deeper, perhaps even romantic, bond between dogs."

Tail: Tail wagging is a great visual indicator and can vary a little between breeds but mostly will be a nice high-up tail with anything from a slow wag to a full fast wag! While most dogs wag their tails when seeing familiar faces, the nature of the wag can change when they meet a particular canine they have a soft spot for.

Vocalisation: Joe explains, “Sometimes dogs can use vocalisations in their play such as light-hearted barks, whines, moaning, and even higher pitched shrieks of joy. Some dogs will sound like they are mumbling, and some breed types may growl but this is a pleasant sound! According to Joe, some barks or sounds seem reserved for those particular canine crushes.

Play: Dogs can play in different ways, and this may be determined by their size and character. “Playtime between two dogs can sometimes look like a dance,” Joe notes. The deeper the bond, the more synchronized their moves are, much like a romantic waltz."

Joe adds, “Being 'in love' among dogs isn't always about physical attraction. In fact, mounting behaviours often aren't about mutual respect but may stem from natural breeding instincts, dominant tendencies, or even playful excitement. It's not always clear if dogs feel love the way we do, but their unmistakable fondness and respect for certain companion’s echo qualities we cherish in our own relationships. Whether it's true love or just a rush of oxytocin, watching such bonds form is a heart-warming sight."

Alessandra Pacelli

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