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Claire Nielsen: For the love of a dog

The relationship we have with our dogs is unique and quite unusual in the scope of animal behaviour and human-animal relations.
The relationship between humans and dogs is unique and special.

The human–dog relationship is something I have thought a lot about over the years. I have loved dogs my whole life and cannot remember a time when I didn’t have a dog. My family has had many different kinds of pets including fish, hamsters, horses, rabbits, birds, lizards, cats, ferrets etc, but nothing ever comes close to the relationship I have had with our various dogs.

There are some great and meaningful cross-species relationships with other animals, but I’d like to focus on the canine/human connection in this article. The relationship we have with our dogs is unique and quite unusual in the scope of animal behaviour and human-animal relations. It is characterized by a long history of mutual dependence, companionship, and emotional connection.

Dogs were among the first animals to be domesticated by humans, dating back tens of thousands of years. This long history of coexistence has resulted in a deep bond between the two species.  Dogs are highly attuned to their human companions' emotions and often provide comfort and support during times of distress. Interacting with dogs has been shown to have numerous health benefits for humans, including reduced stress, lower blood pressure, increased physical activity, and improved mental well-being. The presence of a dog can also promote socialization and a sense of community among humans.

There is something about dogs that stirs in us a connection that we may not even have with other humans.  This is because, for the most part, dogs are capable of unconditional love. They are the only animal species in the world that routinely comes back to unconditional love for their humans. No matter how neglected or mistreated a dog may be, it is the most compassionate of animals – often seeking out their humans to offer loyalty, forgiveness, comfort, protection, companionship and adoration.  This cross-species relationship between humans and dogs is completely unique.

Humans do not love each other unconditionally. We can hope to learn unconditional love for our spouses or children or friends, but during times of conflict we usually become defensive, competitive or combative. We feel victimized and in our justification of feeling victim, we may be angry or resentful. We are rarely unconditionally loving when dealing with our own resistance or that of another. Unconditional love is a great goal to work towards though. We can learn a lot from our dogs, who know how to love their humans will all their heart.

The crazy thing is, that dogs are not unconditionally loving with each other. Dogs are all about pack mentality with each other. They are competitive and continually posture to determine their doggie status. Older dogs are alpha over the younger dogs, letting them know ‘who’s boss on a daily basis until the day when the younger dog becomes big enough and confident enough to dethrone the alpha and the tables turn. They do not have compassion for each other for the most part, stealing food or even preventing the older weaker dog from eating. This natural instinct for alpha dominance is very natural in the wild with all canines and eventually the old ones will be driven from the pack to starve or be eaten by other predators.  So how do these animals who are still governed this natural instinct also have the capacity to unconditionally love human?

I like to think there is a spiritual component at work here. Without being confined to any particular church or religious belief, my personal definition of the concept of God is the energy of unconditional love. Many religions will agree with the idea that their Creator is unconditionally loving.  In looking at the unconditional love of a dog, I think that there is no mistake that we named this animal a word that is a reflection of the word God.  (Dog is God backwards – DOG/GOD).  So I see dogs as a heavenly gift as it were – a reflection of the love of God. Of course, this is just my opinion, but it attests to my immense gratitude for the family dog, particularly all the ones I have loved who have all loved me back.

I have been following a Youtube channel lately by Rocky Kanaka called ’Sitting with Dogs’ Rocky goes into humane societies or shelters and literally sits with dogs who are deeply traumatized, fearful or neglected. It doesn’t take him much to earn their trust and make a connection with them. It is inspiring and heart warming.  Please support your local shelter by considering volunteering, supporting financially or adopting a dog rather than buying one from a breeder or puppy mill.

Claire Nielsen is a health coach, author, public speaker and founder of The information provided in the above article is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional health and medical advice. Please consult a doctor or healthcare provider if you're seeking medical advice, diagnoses and/or treatment