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Do Dogs Love Us Unconditionally? Vet-Approved Ways to Strengthen Your Bond

Written by: Jessica Kim

Last Updated on June 20, 2024 by Dogster Team

golden retriever dog leaning to owner's leg

Do Dogs Love Us Unconditionally? Vet-Approved Ways to Strengthen Your Bond

VET APPROVED

Dr. Alice Athow-Frost Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Alice Athow-Frost

BVM BVS MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

There’s no denying that humans and animals can share a special bond, and many people attest to feeling a strong connection with their pets. Dogs, in particular, are known for their loyalty, and some believe that they’re capable of offering unconditional love. However, it’s important not to anthropomorphize dogs and forget that they perceive and understand the world differently from humans.

It’s hard to say if dogs offer unconditional love because they do have certain conditions that must be met before they can develop a strong bond with a human. However, even if they don’t have unconditional love, they’re capable of showing deep love and devotion to humans. 

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The Human-Canine Relationship

Humans and dogs have lived alongside each other for thousands of years. It’s believed that the first dogs split from their wolf ancestors and were domesticated between 27,000 and 40,000 years ago.1 Over the years, dogs have evolved to become successful companion animals for humans.

A special skill that dogs have is the ability to read people quite accurately. They’re experts at deciphering body language and picking up seemingly subtle habits and patterns. They can also distinguish various facial expressions and know when people are feeling different emotions.2

These social skills have made many dogs become successful therapy dogs. For example, research shows that children with ADHD, individuals with physical disabilities and chronic disorders, and individuals with PTSD have all experienced the therapeutic benefits of treatments involving therapy dogs.

So, there’s no denying that people can feel unconditionally loved by a dog. After all, a dog doesn’t care about your past or what you look like. Developing research is also pointing to highly social dogs having more DNA disruptions than their wolf ancestors, that make them genetically friendly.3

golden retriever dog lying on the grass and looking at its owner stroking its side
Image Credit: Dmytro Zinkevych, Shutterstock

How Dogs Bond With Humans

You can find a lot of research on a dog’s sociability and ability to form strong bonds with humans. However, it takes work, responsibility, and high regard for humans to earn a dog’s trust and devotion. To be frank, making a significant effort is a realistic expectation to have if you want a dog to love you.

Unfortunately, people can be misled into getting a dog because they believe a dog will love them unconditionally. This often leads to disappointment and irresponsible dog ownership. Dogs can experience both positive and negative emotions and are affected significantly by mistreatment and abuse. Depending on how they were treated, they can learn to be mistrustful of humans. Instead of being friendly and social, they can develop anxiety or become aggressive towards people. It often takes a lot of time and dedication to rehabilitate mistreated dogs.

With that being said, taking care of a dog takes a significant amount of time, effort, and money. It’s only after you start consistently caring for a dog’s needs that they’ll start to bond with you.

It’s important to understand that humans and dogs share a relationship that’s similar to infant-caregiver relationships. This means that dogs are able to identify their caregivers and expect their caregivers to ensure their needs are met. In this sense, dogs don’t have unconditional love. They won’t bond with people who don’t care about them, and they don’t trust indiscriminately. Their trust and respect must be earned, and responsible dog ownership helps to establish and cultivate a strong bond between the dog and their responsible human/s.

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How to Strengthen Your Bond With Your Dog

As with any relationship, it takes commitment and effort to build and strengthen a bond with a dog. Responsible dog ownership is certainly worth the effort and leads to the beautiful companionship that dogs are capable of giving.

Get to Know Your Dog

No two dogs are the same, and developing a strong bond with a dog starts with getting to know your dog’s unique personality. Not all dogs will like the same things. So, take time to discover your dog’s favorite activities, games, and treats, and actively engage in the things they like to do.

Welsh Corgi Pembroke in dog park dog owner playing
Image Credit: Hrecheniuk Oleksii, Shutterstock

Obedience Training

Obedience training and house training are essential to living harmoniously with dogs. Obedience training isn’t just a means of getting a dog to do everything you say. Rather, it helps build clear communication between a dog and their owner. Dogs thrive on the clarity and consistency that training establishes, and they do well when they know what you expect of them and what they can expect from you.

Spend Time With Your Dog

Lastly, make sure to spend enough time with your dog. While this might sound like a given, it’s easy to forget how little we might interact with our dogs throughout the day. For example, if you work a traditional 9-to-5 job, you’re already spending at least 8 hours away from your dog 5 days a week.

It’s helpful to schedule specific parts of the day to play with your dog and spend time with them. Do activities that you know they like, such as going on walks, visiting the dog park, or playing fetch. Dogs also have a keen sense of when they don’t have your full attention, and they’ll enjoy your company more when you’re fully present with them.

As you make an effort to bond with your dog, your dog will reciprocate. It’s only after you’ve established a bond with your dog that you’ll experience the beautiful moments that dog lovers share. You might discover that your dog will wait for you by the door and is excited to see you whenever you return home. They might start to follow you around from room to room. They may even try to comfort you when you’re feeling down or cuddle with you when it’s near bedtime.

Your dog can become your number-one fan and remain deeply loyal to you for the rest of their life. Just remember that it takes time and effort to get to this point.

owner with dog strolling and walking at the park
Image Credit: Ground Picture, Shutterstock

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Conclusion

Dogs may not show unconditional love, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not capable of loving someone deeply. They can form strong bonds with people and become some of the most loyal companions. Many people’s lives have changed positively after they’ve experienced a dog’s companionship. When you’re actively working to strengthen your bond with your dog, your efforts will be rewarded with a special love and affection that only dogs can provide.


Featured Image Credit: trofalenaRV, Shutterstock

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