Does your dog really feel how deeply you love him? Here is the answer to this question from cognitive science

Ferenczi Deborah

2023. September 16 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

There is already a lot of scientific evidence that dogs love people. However, it has long been a moot point: do they feel loved by humans? The answer is of course a resounding yes, your pet knows exactly how much you adore him.


Dr Brian Hare has dedicated his life to the study of dog cognition and its special forms. He has recently worked in collaboration with Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind, a dog food company, to investigate whether dogs can interpret how their owners feel about them and identify these emotions with love.

Does your dog really feel emotions?

Research has concluded that yes, your pet knows exactly what a special bond you have and that it is based on a selfless and self-sacrificing love. One possible proof of this is that animals can pick up on your emotions. So if you are happy, they will be happy, if you are sad, they will identify that too, they will take it on board.

The perfect proof of this is that after the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001. It was reported that many of the search and rescue dogs suffered from symptoms similar to depression because they never found any survivors, only dead bodies. This became so severe that their handlers staged ‘fake’ finds to cheer the dogs up and keep them searching.

Can they understand what you are telling them?

One of the biggest recent discoveries in the scientific community of dog cognition is that, like babies, dogs can learn certain “object labels” or words. This means, quite precisely, that they learn by inference. They use a strategy called the ‘exclusion principle’ and, like humans, researchers have found no upper limit to the number of words these dogs can learn. Dogs are the only species other than humans that have been found to have this ability. This means that if you say to your dog, for example, “I love you” and then hug him, he will understand that this is a sign that you are attached to him and that you genuinely love him.

Do they really know you love them?

Your dog knows and understands exactly how you feel about him. It can interpret not only your emotions and speech, but also your non-verbal communication. In fact, he can read your every move and understand what you are telling him. The next time you want to express your love to your dog, simply use the word itself and communicate with every part of your body. He’s guaranteed to understand your message and know you love him. And the payback is clear.

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