A pioneering canine behaviorist draws on cutting-edge research to show that a single, simple trait—the capacity to love—is what makes dogs such perfect companions for humans, and to explain how we can better reciprocate their affection.
“Lively and fascinating... The reader comes away cheered, better informed, and with a new and deeper appreciation for our amazing canine companions and their enormous capacity for love.”—Cat Warren, New York Times best-selling author of What the Dog Knows
Does your dog love you?
Every dog lover knows the feeling. The nuzzle of a dog’s nose, the warmth of them lying at our feet, even their whining when they want to get up on the bed. It really seems like our dogs love us, too. But for years, scientists have resisted that conclusion, warning against anthropomorphizing our pets. Enter Clive Wynne, a pioneering canine behaviorist whose research is helping to usher in a new era: one in which love, not intelligence or submissiveness, is at the heart of the human-canine relationship. Drawing on cutting-edge studies from his lab and others around the world, Wynne shows that affection is the very essence of dogs, from their faces and tails to their brains, hormones, even DNA. This scientific revolution is revealing more about dogs’ unique origins, behavior, needs, and hidden depths than we ever imagined possible.
A humane, illuminating book, Dog Is Love is essential reading for anyone who has ever loved a dog—and experienced the wonder of being loved back.
As if the scene were not dismal enough, suddenly the station rang out with the urgent barks of a dog. Down at the bottom of the steps, just behind the barriers that prevent people from getting on the trains without a ticket, a young woman—a child, really—was holding on with all her might to one end of a leash. Its other end held a small but noisy and highly energetic dog, most likely a terrier of some kind. This little dog was yapping up a considerable storm.
My immediate unconscious reaction was irritation: an annoying soundtrack had been added to an already gloomy scene. But as I got closer and saw how happy this dog was, an involuntary smile crept across my face.
The dog had recognized somebody in the great human crowd. As that person got closer, the dog’s barking morphed from an angry snapping into a sort of happy, almost-howling cry. Her claws skidded over the smooth floor as she struggled to get to her human. When the man was through the ticket barrier, the dog jumped up into his arms and kissed his face. I was only a little way behind and heard the man cooing to the dog to calm her down: “It’s OK, it’s OK—I’m back now.”
Looking around, I saw the whole sea of human faces mirroring my own emotional reaction. First irritation—another tedious burden added to the tired tail end of the day—then involuntary happiness at the dog’s love for his master. Smiles spread across the crowd; here and there, gentle laughter followed. People who were traveling with companions exchanged nudges and a few words. The majority of solo travelers tucked their smiles back into their pockets, but a light spring in their steps remained as a reminder of the unexpected small pleasure they had experienced at the station on their way home.
As I took in this happy scene, I was transported in memory to one of my first trips back to the UK after I had first left its shores over thirty years ago. Back then, our family dog, Benji, was still alive. My mother drove to the train station on the Isle of Wight, where I grew up, to collect me, with Benji sitting up alert on the front passenger seat. Since people in the UK drive on the left side of the street, in British cars the positions of driver and front passenger are reversed, compared to those in the United States. This meant that, to my tired and jetlagged eyes, accustomed to seeing drivers where now Benji sat, my dog appeared to be driving the car. My confusion barely had time to register when the car pulled up at the curb, and I opened the passenger door to meet Benji’s paroxysm of joy at seeing me again. As soon as he saw me, Benji went crazy with pleasure, just like the terrier at the train station many years later—and just like me, although I kept my emotions under tighter control.
At first glance, Benji may not have seemed particularly special; he was just a fairly small black-and-tan shelter mutt. But he was very special to us. Dabs of sandy-brown color around his eyebrows made his eyes especially expressive—particularly when he was puzzled. We loved teasing him, and he seemed to take all our pranking in good spirit. He could prick up his ears to show curiosity. With his tail he could express happiness and confidence, and he showed his affection with licks from his tongue (which felt like wet sandpaper and elicited protests from my brothers and me, although we felt honored by his attention).
Benji, my brothers, and I all grew up together in the 1970s on the Isle of Wight, off the south coast of England. When my younger brother and I came home from school, we usually would plunk ourselves down on the sofa, whereupon we would hear and then see Benji racing in from the back garden.
“Lively and fascinating, Dog Is Love reveals a simple and yet enormously profound insight: Dogs are unique because they love us. The reader comes away cheered, better informed, and with a new and deeper appreciation for our amazing canine companions and their enormous capacity for love.”
—Cat Warren, New York Times best-selling author of What the Dog Knows
“Clive Wynne is a thoughtful and clever canine cognition researcher; here, he tells the story of his, and his students’, particular journey through researching this intellectual puzzle: how are dogs so perfectly suited to our species? As a child, a dog’s love is certain; as a researcher, talking of dog ‘love’ is verboten. Clive gets through that and comes back to where he’s begun, with a dog happily rushing to greet him when he comes home.”
—Alexandra Horowitz, New York Times best-selling author of Inside of a Dog and Our Dogs, Ourselves
“A beautiful ode to all things canine. Clive Wynne gives us the best scientific proof that dogs really do love us.”
—Gregory Berns, author of How Dogs Love Us
“Riveting. Part memoir, part scientific detective story, and part call to action, this book will change the way you look at dogs.”
—Hal Herzog, author of Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It’s So Hard To Think Straight About Animals
“An unforgettable glimpse into the heart and soul of this cherished species, Dog Is Love shows how our emotional bond with dogs holds the key to understanding and caring for them.”
—Marty Becker, “America’s Veterinarian” and founder of FearFreePets.com
“How do you know if your dog loves you? Are dogs really capable of feeling love, or do they only want the food and safety you provide? Clive Wynne answers these questions and more in Dog Is Love, revealing new, compelling evidence that explains the incredible relationship we have with our dogs. If you want to better understand and build an even stronger bond with your own dog, this book is a must read.”
—Victoria Stilwell, author of The Secret Language of Dogs
“Science finally reveals the dog’s secret: the unique capacity for love that separates them from all other animals. Superb.”
—John Bradshaw, New York Times best-selling author of Dog Sense
“Entertaining . . . Dog lovers will be fascinated and the takeaway message that ‘we can do better for our dogs,’ by keeping in mind that dogs feel a meaningful emotional connection to their human owners and thus should be treated respectfully and considerately, is solidly supported.”
“For any scientifically inclined dog lover, this will be a fascinating read.”
“[A] pleasingly garrulous and jocular report from the front lines of canine research . . . A good mix of science and emotion, recommended for dog lovers everywhere.”
"After reading this book, readers may not perceive their relationship with their dog in the same way. Engagingly written and understandable by general audiences, this is a worthy addition to any pet lover's library.”
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