Dogs and their owners share a beautiful and important bond. Rover explores that more deeply in its new report, “Anatomy of Love.” The report is based on a survey of 1,500 US dog owners conducted by Rover in January. The report comes just in time for a holiday that’s all about love.
“Valentine’s Day is a moment to celebrate love, and what purer love is there than the bond we share with our pets? Our research on dog owners revealed that pet parents see their dogs as great judges of character, a way they connect with their partners and as stepping stones to building a family,” says Kate Jaffe, trend expert for Rover.
“Overall, pets have a significant impact on who we date and how we feel about them.”
This Valentine’s Day, 62% of owners will be getting their dogs gifts, according to the report. Some will even go the extra step, with 25% intent on taking their dogs out for a date. That love doesn’t go unnoticed by our four-legged friends, either.
The report also shows that 95% of the pet parents surveyed believe that their dogs love them. That’s a connection that runs deep, according to Phil Tedeschi, clinical professor at the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work, Institute for Human-Animal Connection and member of Rover’s Dog People Panel. He explains that humans and dogs both have neuro-biological needs for interpersonal connections, within their own species and with other animals.
Phil notes that over thousands of years, dogs and people have coevolved strategies for connection. For dogs, that means observing our physical presence and emotional changes to be able to connect with and understand humans.
“The more I study and learn about dogs the more I have realized their capacity for deep and loving attachment and the importance of us, as a people, reciprocating that responsiveness and love in return,” says Phil. “Our dogs can teach us how to have healthy relationships, deeper connections, be more attentive to one another and become trustworthy companions. They can teach us to love.”
That evolution has helped us speak our dogs’ love language. Most pet parents think their dogs show love through cuddling or snuggling, body language, or excitement when they come home. That’s right on par with what studies on the human-dog bond have found. Dogs feel that gentle touching and nuzzling mimics the maternal and nurturing family affection dogs receive as puppies and elicits the hormone oxytocin, which creates feelings of attachment and a sense of well-being.
If you’ve ever wondered why your dog sticks so close by, it’s their way of showing they care. It’s also the way of showing affection that most often goes unnoticed by pet parents.
“Even when dogs are not physically in contact, they often will have full awareness of your physical location and place themselves where they can see you come and go and monitor your movement,” Phil explains.
“Even when walking together, you have probably noticed your dog looking up at you or looking back over their shoulder to check you out. Close physical connection, touching and leaning in can result in the activation of the oxytocin receptors resulting in the attachment and positive feelings of well-being associated with these types of connection.”
When it comes to dating, dog owners believe their little buddies know best. Almost half of all dog owners won’t consider a relationship with someone who isn’t a dog person. If dating websites are your thing, putting your dog in your profile picture can make a big difference. Of the pet parents surveyed, 72% said they are likely to click on someone’s dating profile if there is a dog in the picture.
“Dogs are some of our most reliable and trusted companions and people experience these relationships as being absent of some of the judgment found in their more complicated human connections,” Phil notes.
“People also don’t worry about their canine companion engaging in lying and deception. The concept of Neuroceptive Safety defines the brain’s fundamental awareness of whether situations or people are safe, dangerous, or even life-threatening, offering critical feedback before social engagement behaviors can occur.”
Pet parents also believe their dogs’ involvement in their relationships makes things last, with 50% of owners saying they spend more time together as a couple when having a dog. About 61% of dog parents believe that being a pet parent impacts the health of their romantic relationship.
Like parenting a child, being a good pet parent can increase your partner’s attraction to you. About 71% of pet parents in relationships say they are more attracted to their partner after seeing how they care for their dog. No wonder so many pups are getting the luxe treatment for Valentine’s Day!
If you’re a pet parent without children, being a good pet parent can help you feel more prepared when it’s time for a baby. Two in three dog owners say they have more confidence in their parenting skills since owning a dog. In addition to that, 67% of pet parents are more confident in their partners’ parenting skills after owning a dog.
As the relationships between dogs and their owners continue to evolve, the possibilities are endless.
“The process of Evolutionary Continuity suggests that all animal capabilities and behaviors exist as a feature in part due to their connection to other species and environmental influences,” Phil explains. “Already dogs as a species show the most advanced cognitive and emotional intelligence related to their relationship to human animals.”
Humans will undoubtedly also continue to evolve thanks to their close relationships with dogs. “For example, might we determine that dogs have earned special recognition in their role as treasured companions and be offered greater legal protections?” Phil muses.
“What I think we can be certain of, is that our relationship with dogs is special and will continue to evolve and may even give us reason to consider greater empathy and compassion for other non-human animals.”