Dogs are loving creatures, we know that. They love us, they love our friends, they love that stranger on the other side of the street with their earphones in paying them no attention. But a new report in the New York Times has shed a little more light on their boundless affection—it turns out they literally can’t help themselves when it comes to falling in love. Which yes, does sound like an amazing plot for a romantic comedy we would 100% see.
This theory has been put forward by Clive Wynne, a psychologist at Arizona State University specialising in dog behaviour. He was initially inspired by his own dog, a rescue mix called Xephos, and their apparently endless flow of affection towards any animal, vegetable, or mineral. In his book on the topic Dog Is Love: Why and How Your Dog Loves You (putting this on our Christmas wish list right now) Wynne unpacks the genetic changes that took place during dogs’ evolution and lead to them being so social. In particular, he notes that dogs have specific genes that in humans are associated with “indiscriminate friendliness.” They’re literally hard-coded to be stoked to see anyone and everyone.
Most research into the special bond between dogs and humans points to the fact that they evolved alongside us, leading to them being especially attuned to our behaviours and emotions. But Wynne deviates from this thinking: rather, he argues that dogs have a unique ability to love all creatures. Aka, that special feeling of closeness we have with dogs—they have that with literally everyone. Or, as Wynne puts it, they have “an abnormal willingness to form strong emotional bonds with almost anything that crosses their path… Above and beyond that they have a willingness and an interest to interact with strangers.”
This bottomless pit of love is probably a key to their survival as a species as it helped them to not only co-exist with humans, but also with so many other animals.
Now, you could choose to be bummed out that your dog’s love is less exclusive that you assumed. Or you could look on the bright side. We finally have a scientific explanation for all those amazing animal friendships: dogs are down to hang with anyone.
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