A Dog’s Unconditional Love!

The love of a dog for its owner is well documented, and the term “unconditional” usually gets included in the text. It is often extended to include the belief that we can learn from dogs re love!

Gilda Radner is attributed with: “I think dogs are the most amazing creatures. They give unconditional love. For me, they are the role model for being alive.”

Robert Wagner is attributed with: “A dog will teach you unconditional love. If you can have that in your life, things won’t be too bad.”

It’s a lovely sentiment, especially for dog lovers, but unconditional? Really?

Johnny Depp is attributed with: “The only creatures that are evolved enough to convey pure love are dogs and infants.”

I am not sure how “pure love” compares with “unconditional love“, but it would seem to be pretty close!

Carol and I were discussing this the other day (and in front of Ray so he knew what was going on!), and we had to question the “unconditional” part!

M.K. Clinton is attributed with: “The world would be a nicer place if everyone had the ability to love as unconditionally as a dog.”

M.K. Clinton allows a little latitude there with “as unconditionally as” a dog! There is no mention of “unconditional love” per se, but just an inference that dogs have love better defined than most humans!

Josh Billings is attributed with: “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”

Again, there is no suggestion of “unconditional love”, but rather just the perspective that our canine friends are ahead of us in the “love business”!

So what was the outcome of our conversation? Much as we love our beloved Ray, we had to conclude that his “unconditional love” probably had conditions attached! Obviously we love him far too much to test this perception of dogs, but we had to ask ourselves:

“How much would he love us if we were inconsiderate of his needs?”

“How much would he love us if we did not feed him?”

“How much would he love us if we were cruel to him?”

“Unconditional” can only be defined as “without conditions”, and yet it would seem that a dog’s love for its owner would have conditions. The association of “unconditional love” with dogs would therefore appear to be more of a romantic notion rather than an aspect of their character.

Looking over at Ray, and adding what we have learned over the past few years, I would suggest that while I see no evidence to support “unconditional love”, there is ample evidence that we can learn from them in the areas of forgiveness, acceptance, caring and loyalty… all of which are surely components of a loving relationship.

So to Ray, I have to say: “The perception that your species gives unconditional love is really questionable however, your demonstration of love for us is more comprehensive than that which so many humans demonstrate. i.e. Your reputation may be a little exaggerated, but you’re still way ahead of us!”



22 thoughts on “A Dog’s Unconditional Love!

  1. i don’t know about u guys. But i think dogs are built to be that way; obedience and dependence to owner based on love. And yes some dogs have sexual attraction with the owner too

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    • I do believe that dogs would respond as you suggest to an alpha figure, but would suggest some latitude depending on the owner. As for cross-species sexual attraction? I am in no position to offer an opinion however, it is very common for Ray to expose its penis when aroused for a number of reasons… none of which would appear to be sexual.


  2. I love how you concluded :

    Your reputation may be a little exaggerated, but you’re still way ahead of us

    I guess we ought to treat our loved ones right to expect “unconditional ” love in return. Yes it means we ought to be considerate of their wants and needs. I don’t think any love in the universe comes without that condition !

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  3. Just a thought! Perhaps all of these sentiments about a dog’s “unconditional love” were made by those that never entertained thoughts of abuse or neglect; hence, to them the love appears unconditional. That said, I still must agree with your point of view! Thank-you for this thought provoking post.

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    • Hi Ellen. I would agree with you. There is the “rosy” side of dog ownership – You buy a puppy from a breed with genetic tendencies towards being perfect family members. With responsible training and ongoing TLC, it may well develop into the “perfect” dog. In contrast, you can adopt a dog (from a shelter) that has an unknown history; an educated guess as to its genetic background; a broad guess as to which breed traits could be dominant; that has been under structured training for some time to make it a feasible adoption prospect; with perhaps a host of totally unknown factors. The one certainty, because it is in a shelter, is that it has experienced some degree of trauma. I would suggest that comparing Ray’s character profile with that of a (e.g.) pedigree Golden Retriever would produce vastly different results so, again, the sweeping statement that dogs display unconditional love is very suspect.


    • A very good point Roy. Thank you. From a purely human perspective, so many people think of love as synonymous with sex, which is of course a huge misunderstanding. Regardless of the canine “unconditional love” argument, they do seem to have it “more together” than most humans! 🙂


    • Hi Amy. It’s a lovely thought, but I would have to question that position. There are many examples of people suffering abuse under some guise of love, but there is often a severe self-esteem issue driving it. i.e. they believe that a bad relationship is better than no relationship. Self-esteem counseling will often trigger a reality check, and the “victim” will move forward with their life, and “love” will take on a whole new meaning.

      It is very difficult to confirm “unconditional love” with dogs in general for (hopefully) obvious reasons, but we are pretty certain that Ray would not tolerate abuse by us for very long before he decided to move on. Likewise if we stopped feeding him. Ray’s background is (as you may remember) an unknown however, he was considered to be a farm dog based on his lack of social skills and lack of evidence of any training. He showed no signs of physical abuse, although he did react very aggressively to sticks, branches, brooms and similar (we initially had to avoid people with canes!). He still has an issue with two men on our street who are of similar build.

      We are speculating (and that is all it can be – speculation) that he was not shown much love and attention and decided to move on. Even farm dogs here usually have a collar, which Ray did not have when picked up. The assumption was that it may have been a rope collar, and he simply chewed it off to escape. Of course it could also have been removed before “dumping” him somewhere. We found it very hard to believe that, taking these various aspects into consideration, Ray would greet his past owner with much love if they were to inadvertently meet.

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      • I have no argument with what you said. As you mentioned, there are so many unknowns. It is possible Ray never developed a relationship with a person, but was always outside in a pen or tied.

        And as for a person, I was speaking in the context of no counseling or other self-revelation.

        Do you know why Pit Bulls are so easy to train to fight or attack? It is because they so badly want to please their owners that they will do anything to win their approval, no matter how they are treated. I can actually see that strong desire to please in our bully breed, Lucy.

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