I love you like a dog

Yesterday, the New York Times featured a Well Pet blog by Tara Parker Pope called “What Pets Can Teach Us About Marriage.” Ms. Pope was reviewing a previous article from PsychCentral where clinical psychologist Suzanne B. Phillips explores the difference between how people relate to their pets in contrast to their mates. Phillips poses the idea that we could have better relationships with the humans in our lives if we treat them the way we do our pets.

A couple of her ideas include always giving your spouse a rousing, happy greeting. Never holding grudges (even when the furniture is destroyed). And forgiving quickly and easily instead of taking mistakes personally.

Hmm . . . I greet my husband when he comes home, usually with a “hi” or something a little on the calm side. But honestly, I don’t think he’d want anything dog-like from me. I mean at my weight, if I jump on him, uncontrollably wagging my rear end, I’m sure I’ll knock both of us down. And what good would come from that? What if he puts me in a crate for a time out? What if he shoves me outside while he changes clothes, leaving me with nothing to do but dig holes and chase squirrels? How will I get dinner cooked?

I do agree that grudges are never good to hold — at least for long periods of time. And I think I practice what I preach. We did have a dog who tried to eat my dresser (twice), and we forgave him both times. We knew it was part of the whole separation anxiety thing and that we left him alone for too long before he was ready. The thing is, as with most poor behavior of dogs, the mistake was our fault and we knew it. It’s very easy to forgive people (and animals) when they do something wrong because of something we did. Honestly, I believe that if my husband ever chewed on the corner of my dresser because of something I did, then I’m sure I’d be quick to forgive and forget. Otherwise, he’d be on his own and I probably would hold a grudge.

Moose in a yarn mess -- a forgivable moment

I do think Dr. Phillips has a cute idea: maybe if we give our spouses unconditional love and acceptance the way we seem to give our pets, we’ll have better relationships. But I also think maybe she’s forgetting there are a couple inherent differences between humans and pets (and it has nothing to do with the fact that we have thumbs, or maybe it’s partly to do with that).

First, ultimately, we are responsible for our animals’ behavior, whether or not we consciously admit it. We train our animals, we teach them what proper behavior is, what we expect from them, etc. We take on that task because we cannot trust them to think for themselves or rely only on their instinct. If we did that, we wouldn’t love our animals so much (nor would we allow them to live in our homes or sleep in our beds). Have you ever seen feral dogs and how they live? They don’t care where they do #1 or #2, in fact they like to roll around in #2. I don’t know of many humans who would unconditionally accept that behavior on a continual basis.

The second difference is they cannot talk, read, or write letters of apology. Their only avenue of communication is via their physical body. And since we cannot read their minds, we have to admit that there must be times when we misunderstand them. Think about it, what other way can they say “I’m so glad you’re home because I’m really, really hungry, so hungry I was about to get in the trash even though I know you’d be mad at me” besides running up to you with that maniacal, happy look in their eyes that says “Yes! Yes! Yes! You’re home! This is the greatest freaking thing that has happened to me all day!”



Filed under Commentary, Definitions, Relationships

131 responses to “I love you like a dog

  1. thelisas

    In my unending quest to provide far too much information, I am revealing that I often greet my cat by singing the following ditty:
    Cassee, Cassee, Cassee,
    I love her furry face.
    I like to pet her on the head.
    And squeeze her little paw.
    (Then I click my tongue a couple times as a sort of percussion accompaniment.)
    I will now spend the rest of the morning composing a similar tune for my husband. I am sure he will be thrilled when he gets home from work.

  2. kelliejwin

    This was a hilarious read! Just the thought of greeting my husband by jumping up on his leg and licking his face the way our dog does makes me laugh. Although, he may not be adverse to that… I do think that if we greeted our spouses with a little more enthusiasm (sans leg humping and face licking) it might make everyone a little happier. I’m always glad to see my hubby at the end of the day and he’s glad to see me.

  3. As the proud owner of a cocker spaniel and a dachshund, I enjoyed – this I know because I laughed at your images – your “I love you like a dog.” I’m what’s known as an empty-nester, so my pets convince me I’m still needed. Sad, but true. I probably won’t read the article you reference, but your take on the issue is delightful!

    • Thank you! And you are needed. Remember, they don’t have thumbs. They need us badly!

    • kelliejwin

      We have a dachshund, too, and we love her. She’s always happy to see us, and she’s somewhat of a “mommy’s pet” and has been since we got her as a pup. I think we take her for granted sometimes. boo on us…

  4. Terri

    I love dogs.

  5. amylee39

    I wish someone (human) would greet me at the door with an unconditionally loving smile and salutation. Something different than, “Hi- what’s for dinner?” It’s a wonderful fantasy. By the by, Moose is too darn cute – I’d forgive him too.

  6. Ha! I love this! The great thing about pets is they don’t talk back. But you brought up a good question about grudges – Since we didn’t raise (or train) our husbands should we hold a grudge towards their mother instead?

  7. I really like this perspective.

    I think animals love us with their hearts, not with their heads, which is what makes their love so pure. I am trying to get out of my own head lately, but it’s turning out to be a labyrinth.

    On another note–I once read a great tip in a leadership book. (Wish I could remember the name of the book! “S.C.O.R.E”?) Anyway, they suggested that, no matter what else is going on when you see your spouse, take 90 seconds to give them your full and enthusiastic attention. After 90 seconds, you can resume putting out whatever fires are on your plate. But our loved ones at least deserve the minute and a half of undivided attention. Anyway, figured I’d pass that along!

    • S.C.O.R.E.!? Makes me wonder what kind of leadership they’re talking about . . . Good idea, though. And undivided attention sounds a little less painful than a full-on attack greeting. Thanks for reading!

  8. Fun post! A creative way to remind us to love unconditionally and be more forgiving. I have had our beloved dog Joey for over 10 years, and I’ve managed to keep my husband over 20 years, so perhaps having a dog actually HELPS strengthen a marriage? 😉 – MoSop

    PS – Congrats on making the Freshly Pressed page today.

    • Or, perhaps having a hubby helps us be better dog owners. It’s that old compare and contrast thing. You look at one and say to the other “jeesh, I really love you!”

      Glad you enjoyed the post and thank you for stopping by.

  9. Great insights.

    I think trying to simplify human relationships into k-9 owners does not recognize the complexity of men and women.

    • And it completely over-complexisizes (yes, I’m aware I made up that word) the psyche of dogs. I think that’s why, deep down, we admire and love our pets so much. They are pretty basic, simple beings who just wanna have fun (and an uninterrupted afternoon nap).

  10. Pingback: I love you like a dog (via It’slisa’s Blog) « The Trouble With Milk

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  12. What a lovely post! And I agree with the others: “Moose” is a cutie patootie 🙂 I’m not sure if my significant other would appreciate having his face licked, but then again…maybe he would!

    My two “babies” (doggies) have added so much to my life, it’s just amazing and perhaps if I can learn but one thing from them it is this: how to instantly forgive and more importantly, to unconditionally love 🙂

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the post. We do have a lot we could learn from our dogs. As you said, forgiveness, unconditional love, but also unconditional acceptance of ourselves. Have you ever caught a dog staring into the mirror wondering if her collar made her look fat? I don’t think so. Thanks for stopping by.

  13. That’s the cutest thing I’ve read all day! If only we could communicate with our dogs… see what they’re thinking. Wanna bet they’re up to no good? They’re sweet but oh, so mischievous! And totally forgivable! My dog gets into so much trouble but then she gives me one of those “looks” like “you know you love me” and I crumble.

    • Oh, but I often know what the dog is thinking. It goes something like this: where’s my ball? where’s my ball? where’s my . . . oh! a raw hide . . . god I love this raw hide . . . god I love this raw hide . . . I need to pee . . . I have to go outside to pee . . . why does it take her so long to open the door? . . . she knows I have to pee . . .

      Thanks for stopping by!

  14. Pingback: This is for you Bloo! « Clumsypixi's Blog

  15. I’ve actually trained my dog to write eloquent, heartfelt letters of apology. It took a long time, but I’m so glad I did. We have a great relationship now.

    • I’m so impressed. Moose took such advantage of me when I gave him pen and paper. You wouldn’t believe the inmates he signed me up to be pen pals with. I’m still trying to convince Razor-hands we’re just not right for each other. Oh, and you have the greatest name for a blog, ever.

  16. Pingback: The pool, Linda Chamberlain, Panhandlers and TGIF! « Laggylife's Blog

  17. Ah, lisa – great post! Wish I was as sweet and forgiving as my dog is. 🙂

  18. I have a male Akita who will be 10 yrs old in August. He’s always so glad to see us, and gets so excited about going outside or going for a walk. If only we could all go through life with that kind of enthusiasm!

    Just out of curiosity, what kind of dog is Moose? Because he’s a cutie!

    • Moose is a Rhodesian Ridgeback. And he’s lucky he’s so darn cute — actually that’s one of my theories about evolution/mother nature/divine providence: babies and dogs are made to be super cute because it’d be harder to put up with their antics, their often bad smells, and forgive them if they were unbearable to look at.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  19. Alicia

    Love this and at the basic level I think there is some truth to it. I ALWAYS greet my dog before my fiance and regardless of the day I have had, I am always excited to see the dog. I am quick to take out my bad mood on my fiance but would never dream of doing that to my little pooch. However like you said he doesn’t speak which is a sharp contrast from my fiance who does. He (my dog) never asks stupid questions and I don’t expect him to do the laundry while I am gone so I have no reason to be annoyed upon return when it isn’t. If only I could stick Kyle in a crate if he misbehaved! I would love to be more forgiving and less critical though just like a dog who never judges. Granted mine eats poop so who is he to judge?

    • Poop eaters have no right to criticize anyone! But sometimes, when a dog looks at me in the eyes and tilts his head to the side, I often wonder if he’s thinking “how could she be so bleeping stupid?”

  20. you make a great point! and is that a ridgeback puppy?

    • Yes, it is a ridgeback puppy. He was old enough to know he wasn’t supposed to be in Mom’s stuff and waited until she was in the shower to have fun with the yarn. Good thing he was so cute, otherwise he may have wound up in a foster home.

  21. who

    I guess this is why they say to really think about what kind of pet fits your lifestyle.

  22. Jeeves

    Nice blog. I have to say that after reading Ms. Pope’s ideas on marriage, I think she has been rolling in the catnip a little too long.
    Sometimes the male slides me across the floor on my back. I don’t care for it, and I think the female would be even less impressed if he tried to do the same to her. And sometimes he puts me on her back when she washes her face in the morning. If he put her on my back instead, I could be mortally squished! These are dangerous ideas Ms. Pope is spouting.
    There are always conditions to love. Even pets know that.

    • Yes, I think you’re right! Pets do know that! That’s why they do sometimes act guilty when they know they’ve done something wrong. And the gods know cats do not love unconditionally, we’re lucky as hell they put up with us long enough to put the food dish down on the floor.

      • I dont think thats true about cats, I raised one with my dog, the other came along later, and when I come home, they all come running (much like the dog). the only diffrence between my dog wrapping her legs around mine and the cats. Is that they have claws, and Usually use them to climb their way into my arms, if my arms are free. Most of the time they arent.

      • You are right, I did make a biased comment about cats. It’s just that most of the cats I know fit that description, though, like you said, there are others out there who are dog-like. Thank you so much for stopping by to read my post.

  23. Pingback: Pet Furniture For Dogs

  24. Interesting points. My 2 dogs are always overjoyed to see me even if I’ve just gone out to the car and realized I’ve forgotten something and then returned. Maybe my hubby would be happy to see me turn up the enthusiasm when he comes home.
    Enjoyed the post. Check out my blog if you get a second: http://www.toulouseandtonic.wordpress.com.
    Keep it up!

    • Funny thing, though, if you were overjoyed to see your hubby after if he just returned from the car to get something he forgot, he’d begin to wonder if Alzheimer’s was setting in. It’s a fine line . . . thanks for reading. And I’ll be stopping by your blog soon.

  25. I need to see that article!! pets are miracles 🙂

  26. whuffie

    What a great post, and as a fellow dog lover I laughed aloud at the imagery (and at Moose’s picture.) I somehow doubt spouses would take too kindly to a suggestion for being neutered for good health, either….

    It’s a cute thought to treat our loved ones more like our pets, but you have a lot of points which are well said. As much as I love my “furry kid” she is still not just a “thumb impaired, short, hairy human” she’s a dog.

    • Ah, but guess what? It is possible! I convinced my hubby to get snipped on the basis of good health — mine (sanity is a form of good health, no?). Thanks for stopping by. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

  27. Interesting thoughts, Lisa. I used to run up and hug/ kiss my boyfriend when he would get home from work because I liked doing it. I felt hurt though when I felt a lack of enthusiasm in him returning those affections. After we spoke about it, I found out that he prefers I give him a few minutes to transition from work mode to home mode. Where as I like to just jump into *hug! kiss! lets talk!* as soon as he walks through the door. So I guess its sort of a case by case basis.
    Also, the point about us teaching our dogs how to behave around us might not be so far off from our human relationships. Sometimes we do, unconsciously most of the time, teach others how to treat us through our lack of communication. Sometimes we need to ‘train’ each other on what works for us and what doesn’t. Just like I had to communicate to my boyfriend that it was important to me to make a big deal out of holidays and birthdays. Something that was not natural to him but he now does because he knows it makes me happy. I believe most of us need to work on NOT assuming our partners should intuitively know how to make us feel happy or special. Sometimes we need to tell them. We also can ask them directly what THEY need from us as well. Maybe just by saying, ‘When do you feel most loved and appreciated in our relationship?’. Often we do for others what makes US feel good when done for us, and that might be the total opposite of what they need.

    • That last line of yours: “we do for others what makes US feel good when done for us, and that might be the total opposite of what they need” is right on the target. And (coincidentally) I think it’s another place where pet owners tend to err with their pets. Doggie ice cream, really? Thanks so much for reading and for your comment.

  28. Great post! Congrats on being featured.

    Write ON…

  29. If your husband was chewing on your dresser you might have cause for concern….!!

  30. Pingback: dogs… « Running On Karma

  31. dlm

    I want doggy hormones — always so happy, so thrilled to be here or there.

  32. stevewthomas

    While your post did present some very enlightening and entertaining examples of how we should/should not treat our mates/significant others, I feel a tad slighted because all your examples cited canines. I am owned by feline (more precisely three felines) and have had a difficult time trying to emulate the way they greet us (my mate and I) and one another.
    I doubt, seriously, if my wife would appreciate her arrival home after a long day in the trenches being greeted by me lounging on the sofa and “playing bass fiddle” (as she so euphemistically refers to Theo’s habit of licking the location of his former “cathood”), nor do I think she’d care a great deal if I were to sniff the dinner she had just prepared and leave table in search of something more enjoyable and entertaining, like yakking a hairball on the new carpet. A delightful and entertaining post. I heartily enjoyed.

    • Please don’t take it personally, I just have more experience with dogs than cats. And what little I do have with cats, well, it was something along the lines of a servant-master relationship and I never felt like my master thought I was doing a decent job. Thanks so much for stopping by.

      • My dog would do that if she were allowed on the sofa. But she makes due with a beanbag chair, and does strech out to her fullest size, sometimes I can’t tell witch one is the dog or witch one is the cat. They All box/spar with eachother on their hind legs, and my cats run to the window whenever they hear a dog, and do their best to imitate my girls warning growls. and my little dog copys the cats when they puff up, while sitting at the door. I havent captured it yet, but I am close! one Photo blog comeing soon with all three puffed up at the door! (if I’m not the one coming home) two of my babies: http://xreinx.wordpress.com/2010/06/01/18/

  33. steve

    I don’t mean to intrude on your blog, but the word ‘dog’ in the title of your post caught my eye. I can’t help but love my little ‘beast’ Sandy. Thanks for the great post!

  34. silencebreaks

    This is a cute and insightful blog.

  35. deedeer

    Dogs are the best. We as people could learn from their loyality.

  36. That was funny and you made some good points. Love the picture of your dog moose caught in the yarn.

  37. Gee, if I treated the men in my life – zero – the way I treat my cats – 2 – I would probably have a guy.

  38. Pingback: I love you like a dog | rssblogstory.com

  39. Colin L Beadon

    All our lives has been lived with dogs and cats who live in the house and garden, and often sleep beside us, if they feel like it. The dogs, JR’s go to the beach with us. The cats, will follow with us and the dogs, on walks, but will turn back if we get too far from home.
    We’re sorry for people who have not lived closely with dogs and cats. They are sentient beings, each in their own ways and characters. You only really learn how intelligent they are, if you live closely with them , and are observant of their ways, and needs, and when they want your love and attention, which is not all the time.
    We could add a lot more about this, but hope you find out for yourselves. Speak to them like you do any close friend. There is much in the human voice beyond words, that they fully understand.

    • They do understand more than we give them credit for, even though it’s only an instinctual, wordless understanding. Thanks for stopping by.

  40. Hmm, I think treating your partner as you would your pet is a good practice in the art of unconditional love, and probably most fitting as most men are dogs! 😛

  41. When I was four, my parents and I moved into our new house. We had a cockapoo named Brandy and she was an inside dog in our previous home. My dad was so anal about Brandy being in the new house, though, that he insisted she stay locked up in our parents bedroom all day every day until someone got home. Because she wasn’t used to being locked up in any one are of the house, plus the house being new, she scratched up their door and left marks which are still visible to this day. My dad put her out after that. Unfortunately, my dad has a tendency to merge the lining between humans and animals.

    • Yes, well, perhaps your dad should have named her Averna (it’s an Italian bitter liquor). One should never underestimate the power of revenge . . .

  42. My wife barks — I sulk in the corner and sometime whiz there.

  43. your posting is good, i’m interested your blog

  44. Pingback: I love you like a dog « My Buddy

  45. Interesting post. Thanks for the canine insights.
    Loyalty you don’t often see in humans!

    Some great doggy material at http://www.pupparazzi.com.au for those who like cute pics of dogs and other pets.

    Keep up the good work,
    Picturesque Photography Melbourne

  46. There is much truth in the idea. However, there is also another side: By behaving more like pets (or children), we can make ourselves more popular. (Obviously, this would be done with restrictions and modifications.) Consider e.g. that dogs have to a large part been selectively bred for likeability, or that the humans of today typically engage in less touching (which is a bonding mechanism used by many animals) than was historically the case.

    • Only some dogs have been bred for likeability — Moose, the dog in the picture, is a Rhodesian Ridgeback. His ancestors were bred to hunt lions in the southern parts of Africa. Who knew he’d wind up in my spare room tangled in skeins of yarn? Regardless of his inbred instinct to hunt large wild cats, though, he still held onto the essence of dogness: that basic-to-the-core, what-you-see-is-what-you-get, I-just-want-to-have-fun-and-chew-on-bones kind of personality.

  47. Nice post. i enjoy the post from the start till the end.

  48. Pingback: Bättre kärlek till djuren än till människan? « Busenkelt….

  49. Pingback: I love you like a dog « My Buddy

  50. pichiricarcachiri

    hi, I wanted to make a little reference to Chinese Astrology, that relates the year one is born to an animal, I was born in the year of the dog, trying to be forgiving and trying to see life with optimism, one can make many jokes of this, but the escence is to treat each other with more care, respect and understanding… other people’s behaviour, might affect us, but it is not said they make it to upset us, so, we come to the good old saying, we are only humans, make mistakes and we should be more forgiving…
    oh, well, I loved your post, lovely blog, keep it up!

  51. i gave it a try..my wife came home from work and i peed on her shoes..while she was wearing them..i explained to her that i was merely marking my property.she told me i should receive my papers any day now. what papers?

  52. obsidianfactory

    I agree with all the assessments that you have made. Personally, human beings are different creatures and unconditionally for us is not the same with dogs.

    Oh yes jealousy, anger and love are within animals too. When I want to pet the cat; Bella, my female dog, tries to bite the cat (be it any one of them) who she is not uncomfortable with mostly. In fact they get along great.

    Sometimes Bella screams so loudly when I get back home that is deafening to the ears that I must tell her to be quiet. We don’t always pat our dogs and cats – I don’t because a) I’m out at times b) they might be doing their own thing c) at times I’m not in the mood d) they’re not in the mood etcetera.

    Dogs and Cats – the pets – are more dependent to us at times than children – they do not have goals or aspirations as a necessity as we do neither do they have to deal with bills, report cards and other anxieties in the normal sense.

    But that does not mean they are inferior/useless – they were created in a way different than us thus respond accordingly. They perceive many things better than we do and can teach us a lot as well.

    Your blog – reminded me of a movie called “Fireproof” that I saw yesterday on MM1 or 2. OK, basically it was loving unconditionally that reminded me of it. Firstly, I didn’t see the beginning part of the movie but it’s a Christian drama movie – I was initially liking it and I was thinking wow that’s sweet of him – he’s trying to be a good husband. But later on I started feeling that the portrayal was kinda unrealistic and had hollow spaces in it.

    Unconditional love between humans can become perverse if not balanced properly and I think this is one axis we don’t necessarily have to worry about when dealing with animals.

    Thanks for the great read ^_^

    • Thanks for stopping by. You hit the nail on the head: dogs and cats don’t have goals (aside from eating). I think that’s why we love and adore them so much. They’re just about perfect that way.

  53. I’m really glad I stopped in , otherwise, I would never have thought about that thumb issue. That almost explains it all. Also, if not for you, I would never have found out that someone has a blog called Vodka and Ground Beef.
    My congrats also for making the featured list on WP…you deserve it.

    • Thank you so much. Yes, I think thumbs are underrated in our culture. A shame really. I mean, think about it — how else would we hit the space bar?

      I have such title-envy for the blot Vodka and Ground Beef. Really, just typing it hear makes me think I should shut the shop down and move to the wilderness. Once you have Vodka and Ground Beef, do you really need anything else?

  54. Loved the post. I am a dog lover and married for many years so great read!

  55. Lovely, lovely post. Loved the last lines the best!

    I think dogs and cats are like babies, two year olds and babies who are generally toilet trained and reasonably independent and they don’t demand constant attention but love us just like babies do, unconditionally 🙂

    • You almost had me . . . but my daughter, who is 8 and toilet trained, is not exactly the epitome of reasonably independent and she seems to think it’s her birthright to be the center of the universe and will we just bow down already? 😉

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

  56. Pingback: I love you like a dog (via It’slisa’s Blog) « Cesky Cess's Blog

  57. Jim Connor

    Thank you for showing me that you’re “real”. We talk to our dogs so frequently, that a question that is often asked is “You talkin’ to me or the dog?”

  58. BPSingh


    I have pretty and lovable dogs. I cannot guess whether they love me.

    Love is eternal – Dogs arn’t.

    • As long as you provide food they love you. Food and maybe something to chew on every now and then. I think those are signs of affection in the dog universe. Thanks for reading.

  59. when I get back home that is deafening to the ears that I must tell her to be quiet. I would never have found out that someone has a blog called Vodka and Ground Beef.

  60. Love the dog.Love the post!

  61. Hahaha! Love it! There is nothing that makes me feel so unsuccessful as when my white fluffy-fluff dog pulls the rope and jump on strangers.

    • Have you tried telling people you trained your dog to do that because you’re moving to another country where you read it’s impolite if your dog doesn’t pull and jump? If they believe you, you might feel better about yourself and your dog-training skills. Thanks for reading.

  62. I think maybe it’s about loving people in our lives the way our animals love us — not holding grudges over silly things (I’m not talking serious issues, but the day-to-day annoyances) and of course, that unconditional thing is nice, too.

    You made some really great points!

  63. Pingback: I love you like a dog (via It’slisa’s Blog) « Fakename2′s Weblog

  64. Pingback: I love you like a dog (via It’slisa’s Blog) « ~..:Unnecessary Scribble:..~

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  66. cjaneyz

    i like your post. i reblogged it 🙂 such a nice reading for me!

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