Don’t get me wrong, I do love my family – just not as much as I love my dog.
Sounds harsh, right? But if you really think about it, you probably love your dog more than your family, too. But don’t be too hard on yourself, it’s totally understandable.
Our human family members can be tricky – to say the least (sorry mom and dad!). With family, you never know what you’re going to get. Will mom be cool, calm, and collected today? Or will she go on a rant about your brother’s new girlfriend? There’s no telling.
On the other hand, dogs are consistent, and we can always rely on them. A dog is a family member that we get to choose. In fact, 90 percent of dog owners think of their furry friends as family. So you see, I’m not alone. And nor are you!
My Boston Terrier, Otis, is 18 pounds of pure joy. He’s goofy, loyal, loving, cuddly – and of course, absolutely adorable. At the end of the day, I can always count on Otis to be there for me when I need him.
Most of the time, we can’t say the same for human family members (the ones we don’t get to choose!)
Is it normal to love your dog more than your family? Absolutely – and, here’s why.
1. My Dog Is Always Happy To See Me
Picture this: You come home for the Holidays – eager and excited to spend some quality time with your family. You open the front door and immediately feel the tension in the air. Is dad stressed about work? Is your sister having a bad day?
I never know what to expect from my family. It’s an emotional roller-coaster and it’s…. exhausting…
Dogs, however, maintain a positive and consistent mood – always. Unlike family, I always know what to expect when I open the door to greet my dog: crazy tail wagging, leaps of excitement, and genuine happiness. My dog is genuinely happy to see me, and, in return, I am genuinely happy to see him. Ah, sweet relief.
The good news is – as dog owners, we can expect to receive this happy response from our dogs, every single time. Researchers found that when dogs greet their owners after a long day away, their bodies flood with oxytocin (commonly known as “the love hormone”). This means that every time our dogs lay eyes on us, they are overjoyed with true happiness and love – no awkward tension or emotional baggage to deal with. Our dogs are always happy to see us.
2. My Dog Always Answers My Calls
Isn’t it funny how angry family members get when you don’t answer a phone call? Yet, somehow, they can ignore all your calls – and it’s totally fine?
And by funny, I mean truly annoying.
No, my dog doesn’t have a smartphone and can’t physically answer my calls (but he totally would if he could!) However, when I call his name – he shows up – every single time.
It doesn’t matter if I’m calling him for breakfast or for his weekly bath, my dog comes running when he hears his name. Dogs are consistent, loyal, and are always there when we need them.
As puppies, dogs learn to respond to their names through classical conditioning – which is usually achieved through positive reinforcement. In other words, when we call out to our dogs, they think something wonderful is about to happen. This means that they are genuinely happy to answer our calls and they are excited to hear their name called. What’s not to adore about that?
3. My Dog Never Holds a Grudge
When I was sixteen years old, I mistakenly spilled ketchup down the front of my sister’s “favorite” shirt. Of course, she was absolutely fuming with anger and she still brings it up… years later.
Ugh – just let it go already!
People hold grudges for a variety of reasons – disappointment, anger, envy, or sometimes – no reason at all! Unfortunately, family members are no exception to this. If only they were…things would be much, much easier.
Of course, our perfect pooches never hold on to ridiculous grudges or feelings of resentment. In fact, dogs live entirely in the present and display emotional reactions that only last as long as the event itself. This means that when I tell my dog to stop barking, he’s only mildly disappointed for a brief second. After the moment passes, the negative feelings pass, too. Imagine that!
4. My Dog Doesn’t Stress Me Out
Family life can be stressful… to say the least. Even the happiest of families still have issues and loads of emotional baggage that take a toll on day-to-day mental health. Over time, these relationship stressors can lead to a serious increase in cortisol (commonly known as the “stress hormone”). High levels of cortisol can cause anxiety, depression, and even heart disease.
So, my family is trying to kill me. Awesome.
However, unlike humans, dogs are known to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and can even improve cardiovascular health. Research shows that just 10 minutes of petting a dog “significantly reduces cortisol levels” and increases feelings of calmness.
So, in addition to being absolutely adorable, dogs are pretty much necessary for our mental health and stability.
5. My Dog Always Takes My Side
My dog never plays “devil’s advocate” or compiles a list of reasons why I’m being irrational. He doesn’t analyze the situation or give unsolicited advice. Unlike family members, dogs listen, understand, and demonstrate empathy in a way that humans… just can’t.
Don’t get me wrong, empathy (the ability to put oneself in another person’s shoes to share emotion and feelings) is a pretty complex emotion – which is why many humans struggle with it. Yet, dogs seem to have the whole empathy-thing covered. Dogs can exercise empathy and support us in a way that no one else can.
When dogs see emotional distress, they are immediately “infected by it” and share the same emotion with you. This means that when I’m sad or angry, my dog actually feels the emotion and immediately understands what I’m going through.
Plus, my dog is always there to lick my face and cuddle up next to me – and that’s what we actually want when we’re upset – right?
6. My Dog Keeps My Secrets to Himself
“I promise I won’t tell mom!”
Yeah, we’ve all heard that before. Even though these humans are family, they can still spread secrets around like wildfire. Sister tells mom – mom blabs to dad. Within a few days, the fact that you accidentally hit a stop sign in your mom’s SUV has gone full circle (and maybe viral).
Of course, dogs can’t tell your secrets because, well – they can’t speak (at least not in full sentences). But even if dogs could communicate verbally – they probably wouldn’t spill the beans because they are inherently loyal.
Dogs understand how much we provide for them (food, water, shelter, etc) and they rely on our love and kindness to survive. This awareness induces a strong bond and unwavering loyalty. According to canine experts at Breeding Business, dogs will “maintain loyalty to us to remain in a positive light in our eyes.”
7. My Dog Accepts Me For Who I Am
I mean, seriously. If I have to endure one more family dinner conversation about my love life – I’m going to lose my mind.
“When are you going to get married?”
“Karen works with a nice young man – you should meet him!”
However, the worst part is not the incessant nagging – but the lack of acceptance of my life choices. Dogs, on the other hand, demonstrate unconditional love and full acceptance of who we are. They just love you for who you are and they’re not continually bugging you about your love life, lack of social life, or whatever else they want to nitpick about.
By definition, unconditional love is a type of love that is not based on behavior or choices, but a full understanding and acceptance of another living being. It is the deepest form of love and our dogs feel this way about us. They don’t care if we get home too late or lay on the couch all day.
Dogs accept all of our life choices – big and small – and still shower us with love.
8. My Dog Is Super Easy To Read
Let’s face it. Humans are super complex creatures. We have trouble expressing emotions, we don’t say what we’re actually thinking, and we constantly have a long list of ulterior motives that drive our actions. Ugh. It’s actually kind of exhausting when you think about it!
I don’t know about you, but trying to read and analyze my family member’s thoughts and feelings can be extremely overwhelming. Do they really like my new haircut or was that sarcasm?
That’s why I love my dog. I know exactly what he wants and how he’s feeling at any given moment. If he’s hungry, he stands by his food bowl. If he’s happy, he wags his tail. If he’s tired, he curls up next to me and takes a nap.
See? It’s that easy.
In fact, dogs don’t experience all the complex emotions that make humans so incredibly hard to understand. Dogs feel all the simple, basic emotions – like joy, fear, and love – but are unable to feel emotions like pride, resentment, and shame.
This means we get less time analyzing sarcastic comments, and more time cuddling on the couch.
9. My Dog Cleans Up My Messes…and Never Complains About It
No, my dog doesn’t fold the laundry or load the dishwasher (although, that would be pretty cool), but he does graciously scoop up my spills and food crumbs – without skipping a beat.
Dogs are basically four-legged vacuum cleaners who are always willing to lend a hand in the kitchen. Did you drop a chip or spill a drop of your smoothie? Your dog has your back.
In fact, our dogs are actually excited to clean up after us – and this behavior is in their DNA. Canines are natural scavengers, meaning they are incredibly skilled at finding food and spend a huge part of their lives looking for it. When our dogs find a tasty little morsel, it’s like they just won the lottery.
On the side of the spectrum, when was the last time you spilled salsa on the floor and a family member jumped in to save the day?
Yeah, me neither.
10. My Dog Always Supports My Movie Choices
Ah – movie night. Mom wants to watch a psychological thriller; dad wants to watch James Bond for the twelfth time this week and your sister is practically throwing a fit because she’s dying to watch the season finale of The Bachelor.
In my family, this battle for the remote doesn’t ever end well.
Do you know who always agrees with your movie choice? Yep, your dog. Whether it’s a cheesy Rom-Com or terrifying horror film from the ’80s, dogs are always along for the ride. They don’t care what we watch as long as they get the opportunity to snuggle up on the couch and catch the stray popcorn crumbs. Oh yeah, dogs even agree with your snack choice (as long as you share!)
Yep, you’ve got a BFF for life with your dog.