Reader’s Choice and Book Review: How Dogs Love Us

What? Where’s the Reader’s Choice Contest?

I have been BURIED under deadlines and it takes hours and ours to look up all those books, so I’m going to try to figure out how to do Reader’s Choice in less time; as for this week, I’m simply giving away a book of your choice up to US$15 (or a $15 Amazon GC). How simple is that? I’ll announce two weeks’ worth of winners next Sunday, when the deadlines should be more manageable.

In the meantime, I have so far kept my New Year’s Resolution of reading at least one chapter in one book each day (pathetic, but it’s all I can manage). I have really eclectic reading tastes so you never know what might be around the corner.

I can give you a heads’ up that next week is KIM HARRISON week here on the blog, and that Kim herself will be guest-posting, so stay tuned for that! (Fangirling for a moment here.)

In the meantime, here’s the book I recently finished:


How Dogs Love Us: A Neuroscientist and His Adopted Dog Decode the Canine Brain

About the book: The powerful bond between humans and dogs is one that’s uniquely cherished. Loyal, obedient, and affectionate, they are truly “man’s best friend.” But do dogs love us the way we love them? Emory University neuroscientist Gregory Berns had spent decades using MRI imaging technology to study how the human brain works, but a different question still nagged at him: What is my dog thinking?
       After his family adopted Callie, a shy, skinny terrier mix, Berns decided that there was only one way to answer that question—use an MRI machine to scan the dog’s brain. His colleagues dismissed the idea. Everyone knew that dogs needed to be restrained or sedated for MRI scans. But if the military could train dogs to operate calmly in some of the most challenging environments, surely there must be a way to train dogs to sit in an MRI scanner.
With this radical conviction, Berns and his dog would embark on a remarkable journey and be the first to glimpse the inner workings of the canine brain. Painstakingly, the two worked together to overcome the many technical, legal, and behavioral hurdles. Berns’s research offers surprising results on how dogs empathize with human emotions, how they love us, and why dogs and humans share one of the most remarkable friendships in the animal kingdom.
How Dogs Love Us answers the age-old question of dog lovers everywhere and offers profound new evidence that dogs should be treated as we would treat our best human friends: with love, respect, and appreciation for their social and emotional intelligence.

Well, that pretty much sums it up. I actually bought this book shortly before my dog Shane died at age 16, then, six months later I lost Tanker, also at 16. And I wasn’t ready to read it for a while.

Now, I’m glad I got around to it, finally. I think most of us who have pets know they love us–they droop around and miss us when we’re gone, whether it’s a week or a one-minute walk to the mailbox and back. They love us unconditionally.

What Berns was trying to learn was: do they love us in the way we know love? Or do they love us because we feed them and take care of them?

Yes, and yes. Most of the book is a buildup to HOW Bern was able to set up a functional MRI of a dog (his own terrier mix, Callie) while it was awake. Not such an easy thing since the dog needs to remain motionless, yet alert, for about 20-30 seconds at a time while the noise of an MRI (think jackhammers) go on around them. So the book is procedure-heavy and you can pretty much skip to the last chapters to hear how similar the dog brain is to the human brain, and how the parts of the human brain that react to love also react in the canine brain.

The conclusion was that humans didn’t only domesticate dogs from their wolf ancestors to keep them warm in winter, but because some degree of those wolves found pleasure in human company, which over the eons has become our best friends. The ones who love us as much as we love them.

READER’S CHOICE. Today’s winner can pick their choice of book up to US$15 in value or equivalent gift card. Open internationally to anywhere Book Depository delivers free. In the meantime, if you’re a dog person, do you believe dogs love us in the sense that we feel love? (“Us” meaning their owner or person; my terrier Shane loved me best, but she loved everybody and would work hardest when confronted with someone who was indifferent to her until she wore them down. Tanker loved me. Period. With others, he was mostly either indifferent or downright menacing…especially the murderous mailman.) If you’re a cat person, do they love you…or tolerate you?


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About Suzanne Johnson

Author of urban and paranormal fantasy and romantic suspense, currently living in Auburn, Alabama. Author of the Sentinels of New Orleans series (Royal Street; River Road: Elysian Fields, Pirate's Alley, and Belle Chasse (Nov 2016). Writing as Susannah Sandlin, she is the author of the Penton Legacy series (Redemption; Absolution; Omega; Storm Force; Allegiance); The Collectors series (Lovely, Dark, and Deep; Deadly, Calm, and Cold); and the upcoming Wilds of the Bayou series (Book 1, Wild Man's Curse) releases April 2016).

46 thoughts on “Reader’s Choice and Book Review: How Dogs Love Us

  1. What interesting research. I think our pets do show affection, but having grown up with cats, some really only tolerate their humans. Some cats really like to cuddle.

    • It was a really interesting read! I couldn’t imagine my headstrong terrier EVER sitting still that long, although the girl did love her some chicken, so she might have done it for chicken. My best friend has a cuddly cat….but it’s only when the cat wants to cuddle. I think with kitties, you take what you get in terms of affection, but they are fun to watch 🙂

    • Yes, the book talked some about the “pack” and who the dog considers to be “pack.” I’m not sure the author bought the pack thing, but I definitely saw it with my dogs–there was family, there was “not family,” and there were mailmen. LOL.

  2. Our dog loved me best , probably only because I was the one who fed him and took him for walkies ! My book of choice would be White Tiger by Jennifer Ashley if I was lucky enough to win.

    • I don’t know about that, Irene–I know my dogs loved me best (even the social terrier), but I like to think the bond was greater than food and walkies. Although food and walkies sure never hurt!

  3. Dogs certainly know how to love. I’m always amazed by how dogs are also capable of reading their owner and react hostile to people the owner fears or doesn’t like.

    • Yes, that’s always amazed me as well. The book author explained that by how attuned dogs are to our body language–that they hear what we say but, even more so, they can read our physical cues. They also might be more sensitive to rises in anxiety or fear levels in humans via smell–the same way they’re being used now to detect vapor trails of humans carrying weapons or to sniff out cancer.

  4. I’m a cat person, and cats adore me. All cats, anyone’s cats, all the time, LOL! I love dogs as well, and they love me too. Animals love me period; I’m a very good human slave, I’m very well trained!

  5. While I firmly believe that dogs love us, I don’t think they love the same. Human love comes with expectations and other stuff etc. But I truly believe that dogs love selflessly and since they live in the moment, it’s always full blast. As a dog parent, I’ve learned alot from my furbaby! Thanks for sharing!

    • Ah, you have a VERY good point. I’ve heard that dogs’ thought and learning capabilities (in the way we think and learn) are at about the level of a bright toddler, which is why they can learn words and hand gestures so easily. But you’re right in that a dog’s love doesn’t come with expectations or conditions–they love their person no matter what, which is one thing that makes animal abuse infuriate me so much!

  6. I definitely think dogs do love, but also that they are very primal about other things like food and social structure. So many stories about dogs going for help and protecting their owners.

  7. Snickers loves his mom more than his big brother, Hershey loves his little brother more than he loves his mom. And mom loves them both to pieces. It’s a vicious circle. I don’t think it’s coincidence that Adam gave them that name.

  8. I believe they do love us if we treat them right and show them love. My dogs always know my moods, when I’m sad they comfort, when I’m sick they heal and when they know I need a good laugh they are goofy, that only comes with love and affection.

  9. I believe they do, some more than others! I’ve had 2 terriers who I believe loved me dearly. 2 others have most definitely cared for me… but they mostly loved what I did for them… like feeding them. Isn’t that just as it is in life with humans? Thanks for the generous giveaway, Suzanne!

  10. I believe my cats love me but they just show it differently. Either that or they are plotting to kill me but disguising it as love!!

  11. I don’t personally have any dogs or cats so I cant speak from experience. The dogs of relatives and friends seem to love them wholeheartedly.

  12. If my dog loved only because of feeding and walks, my husband would be her favorite which he isn’t. We rescued her; he was the one who wanted her, he was the one who did all the care at the beginning and she still adopted me. She is definitely mama’s dog! So I feel they do love. 🙂

  13. I used to have a cat. Unfortunately he fell in love and decided to elope far far away. Now I have 2 faithful dogs.

    Super excited about Kim Harrison, love her writing so much.

  14. I think that dogs can and do love wholeheartedly. With cats, I’m not so sure. I’m a cat person, and I do I think they can feel strong affection for humans, but they are solitary predators at heart, so love isn’t really in their makeup.

  15. I imagine both dogs and cats are much like humans, where they can truly love some humans while just tolerating others lol 🙂 And some would be naturally more loving than others just like us.

  16. I think dogs love us for sure, and I think cats love us as much as they’re capable of loving – I think they’re more self-centered than dogs are. 😀

  17. Huuugs. <3 You are way too kind Suzanne. Thank you for still thinking about your readers even when you are so busy 🙂 Hope you are doing great sweetie. <3 I had a dog once, a Chihuahua. He loved us 😀 But mostly he loved my sister, lol. Now I have a Silver Shaded Persian cat.. and I am not all that sure she loves me, lol. She is not very cuddly. Sigh. But still the cutest thing 🙂

  18. It’s interesting to see a scientific approach to determine the human/canine bond. I like dogs but don’t have one due to housing space issues but I occasionally play with the neighbor’s dogs. The affection I see in their eyes makes it impossible to doubt that they love their owners. 🙂

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