I could be gone from my apartment for thirty minutes or a few hours, and either way I’m greeted with the same response: happy tail and butt wagging meets a flurry of ohmahgerd puppy kisses. She’s so excited to see me each and every time. The more she does this, the more and more I fall in love with her.
I don’t question my dog’s deep love for me. Though I am curious, why can’t my pup contain herself when I get home? What’s the explanation?
According to neuroscientist George Berns, the reasons may be different than we think: “Because dogs don’t have labels or names for people, he suspects that they have an even purer emotional response; their minds aren’t filled with all sorts of abstract concepts.”
Our dogs are pack animals and it’s unnatural for them to feel separated from the pack. When we leave our homes, our pups can feel anxious and worried. Being separated is not a natural choice for the dog. Hence, when we return, our dogs are overjoyed to be reunited with us.
And surprisingly, it’s not that our dogs think we’re part of the pack. Berns explains: “It’s not the case that they see us as ‘part of their pack as dogs,’ they know that we’re something different— there’s a special place in the brain just for us. What we’re finding with the imaging work is that dogs love their humans—and not just for food. They love the company of humans simply for its own sake.”
So, what makes a dog so darned excited when we come back home? It’s probable that pups have not learned to accept voluntary detachment. Pups cannot think in abstract concepts like humans and therefore, their emotions are more extreme. Happy when we are around and sad when we are not.
And that’s also why our dogs give us so many kisses and sniffs upon our return. Pups use this as a tool to gain knowledge, by sniffing and licking our face, they find out where we’ve been. And even if we’ve brought food.
Whatever the reasons are, I’m still excited to come home each day from work to see a loving and excited to the max pup. Bring on all the kisses and sniffs, I say.