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Are “Dog People” Wired Differently?

Updated: Feb 1, 2021

woman smiling and holding two puppies

My husband and I are taking a trip to Paris. All the travel guides warn about pickpockets who prey on tourists in certain parts of town. Apparently a child or two will approach and pretend to need help, engaging you in conversation while their little friends make off with your wallet and other valuables. Want to know the first thought that crossed my mind? “Thank goodness it’s not someone pretending a dog needs help.” I know, that’s awful; and of course I would help a child who was truly in need. But the truth is, I just don’t have the warm, fuzzy reaction toward kids that those prepubescent pickpockets are counting on.

Way back when, during the time I worked in corporate offices (or, as I like to call them, "The Hell Years"), there seemed to be a constant stream of young children visiting their parents at work. Employees proudly paraded their offspring around the rows of cubicles, and displayed them in silver and gold frames on their desks. Can you guess what sorts of photos hung on my walls? Let’s just say I had the hairiest kids in town. What’s that you say? Liz from accounting is having a baby shower? Hmm. That’s nice. What? Nancy from PR is getting a new puppy? What kind? When? Will she bring him to work? …Yep, co-workers thought I was strange.

Among “dog people” that sort of behavior isn’t unusual in the least. Although I know plenty of folks who have two-legged kids as well as dogs, and are still most definitely dog people, I also know many who proudly declare, “My dogs are my kids.” I may not be susceptible to the Baby Awwws, but I do get an instant feeling of pleasure upon spying a dog. And a puppy? Resistance is futile—magnetism takes over. I find myself drawn toward the wriggling bundle of cuteness, anticipating the feel of velvety fur and the sweet scent of puppy breath. Cuddling the pup, the world disappears. I’m sure those who are wired to feel that way about babies have a similar reaction when holding an infant—in fact, the chemicals released into our bodies are identical.

Those who are not dog people may not understand the lengths we of the dog-centric circuitry go to for our dogs. We often spend excessive amounts of money to ensure they get the best nutrition and health care. We stay on top of the latest medical research, and go the extra mile (or ten) to provide for our dogs’ well being, even when turning to things like acupuncture and hydrotherapy cause the eyebrows of non-dog-folk to raise in an inquisitory “what the…?” In short, we go out of our way to make sure our dogs are happy, healthy, well exercised, and well trained. Our dogs are not “things,” nor are they second-class citizens; they are family.

The rest of the world may not always understand it, but consider this a tail-wagging, raised-paw shout out to all of you dog people!


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