Robert Cormack

1 year ago · 4 min. reading time · visibility 0 ·

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The Psychology of Dog-Hugging.

The big furry difference between conditional and unconditional love.

The Psychology of Dog-Hugging.

“When a dog gets a bone, he doesn’t go out and make a down payment on a bigger bone. He buries the one he’s got ,” Will Rogers

I’ve just seen my fourth animal-hugging video on Facebook. It’s cute as hell, but depressing. My dog never hugged me—not in fifteen years ( probably thought it was inappropriate or girlie).

You’d think keeping him alive for fifteen years deserved a hug, but I’m pretty sure he figured his longevity was directly due to wagging his tail. It got him a lot of food, but also got him killed. It seems cars aren’t nearly as impressed by wagging tails as the rest of us.

Let’s not underestimate a dog’s hug, though. Scientists say we get the same endorphin rush as we do from sex. In fact, if we hugged animals instead of getting all grabby with people, we’d be better off.

We think all animals offer unconditional love, which isn’t true at all. Try not feeding your cat for a few days. It’ll scratch your eyes out.

Here’s the thing about dogs: The reason they get away with things isn’t because they’re cute. It’s because nobody believes they have ulterior motives. We think all animals offer unconditional love, which isn’t true at all. Try not feeding your cat for a few days. It’ll scratch your eyes out.

In a way, conditional love is what stands in the way of our happiness. We’re human, and therefore we can’t give unconditional love because, well, we’re not dogs. Dogs set a very high standard where love is concerned. We’ve set a very low one.

Unconditional love can’t have ulterior motives. Dogs understand this because they don’t even know what an ulterior motive is. Cats know what it is, and would rather sleep. So, to be happy, we have to think like dogs, and forget ulterior motives and conditional love. Either that or we make do with cats.

Eventually we become idiots with all sorts of worries, and then we get headaches because we don’t know how to stop worrying.

This won’t be easy because, as Mark Twain once said, “Humans are capable of advanced thinking, and that’s a problem.” We cant’ stop ourselves. Any line of reasoning will eventually lead to alternative reasoning. Eventually we become idiots with all sorts of worries, and then we get headaches because we don’t know how to stop worrying. Most worrying is the result of conditional love.

Now, we don’t set out to be idiots, it’s our chemical makeup, what psychologists call our “fight or flight” mechanism. We look for the safest avenue because we don’t want to be beaten like a dog. Very few people beat dogs, and even fewer beat cats, so our thinking gets pretty convoluted.

Various neurological studies have shown that the average person has more than thirty thousand thoughts a day (dogs have two). Ninety percent are repetitive, eighty percent are negative, and the rest are dirty.

In other words, our thinking is pretty limited. It could be right up there with a dog’s, except dogs wag their tails and act adorable. They get treats and scratched behind the ears. We act like neurotic ninnies.

Say you scolded your dog for tipping over your cup of coffee. You boot him outside. First of all, outside isn’t so bad.

Dogs also have a forgiving nature, something we, as humans, struggle with every day. We can say, “I’ll forgive him or her,” but then we’re thinking, “Why didn’t they forgive us first?” So we go back to analyzing again, then decide we’ll forgive them if they never do it again. This is also conditional love.

Dogs figure it another way. Say you scolded your dog for tipping over your cup of coffee. You boot him outside. First of all, outside isn’t so bad. There are new scents, new animals, even an old tennis ball. He plays with the ball, chases a few cats, then comes back inside all happy.

You say to your spouse, “Isn’t Rudy amazing? As angry as we get, he always comes back inside all loving and forgiving.” Well, sure he does. He doesn’t even remember what he did wrong. You pet him, feed him, life is good.

We, on the other hand, worry. All creatures worry to some extent. We do it a lot because of our advanced thinking. Ironically, for all the worrying we do, very little of it is constructive. Mostly it’s ulterior motives, revenge and giving people wedgies.

This often proves to be useless, since most problems go away on their own. If they don’t, you snooze. Cats forget everything after a snooze. So do seniors, which is why you should buy a good bed when you retire.

Remember the “fight or flight” mechanism? Dogs and cats have that, too. It’s very fine tuned and explains why their thoughts are so simple. They can’t be distracted or they’ll end up as dog meat — or cat paté.

We need to turn off our ulterior motives and find joy in simple things like old tennis balls and, well, hugs.

Since my dog lived to be fifteen (a hundred and five in dog years), it stands to reason he knew how to stay focused. It also explains why dogs act so loving all the time. Unconditional love is simple. Without thoughts of revenge or wedgies, ulterior motives can’t exist.

Given how healthy unconditional love is, we should all think like dogs. We need to turn off our ulterior motives and find joy in simple things like old tennis balls and, well, hugs.

Hugging is like unconditional love. You can hug anyone, unless they don’t want to be hugged. Then it’s considered grabby. People get arrested for being grabby. Even dogs can be arrested. Most don’t because they’re so forgiving and happy, and who wants to arrest a forgiving happy dog?

I’d suggest hugging your family and friends first. They may be surprised at first, especially if they’re not used to being hugged, but they’ll settle down. They’ll see a new happier you, someone ready to forgive and forget. You can say it’s because of the dog, and you’re trying to be a lot more like him, and you wouldn’t mind going out and playing in the yard.

They’ll think you’re weird, but to each his own, right? Besides, the dog won’t mind. He’ll even come out and play with you. Unless he considers it his yard and his tennis ball. Then you’ve got what psychologists call “territorial prerogative” or simply “tennis ball prerogative.”

Other than that, hug your dog all you want. He loves hugs. Unless there’s food, or a bone, or someone who hugs better than you.

In which case, you might want to hold off on the hugging until you’re back inside again. Inside, it’s your territorial prerogative. Outside, he’s pretty sure it’s his.

Other than that, hug your dog all you want. He loves hugs. Unless there’s food, or a bone, or someone who hugs better than you. Then you’ll just have to wait. He’ll hug you eventually, but food, a bone, or someone who hugs better than you comes first.

You’ll just have to accept that. It’s the first rule of dog-hugging.

Robert Cormack is a novelist, journalist and blogger. His first novel “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)” is available online and at most major bookstores (now in paperback). Check out Skyhorse Press or Simon & Schuster for more details.

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Comments

Robert Cormack

1 year ago #2

I'll check that out, Ken.#1

Ken Boddie

1 year ago #1

Dog hugging can be dangerous to your health. Ask Lindy Chamberlain.

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