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Your dog does not love you and other cold-nosed truths

By jim Published: May 7, 2009

Author Jon Katz has written extensively on the bond between humans and dogs.

"Dogs develop very strong, instinctive attachments to the people who feed and care for them," said Katz, speaking Wednesday from his farm in upstate New York. "Over 15,000 years of domestication, they've learned to trick us into thinking that they love us. "

What about the nuzzling? The big, adoring eyes? The wagging glee with which they greet us?

They're all part of what Katz refers to as the "opportunistic, manipulative behavior" that's second nature to dogs.

Not to say that they're canine con artists.

"It's just how their instincts have evolved," Katz said. Dogs aren't deceptive any more than they're sentimental, loyal, nostalgic, witty or bitter.

"They don't have a narrative mind or the language to have those sorts of human qualities," said Katz. Imagining otherwise is part of what he calls the "Disney Dog" idea so many of us buy into.

Their attachment is, in fact, "extremely conditional," Katz said. "They'll respond to anyone who gives them food and attention. I have a wonderful Labrador retriever who's very happy here. But if you had hamburger meat on you, she'd gladly go to Chicago with you and never look back."

Read the full column ->

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