Any of you who know me, know I have a little white pug named Winter who I absolutely ADORE. He is my World and honestly I could write a whole blog post about him alone. But today I’m not going to just talk about him, but dogs in general (and use this as a great opportunity to share lots of Winter pictures).
Whilst cuddling Winter this morning I was wondering what makes me so obsessed with him. Of course he’s adorable, playful, loyal etc … but I didn’t know that before I brought him home, so how did I know I would love him so much? Why do humans love dogs so much that they’re willing to spend so much on them? In the UK the amount of pugs registered has sky rocketed, going from around 1000 a year in 2000 to 10,000 a year in 2015. Reports suggest pugs in the UK are sold for up to around £1500 per puppy.
You may not see traditional advertisements to buy puppies as much as many other products (like clothes or food) but merely their presence in media and around us can increase consumers’ desire for them – in a similar way to how influencer marketing works (read more about that here). Dogs are allover the place – television, family members’ houses, friends, walking down the street, featured within advertisements etc. I’m not sure how others feel, but I hate the idea of thinking of Winter as a product but that doesn’t change that he is/was one.
Many advertisements are based on showing how a product can fulfil a core human need (physiological, safety, belonging, self-esteem & self-actualisation) as discussed by Maslow. Dogs also appeal to these human needs naturally, mainly our need for belonging due to their loyalty and affection toward their owners. In turn, this reinforces feelings of belonging within the owner making humans want to have one in their lives to make them feel loved. This feeling can also help to increase self-esteem within owners, aswell as creating opportunities to meet more people (e.g. other dog owners). Additionally, dogs often provide unconditional love, which could be deemed the equivalent of unconditional positive regards for humans, which is essential human wellbeing and healthy attachments to form.
Another way in which pups ‘sell’ themselves to us, is by literally flooding our blood with ‘love’. Looking at dogs can stimulate release of oxytocin within humans, a hormone which creates feelings of love within a human. In a phenomenon referred to as the Oxytocin Gaze, this is mirrored in dogs when they look as us too – meaning Oxytocin is also released into their blood stream.
Dogs being shown in these ways (loyal, loving, affectionate) in movies, YouTube, magazines, in the street, on your Facebook feed etc. unintentionally acts as advertisements. Which many people have argued is how popularity of brachycephalic (flat faced) dogs has soared over recent years. Additionally, merely being repeatedly exposed to dogs in media increases both a person’s positive toward them and their desire to have one. This could have interesting applications within the advertising industry in regards to new ways to advertise.
It almost feels wrong to try and justify what feels like such a pure love, but it was really fun to be able to spend the day reading about pups and looking at Winter pictures. What do you think? Do we love dogs purely because they’re amazing or is there a psychology behind why we love them so much and are willing to spend so much on them? Or are you a cat person?