Do Dogs Have Stockholm Syndrome?

Do dogs have Stockholm syndrome too? Can they suffer learn to love their captors, puppy factory owners, and others who have kept them chained for years? Sometimes, your dog might have Stockholm Syndrome without you knowing. But don’t worry, they can still grow to love you. 

Like humans, dogs go through many emotional situations in life, and each one responds or deals with them differently. So, while dogs may suffer from Stockholm Syndrome at some point in their lives, it is usually not the owner’s fault.

For instance, 90% of pets suffered from this Syndrome in the UK around the rise of Covid-19. Even though the pandemic brought out the Stockholm Syndrome-like traits in many abandoned and unwanted pets, this emotional response can be seen in every animal, including dogs. 

So, even though your puppy has had a traumatic experience in the past, this doesn’t mean that it has something to do with you. Consulting a professional is the best option if you want to go deep into the subject. 

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However, you can start learning via this article, and we can assure you, you will get to know at least something, if not everything, from this article.

Understanding Stockholm Syndrome

For those who don’t know, Stockholm Syndrome is a term used for a person who develops positive feelings towards their abuser. It is more of an emotional response than a psychological condition. 

The person who has been abused or is a victim tends to develop an emotional bond with his abuser. It can result from staying in close contact with the captor or abuser for days, weeks, months, and sometimes, even years. 

Someone with this Syndrome can feel emotions like love, compassion, sympathy, empathy, a desire to protect them, etc. It can also be possible that people with Stockholm Syndrome develop negative feelings towards anyone who tries to save or rescue them from the abuser. 

It is hard to explain, but anyone who has been through such a situation can understand why such emotions towards one’s abuser develop.

Do Dogs have Stockholm Syndrome?

Dogs are a blessing from the heaven above; there is no doubt about it. We bring them home one day, and they become an integral part of our lives. Sometimes, dog owners wonder how their furry friends can love them unconditionally? Well, it looks like we have an answer to the question, and certainly, it is not an easy one to accept.

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As per some research, dogs only show affection and love to their humans because of canine Stockholm Syndrome. The term used in the study is ‘capture-bonding,’ where the animal is separated from its mother and given to a human to take care of them and develop a special bond with them. 

The researchers suggest that there are many things that pet owners do which are akin to holding someone a prisoner: putting them in crates, putting a leash around their neck and tying them, adding fences around your home.

If you think about it, for a stray or a pup, this is very much like being held in jail. Over time, the dog will learn to accept its situation and start to respect the owner since he is feeding, bathing, and taking care of him. This is the exact definition of Stockholm Syndrome, and it could be the reason why your dog’s affection is merely a psychological quirk

Do Pet Dogs Truly Love Us or Experience Stockholm Syndrome?

However, this research is very much debated and there are others who do not agree with the observations. Many pet owners refuse to believe that their dog doesn’t love them and that it is just a form of captor-victim relationship. Here are some of the counter arguments.

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Scientific Evidence

Dogs release oxytocin (the love hormone) when they see you and often don’t miss any chance of cuddling with you. As they grow older, your restrictions on them grow less (you leave the leash and harness at home, you let them stay out whenever they want etc). So the prisoner part of the equation goes away, but your dog doesn’t.

Their love for you is real, and not every puppy is snatched away from their mother, just like not every human suffers from Stockholm Syndrome, even though most of us have gone through some trauma or abuse. Our dogs are the same. 

Historical Context

Let’s look at the history of dogs as pets to get to the point. 

From their evolution from gray wolves to their domestication to protect livestock, much about dogs explains why their bond with humans cannot just be based on an emotional response. 

Dogs can give up their lives for the sake of their owners and would do anything to protect them. No study in the history of dog evolution has proven (in its entirety) about dogs’ thought processes and emotional activity. 

So, one cannot rely on the claim that dogs only love humans due to Stockholm Syndrome and that this is the only reason they love their owners. 

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Classical Symptoms

According to experts, the three main characteristics of someone suffering from this Syndrome include

  • The captors develop positive feelings towards the hostage. 
  • The hostages have positive feelings towards the captor.
  • The hostage develops negative feelings or thoughts towards those who try to save or rescue them. 

Since we cannot find the above traits in every dog, there is a chance that dogs love us simply because we are their owners and that we provide them food, love, and shelter. 

Do All Pets have Stockholm Syndrome?

We cannot comprehend every possibility that results in several mental or psychological issues in animals and humans. 

We are all complex characters, so there is no one solution or reason for every question or problem. So, if you think that your pet has Stockholm Syndrome, you need to talk to a professional to get to the answer. 

Do Dogs Admire Their Owners?

Yes, dogs do love and admire their owners. According to a study from Emory University, scientists used fMRI on dogs’ brains to measure their response to the scents of their owners and unfamiliar people. 

It was observed that the scent of humans activated their pleasure center more than that of animals. Also, they got more excited when smelling the scent of their owners than others. Your dog loves and admires you. 

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Do dogs like Hugs?

Generally, dogs consider a hug as restraint or pressure. So, no, most dogs do not like hugs or cuddles. However, they might interpret your hug as your way of showing love, and even though he feels restraint, he wouldn’t try to break away for a while. 

Wrap Up

Why must we make it all so complicated? Love is simple, especially that of a dog, towards a human since it does not bear the weight of expectations. 

So, let’s agree or disagree about dogs suffering from Stockholm Syndrome since we can either prove it or deny it, at least not in the present day. Thank you for reading, we hope these articles set your mind thinking on this subject, and you enjoyed the debate around it.

You might often wonder about other things related to dog psychology, such as: Why Does My Dog Walk Behind Me? Or Why Does My Dog Sit Over The Head of My Other Dogs?. Do read the articles to gain more insight into your dog’s mind.