I'm not one of those idiots, excuse me... otherwise intelligent individuals, who believes that animals are dumb, emotionless creatures that are too simple to be more than tools for humans. Anyone who says that a dog isn't intelligent, can't feel love or regret or learn from their mistakes is a fool.
Take for example the idea that is taken as gospel fact by most every animal researcher or trainer. You can't punish an animal for a misbehavior that you didn't catch them in the act of doing. In other words, if your puppy pees on the carpet, it doesn't do much good to scold him unless you actually catch him in the act. He won't understand what you're scolding him for because he can't associate his previous act of leakage with your actions since they are too far apart in time. People who believe this have obviously never met Rowan, my dog. Rowan will act guilty when he's done something he knows we don't like. And he's not reacting to our behavior since 9 times out of 10 we're not aware of what he's done until he starts acting guilty and we start looking. We come home, happy to see him, and he hangs his head and doesn't greet us with his usual exuberance. Then we start looking for what he's chewed up. Scientists would say that I am anthropomorphizing or projecting my emotions onto the dog. Bullshit. He's acting guilty. He's knows he's not supposed to tear up the toilet paper roll or chew on underwear (his favorite) but sometimes he can't help himself. And then he acts guilty. And I'm not the only dog owner that has a similar story.
And the entire idea that a dog can't remember previous actions well enough to learn from them should mean that they're untrainable. After all, how do you train an animal that won't remember what you've taught him? But since they clearly can be trained, doesn't that mean that they can remember and associate past events with present outcomes? Of course they can. Any animal that can't learn from his environment is gonna be in a world of hurt. So if an animal can learn from training and experience (you know, that thing they use to figure out how to get out of the yard on trash day) then why is it so hard to believe that they can't associate your scolding them over a cold wet spot on the carpet (which they can tell by the scent is their own) and learn that the carpet isn't a place to pee? Oh it's easier if you catch them in the act. Sure. But not impossible if you don't.
As far as how dogs feel love and affection, there isn't a pet owner on the planet that would tell you they think their dog doesn't love them. (And if they do, they don't deserve the dog.) There are endless stories of dogs helping injured owners, alerting them to dangers, even going back into a burning house to get them. When a mama dog does that to save her puppies, we call it survival instinct. When a dog goes back in for a child, how can it be for anything but love? We diminish ourselves when we try to explain away animal emotion by painting it as instinct or heightened senses or pack behavior. Why is it that the things we would call acts of love in a human cannot be called that when an animal behaves in a similar way? If you don't believe that a dog would do this, check out this webpage: http://www.flix55.com/watch/Re4yhQxjbYL . Or this one: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/01/02/world/main664271.shtml. What makes an animal go into a burning building or brave a tsunami to rescue a child? Why is it so wrong to call these acts of heroism what they are? If a human did these things, we'd call them a hero. We'll call a dog a hero, too, but not stop to think about the contradiction when we say they are too far below us on some arbitrary scale to believe that they can feel strong emotions.
All dogs, like all people. are not created equal. Some are smarter than others, some are faster, some have a better sense of smell. I've owned dogs that were dumb as dirt and some that acted like they understood everything I said. Some that were excellent diggers and some that could sing for their supper. Is every dog going to enter a burning building to save a child? No. Neither is every person.
But a dog doesn't hold it against you when you stay out all night. He greets you with the same enthusiasm whether you've been gone 5 minutes for 5 hours. A dog doesn't require you to do anything more than show him some affection, feed him and play with him. All relationships should be this easy.
Dogs, in many ways, are innocents. And like all innocents, they have something to teach us. Love unconditionally. Play whenever possible. Be loyal. Show affection with complete abandon.
Is a dog equal to a man? No. In some ways he's better.