Have you noticed that your dog is only interested in mounting other males? Or that your bitch is very, very interested in other lady dogs? Perhaps you're wondering, is my dog gay?
Well, the answer to that question is a little more difficult than it seems. First, we need to answer the question, can dogs be gay and can dogs feel love?
As humans, we see homosexuality as more than sexual activity. That's where the question of dogs being gay gets more complicated. The question becomes as much of a philosophical question as a scientific one.
Do dogs feel love on a spiritual and romantic level? Or do they just feel bonds as part of their animalistic nature?
In this article, we'll be looking at whether any kind of homosexual activity has been recorded in the canine world, and whether it is possible for dogs to fall in love.
We have a lot to cover, so let's jump straight into it…
What does the science say?
Some of you may be shocked or appalled to learn that all of the scientific work into animal homosexuality is fairly recent. In fact, most of the defining work in this field comes from the last 20 years. Before then it was quite a taboo subject in the world of animal behaviouralism.
The majority of the research in this field focuses on the sexual side of homosexuality in animal relationships. There is very little research into romantic relationships between other species - but we'll get to that a bit later.
So, are there any examples of homosexuality outside of the human race?
Yes, many species take part in homosexual mating activities. Evidence has also been found of solely homosexual mating activity amongst animals.
Biological Exuberence: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity by Bruce Bagemihl is a key paper on this topic. In this paper, Bagemihl discusses whether homosexual activity recorded in nature is a result of a genetic malfunction. Bagemihl concludes this is not the case, and, just as with humans, homosexuality in some animal species is natural and not due to a faulty gene.
Which animals have a documented history of homosexuality? Well, it's a very long list, but here are some of the highlights:
One of the most well-documented species when it comes to homosexuality is penguins. Same-sex mating pairs have been recorded as early as 1911.
In the early 20th century, penguin same-sex couples were recorded in a scientific paper, which was then covered up, for fear that it would shock the public too much.
Since then same-sex penguin couples have been seen paring for life, and even raising eggs together.
Dolphins have a reputation for being very sexually aggressive towards each other. But it is important to note that they also mate for pleasure.
Dolphins have also been recorded performing both male on male, and female on female sexual acts. What is interesting about this, is that these acts are not replications of heterosexual acts but different activities altogether.
Scientists haven't been able to prove that the dolphins get any kind of material gain from these activities.
Sheep are one of the most studied species when it comes to homosexual mating activity. In fact, it is believed that 8-10% of rams 'have exclusively homosexual orientation'.
Studies show that these relationships are unaffected by social rank, competitive ability, or dominance. This preference doesn't change if both male and female mating options are available. These rams will go through full courting rituals with each other.
Homosexual mating activities have also been recorded between ewes but are not as commonplace as it is between rams.
Finally, a quick note on primates. Homosexuality between primate breeding pairs is incredibly common, with these mating patterns been noted in over 20 primate species.
Can dogs engage in homosexual mating activities?
This question has a simple answer - yes.
Anyone who's had a young, male dog will testify to this.
As with most species (bar penguins), the majority of homosexual sexual activity occurs between male dogs. This may be due to their sometimes excessive libido. However, male dogs with exclusively homosexual orientation have been noted.
Whilst much rarer, female on female sexual activity does occur between dogs. A pair of lesbian pugs has even recently made the news.
Can dogs fall in love?
The jury is still out on this part of the question. And we think that will be the case for quite a while.
Can animals (dogs included) love? This is a question that has been baffling philosophers, scientists, and the general public since the beginning of time. And despite years of studying animal behavior, we're no closer to answering that question.
Any pet owner will most definitely that their pet can feel love. But there is a big debate about whether what they feel is a hardwired biological survival instinct or whether it's something more.
Many theologians and philosophers argue that the ability to love is what separates humans from animals. That the ability to love comes hand in hand with our higher consciousness. And there are others that completely disagree with this.
There are a handful of biologists that theorize that the animals that are most likely to be able to love are primates, as they are the most similar to humans.
The hard truth is that we are yet to discover a method of biological study that will categorically prove or disprove that animals can love. And we probably won't know the answer to this question until we invent something that will allow us to communicate accurately with dogs.
While any pet owner will swear blind that their furry friend can love, the question of whether dogs can feel romantic love is still outfoxing scientists. We cannot be certain that dogs can be gay, however, if dogs can feel love then it is biologically likely that they can also be gay.