Everybody who looked into their dog’s loving eyes has wondered what’s behind them.
We’re all fairly familiar with what dogs are capable of and we know their intellectual limits as well as remarkable achievements.
Many people know or least feel that their dog, like any other living thing on this planet, has feelings.
While the types of feelings canines can have are limited, is there actually something beyond that?
Do dogs really have souls and what happens with this soul after a pet has passed away?
I’ll also dive deeper into how pet souls are seen throughout different cultures.
Even though I’m trying to give a balanced overview over this topic that’s deeply intimate to many people whose thoughts have been shaped by their canine-human relationship, I want to clarify one thing.
There’s no scientific evidence to support a concept like the “soul” in the form many are interpreting it.
Definitions for the term “soul” vary wildly, depending on who you ask.
So let’s dive in to shed some light on this.
Dog Souls Transcend Cultures
No matter what your beliefs are, dogs have played a major role in our lives for thousands of years.
Their ancestors have been either seen as a nuisance or they’ve been feverishly hunted down due to them posing a risk to humans.
Truly, life for a wolf wasn’t easy.
Graduating from life on the run when humans invaded their territory to sneak into their homes as pets is a remarkable evolution.
Dogs were the first domesticated species and are still today the only fully domesticated pets.
Whether you like dogs or not, they can be found throughout history and constantly developed and adapted to be suitable for our daily life in some form or capacity.
Just think of all the service dogs out there.
Dogs were actually used as guarding dogs, police or military dogs, or plainly as pets by the Egyptians.
Our beloved canines have been referenced circa 6000-3150 BCE in the Predynastic Period of Egypt in the form of carved rock images. Around 3500-3200 BCE, historian are debating documentation in the written form or as images.
“Whichever breed inspired the image, dogs were closely linked to the jackal/dog god, Anubis, who guided the soul of the deceased to the Hall of Truth where the soul would be judged by the god Osiris.
Domesticated dogs were buried with great ceremony in the temple of Anubis at Saqqara and the idea behind this seemed to be to help the deceased dogs pass on easily to the afterlife (known in Egypt as the Field of Reeds) where they could continue to enjoy their lives as they had on earth.
At Abydos, there was a special cemetery reserved just for dogs.”World History Encyclopedia – Pets in Ancient Egypt
As you can see, the Egyptians held their pets and especially dogs in very high esteem.
Pets were believed to enter the afterlife and no expense was spared in some families for the pets.
Since this attests to the fact that Egyptians saw a resemblance to humans, the fact that dogs entered afterlife can definitely mean that dogs were believed to have a soul.
Let’s define the term “soul” first.
Philosophers tried to take on this mammoth of a topic far before our time, so let’s check what they have to say.
“Plato also held that at death, soul and body are separated; the body decays while the soul departs to live another life.
Aristotle, by contrast, thought of the soul simply as a ‘form’, that is, as a way of behaving and thinking (…).”Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy
While the views of philosophers have not been extended to animals and specifically dogs in many cases, there have been additions to this.
Since Christians believe that there’s some kind of afterlife, it was natural for them to adopt Plato’s concept at some point.
This concept was modified by Thomas Aquinas to be used by the church.
“The soul, Aquinas taught, was indeed a form, but a special kind of form, one which could temporarily exist without the body to which it was naturally fitted.”Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Sadly, Pope Pius IX who has was the head of the church for more than 30 years in the 19th century, is said to have led a crusade against the Italian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
In a statement, he cited Aquinas in his defence.
This defences is said to refer to Aquinas’ remarks that animals are not beings, but just “things”.
“However, Aquinas seems to have had some doubts since he warned, “we must use animals in accordance with the Divine Purpose lest at the Day of Judgment they give evidence against us before the throne,” which would certainly suggest that animals would be around in the afterlife.”Psychology Today – Are There Dogs In Heaven?
Naturally, views not only adapt throughout the centuries but important information is lost in translation, or even deliberately changed to fit certain agendas or doctrines.
It’s a fact that among many cultures where dogs were present so long that most of these breeds are extinct by now, dogs have been living in the household which definitely ascribes some importance to them.
Paired with the fact that many cultures believe a family’s bond to be something untouchable makes for an attractive argument that canines have been viewed as having a soul too, since they belonged to the family.
Many of these constellations can be explained through dogs working for their humans, but nowadays we can be sure that plenty of pet dogs existed too.
Native Americans, Eastern Europe, South Africa, and China.
All these countries have reports of pet dogs. If we’re taking care of an animal all their life with nothing to gain (except for unconditional love and happiness), don’t we automatically have to think there’s something inside that borders on the spiritual.
Even though dog meat is on the menu in countries like China, that is changing too (maybe not quite fast enough though) and pet dogs are on the rise.
Do Dogs Go to Heaven?
Our dogs going to heaven is a comforting thought for many dog owners. The question if heaven exists or not is a question of belief.
When most people think about heaven, they imagine a world above the clouds that spreads vast across the sky.
The “afterlife” heaven actually refers to anything beyond the earth including air and space.
In the Christian religion, heaven is defined as “a place where God dwells”, an eternal state of being without pain or sickness.
If you accept the logic of this concept, why wouldn’t dogs or animals in general go to heaven?
They’re certainly less sinful as we humans are and the fact that they’re alive, have feelings, aspirations, and more should speak for the fact they too should be allowed to enter heaven if indeed this concept should prove to be real.
Dogs are likely not ruminating over something like whether they go to heaven or not, they just are.
Dogs live in this moment. Right now. So perhaps our obsession with the future and afterlife is not an advantage but rather a hindrance.
Furthermore we have to discuss the question whether or not souls can even enter heaven.
The Greeks had believed in the idea of the immortality of the soul. Even if the body the dies, the soul will not and will be faced with an ultimate fate.
This could either be eternal bliss or torment. On the other hand, ancient Jews were certain that the soul could not exist apart from the body. It was more like a “breath”.
This notion came from the biblical verse “The first human God created, Adam, began as a lump of clay; then God “breathed” life into him. (Genesis 2: 7)”
Once we have taken our last breath, it goes nowhere. It just stops. About two hundred years before Jesus was born, Jews began to change their thesis.
They adapted to the idea that there must come some kind of judgment after death and if that would be true, our dogs would definitely score well.
Where Does My Dog’s Soul Go When He Dies?
Especially for children, the question of where dogs go when they die can keep them awake at night.
One minute the family dog is here, and the other he’s gone. Illness, old age, accidents – whatever the reason, coping with the loss of a family pet is hard for children and anyone involved.
Even if parents themselves don’t adopt the heaven concept or even the concept that a soul goes somewhere after the being dies, they often tell their kids “the dog crossed the rainbow bridge”.
What exactly is the rainbow bridge? Who has invented it?
Certainly not dogs because I’ve seen my dog check out rainbows and while animals enjoy nature on a profound level while respecting it, they do not consciously acknowledge beauty.
Then again, not all humans find the thought of a rainbow bridge comforting. The general consensus is that it’s warm and fuzzy feeling.
All that energy that’s bundled up inside your family dog has to go somewhere right? Physics lays it out right there.
Energy can be converted in form, but not created or destroyed.
So perhaps a dog’s soul really is going somewhere? If it’s just lingering in the air or going to a certain place, you have to decide for yourself.
Do Dogs Have Feelings?
Research has proven that dogs definitely have feelings.
We humans often anthropomorphize dogs to the extent that we give them human attributes.
Puppy poops onto your hardwood floor even though you’re sure he’s been potty-trained? Must be spiteful behavior right? Wrong.
A dog takes revenge for what you did to him weeks ago. Vengeance, right? Wrong.
But dogs do have basic feelings, it’s just that they act it out far more often than we humans do.
Dogs even have a sense of fairness, so make sure to treat your pooch fairly or he’ll get back at you (only applies to something like punishment that happens immediately).
I actually have an article on what range of emotions dogs can feel and what they cannot feel.
Dogs can even sense sadness in use which is an awesome thing for humans using canines as certain service dogs.
Do Dogs Know They’re Dying?
Dogs behave differently right before they die, they might seek out to be alone or just behave strangely or surprisingly upbeat.
How exactly dogs know this or what gives it away to them isn’t clear, but what’s clear is that all animals are far closer with nature than we humans are.
That’s not to say that humans can’t also think they’re feeling their “spirit” leave their body, but it often happens quite late in life while dogs are connected throughout their whole time on earth.
So whether or not your dog has a soul (or whether or not you have one yourself), dogs are loyal, loving beings with feelings and should be treated accordingly.
Sources & References
- World History Encyclopedia – Pets in Ancient Egypt
- Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy – Ancient Theories of Soul
- Psychology Today – Are There Dogs In Heaven?