Science has your back if you consider your dog to be your “fur baby.” According to recent studies, when our canine friends look into our eyes, they trigger the same hormonal reaction that makes us bond with human infants. The study—which is the first to demonstrate this hormone bonding effect between humans and another species—might contribute to the understanding of why dogs initially became our companions so long ago.
According to Brian Hare, a canine cognition specialist at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, who was not involved in the research, “It’s an astounding finding that implies that dogs have hijacked the human bonding system.” According to Hare, the finding could help explain why assistance dogs are so beneficial for persons with autism and post-traumatic stress disorder. Given its potentially wide-ranging ramifications, a result of this scale has to be reproduced.
Dogs are already well known for their propensity to engage in human interaction. Dogs appear to comprehend humans in a manner that no other animal can, and it’s not simply because they enjoy going on walks and catching Frisbees. Dogs have an instinctive understanding of our intentions—”I’m trying to teach you something,” for instance—that baffles even chimps, our closest living cousins. When interacting, both people and dogs also glance into each other’s eyes. Wolves, the closest living relatives of dogs, take this as a sign of hostility.
Takefumi Kikusui, an animal behaviorist at Azabu University in Sagamihara, Japan, was intrigued by this shared gaze. The oxytocin hormone, which affects maternal attachment, trust, and altruism, is the subject of research at Kikusui’s group. Other studies have demonstrated that when a mother looks into her baby’s eyes, the infant’s oxytocin levels rise. This drives the child to look back into its mother’s eyes, which prompts the mother to release more oxytocin. When the baby is unable to express itself in other ways, this positive feedback loop appears to build a strong emotional relationship between mother and kid.
Having owned a dog for over 15 years, Kikusuia questioned if the same applied to dogs. I always feel like my dogs are more of a buddy than a pet, he says, adding that he loves his pets. “So I began to question, “Why are they so near humans?” Why are they so closely tied to us?”
30 of their friends and neighbors were persuaded by Kikusui and his colleagues to bring their pets into his experiment. They discovered a few people who were keeping wolves as pets and got in touch with them. The researchers allowed the owners to interact with their animals in a room together for 30 minutes after collecting urine from both animals when each owner brought their pet into the lab. The owners would frequently chat to and pet their pets during this period. Dogs and their owners were also sharing eye contact, some for a few seconds, others for several minutes. Unsurprisingly, the wolves didn’t make much eye contact with their owners. The crew collected further urine samples after the allotted period was gone.
Mutual eye contact had a significant impact on the dogs’ owners as well. Both male and female canines and both male and female owners showed a 300% increase in oxytocin levels in the pairs that had spent the most time looking into each other’s eyes. (Kikusui took part in the experiment with his two standard poodles, Anita and Jasmine, and was one of them.) No wolf-owner pairs or canines and owners that had spent little time looking at each other showed an increase in oxytocin, according to the researchers.
The same fundamental steps were followed in a subsequent experiment, but this time the dogs were first given an oxytocin nasal spray before interacting with their owners. This time, there were no wolves either. Giving a nasal spray to a wolf would be extremely risky, Kikusui laughs. Female dogs given the nasal spray spent 150% more time looking into their owners’ eyes, which caused their oxytocin levels to increase by 300%. Male dogs or dogs given a nasal spray that solely included saline did not experience any effects.
The team published their findings online in Science today. The findings indicate that human-dog interactions trigger the same kind of oxytocin positive feedback loop as interactions between mothers and their young. And that could also help to explain why we have such a strong bond with our pets and vice versa. According to Kikusui, it’s possible that the nasal spray only had an impact on female canines because oxytocin plays a bigger part in female reproduction and is crucial for labor and nursing.
According to him, the domestication of dogs may have benefited greatly from this positive feedback loop. Only those wolves who could form bonds with humans would have been cared for and protected as they changed from wolves to dogs. Additionally, it’s possible that humans themselves have evolved the capacity to reciprocate, adapting the feedback loop of mother bonding to a new species. The adaptation may have been crucial for human survival as well since oxytocin reduces anxiety, claims Kikusui, who calls it “our biggest speculation.” “It’s better for people’s health if they are less stressed out.”
Jessica Oliva, a Ph.D. student at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, whose recent research demonstrated that the hormone improves dogs’ comprehension of human pointing, adds, “I definitely think oxytocin was involved in domestication.” The majority of these canines likely link the action with food and play, both of which can raise oxytocin levels; still, she notes that mutual gazing doesn’t occur in a vacuum. So even while we may think of our dogs as our children, that doesn’t mean that they do, too. We might just be hip pals who occasionally give them a massage.
Why do dogs bond with people so strongly?
Since ancient times, humans and dogs have shared a special link that is evident in the way that canines interact with us in our daily lives. The majority of specialists concur that contact between the wolf, the dog’s progenitor, and humans led to the development of this bond. For unknown reasons, some wolves were devoted to this bizarre two-legged animal, and as a result of this early encounter, dogs as we know them today emerged.
Why are dogs so content with people?
It goes without saying that dogs provide us joy. Anyone who regularly interacts with a dog will be able to attest to the sheer joy that their tail-wagging buddy brings.
In fact, 71 percent of dog parents said that having a dog has made them happier people, according to a BarkBox study of dog parents. The fact that their pets wake them up in the morning makes it easier for over 80% of people. And a staggering 93 percent of participants said that having a dog has made them a better person in general.
Dogs have assisted us in our task and acted as our best companion for countless ages. Over the course of human history, many writers have praised dogs for their devoted friendship and unwavering affection.
In good times and bad, we can always count on our canine friends. They provide us company when we’re feeling lonely and a reason to smile when we’re feeling unhappy. They are dependable, nonjudgmental confidantes who we can cuddle with, play with, and—most importantly—be ourselves around.
In the BarkBox study, 85 percent of the dog owners who participated in the poll said that their dogs had “helped them get through a difficult moment in their lives.
Our canine companions teach us tolerance, kindness, generosity, and patience. All of these traits serve us well in both our personal and professional life and enhance our ability to collaborate and interact with others.
According to a research in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, pet owners had better relationship styles (i.e., they were less scared and distracted) than non-owners and also had higher self-esteem and were more physically fit, less lonely, conscientious, and socially outgoing.
Dogs motivate us to get outside and be more active, which over time can result in improved mental health. According to one perspective, dogs make us happy because they inspire us to engage in other positive actions.
The body releases endorphins, which are happy-making chemicals, when we exercise. Research has also suggested a connection between depression and a deficiency in vitamin D, which is obtained by sun exposure.
We are likely to feel happier by taking our dogs for walks or just spending time with them outside on a sunny day.
In the Dog Parent Study, more than 45% of participants said that getting a dog had increased their level of physical activity. 72% claimed that their dog had an impact on their workout routine.
We are aware that increased physical exercise and unconditional love can help people feel better. What if, however, we could demonstrate through science that dogs make us happier?
According to studies, even brief contact with dogs trigger the release of the hormone oxytocin, also known as the “cuddle chemical,” in the human brain. Oxytocin lessens stress and anxiety while boosting feelings of relaxation, trust, and empathy.
Science reported in 2015 that research showed that just looking into each other’s eyes significantly increases oxytocin levels in both dogs and dog guardians.
“In the pairs that had spent the most time looking into each other’s eyes, oxytocin levels increased in both male and female dogs by 130 percent and in both male and female owners by 300 percent.
Adversity is nothing new to our veterans. For those who serve, life can be tremendously challenging, from adjusting to civilian life again to overcoming depression and PTSD.
Twenty veterans commit suicide every day, according to a recent Veterans Administration study. This is a considerable increase in suicide among female veterans and is significantly higher than the national average for civilians.
A companion animal can be a ray of hope for a veteran who is dealing with physical or mental health problems by providing them with meaning and purpose during their darkest moments. The dogs they have offer many of the soldiers in our program a reason to live.
A dog or cat that has been saved is frequently a “confidant to a veteran who feels alone, a secure and kind listener, a ‘always there’ companion.
We want to give these exceptional men and women the happiness and joy they so well deserve by promoting the adoption of veteran-pets. The most underappreciated shelter pets are those who are older, have special requirements, or have been homeless for a long period, as well as huge breed dogs.
To witness our mission in action and to see that dogs and cats both make us happy, read any adoption story on our blog.
Why are dogs so devoted to people?
There are various explanations for where and why your dog has such a strong sense of devotion. Here, we look at a few, rated from straightforward to intriguing, justifications for your dog’s loyalty.
The simple explanation: you give them food
That you provide them with food and shelter is the most straightforward explanation for your dog’s loyalty. Your dog is devoted to you because you give him the necessities of existence, and he is appreciative of that.
This is supported by science because domestic dogs are descended from wolves that man previously domesticated by providing them with food and shelter in exchange for their service as guard dogs. Your dog’s devotion is a result of this reciprocal relationship, which is inherited in their DNA.
Naturally, this would imply that obedient dogs appreciate anyone who gives them food. This is also largely accurate because dogs do have a propensity to develop a stronger bond with the family member who provides them with food. However, it is not the only justification.
Looking to dog psychology for answers: dogs are pack animals
Dogs, like other pack animals, yearn to be a part of a pack. They share many similarities with people in this regard—just as no man is an island, no dog is either. Your family is their pack, and your devoted dog has adopted you as their own.
In a pack, loyalty is essential. A pack’s members must cooperate to overcome threats in order for them to thrive in the wild. Trust, cooperation, and putting the needs of the pack first are all necessary for survival. It would explain why dogs frequently risk their own safety in order to defend their owners, as their pack instincts demand it.
But that does not cover all the bases. In spite of the fact that you haven’t been feeding them while you were away, your dog still loves you when you go back from a lengthy trip. What about Hachito, the devoted dog who met his owner every day at the railway station after work and waited for him even after he passed away for nine years? That cannot be explained by either pack instincts or reciprocal bonds. But another possibility exists.
The intriguing explanation: dogs may love
ScienceDirect conducted a canine behavior experiment in 2005 in which canines were exposed to the scents of their owners, strangers, and food. The dog’s brain was scanned as it approached each fragrance. Since smell is so crucial to dogs, the study postulated that studying it would be the most effective approach to comprehend how canine brains function.
They were accurate. Dogs not only responded more strongly to their owners’ scents, but when given their owner’s fragrance, a region of the brain linked to pleasure and uplifting feelings lit up. Your devoted dog is aware of you. In humans, love is typically connected with the same patterns.
In another test, a dog was let to observe a stranger being impolite to their owner. The dog actively ignored the stranger after being given the chance to socialize with both the owner and the stranger. We do not know what loyalty is if that is not it.
Do dogs believe humans to be their parents?
- It is possible for a puppy and a human to form a mother-like bond.
- Dogs can detect human facial expressions and have a highly developed sense of smell that aids in human identification.
- A dog’s choices are influenced by positive reinforcement and socialization with both humans and other dogs.
Many think that socialization rather than biology has a larger role in a healthy puppy-parent bond. Therefore, a puppy can absolutely view you as his “mother,” that is, his provider and protector, and form an emotional connection with you that is just as strong as if you were related to him by blood.
Your puppy will also pick you out of a crowd of strangers with ease using both his keen eye and nose. However, it takes some care to establish positive relationships and make sure your dog sees you as his devoted pet parent.