A dog doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, big or small, young or old. He doesn’t care if you’re not smart, not popular, not a good joke-teller, not the best athlete, nor the best-looking person. To your dog, you are the greatest, the smartest, the nicest human being who was ever born. You are his friend and protector.” ~♥ Louis Sabin
A new study reports there is mutual hormonal bonding between dogs and humans. The study explains how dogs have gained an important place in society and within the family they are a part of.
Initial research showed levels of oxytocin in humans increase when there is eye connection between dogs and humans. Oxytocin is a hormone produced in the brains of mammals encouraging bonding between mothers and children, as well as a partner and social bonding. Humans produce oxytocin because of other humans and dogs produce it because of other dogs.
Initially researchers measured oxytocin levels in 28 pair of dogs and their humans, then the dogs interacted for 30 minutes with owners talking, petting and looking at their canine. At the end of this period, researchers screened oxytocin levels again. The report shared humans and dogs gazing at one another showed an increase in oxytocin.
In a second experiment, dogs were given doses of oxytocin in their nose resulting in female dogs spending more time gazing at their owner, which in turn boosted the owner’s level of oxytocin.
Dr. Evan MacLean reported that in these experiments gaze behavior was critical in oxytocin release. Dr. MacLean is a senior research scientist and co-director of the Duke Canine Cognition Center. As reported in a segment on the Today Show in an article Dr. Maclean wrote, “When they receive oxytocin, this causes dogs to look more at people and the more they look, it boosts oxytocin levels more.”
The findings of these experiments are in correlation with how some dog owners treat and feel their dogs are their babies. People who do not have or share a deep bond with their canine family member may not understand these deep attachments and feelings, but there is yet newer science to support the bond between dog and owner can be as strong of an emotional connection as that shared between mother and their children.
In an email received for the report by Today Show contributor Meghan Holohan from Takefumi Kikusui from Azabu University in Japan, “Owner-dog bonding is comparable to parent-infant bonding….and this is surprising…because there is not a reproductive relationship between humans and dogs.” Kikusui continued, “use of eye gaze for affiliative communications and (are) very much sensitive to eye contact. Gaze in particular, (over touch, for example) led to the release of oxytocin.”
Many owners adore gazing into the eyes of their pup, each enjoying the benefit of increased oxytocin. Dr. MacLean concludes with, “This special bonding relationship with dogs is fairly unique. Owners have no dispute with these findings.
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