Dog lovers have always known instinctively that the bond with their dog is in the eyes! Now there’s some science to back it up!
A dogs eyes are a dog lover’s kryptonite! No-one can resist puppy dog eyes! When we look into our dog’s eyes we see love, compassion, understanding and intelligence – it’s our focal bond with our dogs!
The new study adds to our instinctive knowledge and focuses on the “love” part! It says that when a dog gazes into their owner’s eyes, it triggers a response in the human brain that helps bonding between dog and owner.
And the best part is that the reverse is also true! When you look into your pup’s eyes a similar chemical reaction happens in your dog’s brain! They love you more – if that’s even possible.
The study says that this two-way street began when dogs were domesticated long, long ago. It helped the two species – man and canine – connect!
Canine psychology experts Evan MacLean and Brian Hare of Duke University wrote in a commentary on the research titled “When your dog is staring at you, she may not just be after your sandwich.” They were not involved in the current research.
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This research is the first to explain a biological mechanism for bonding across species, says researcher Larry Young of Emory University.
The new study was reported in a paper from Japan released Thursday by the journal Science.
The response in the brain triggered by gazing results in an increase in levels of a hormone called oxytocin. Studies in people and animals indicate this substance promotes social bonding, such as between parent and infant or between two lovers.
One experiment in the new research involved 30 owners and their dogs. The researchers measured oxytocin levels in the urine of the dogs and their owners. Samples were taken before and after spending a half hour together.
Analysis showed that owners whose dogs looked at them longer in the first five minutes had higher boost in oxytocin levels. This was also evident when dogs gazed at their owners for longer.
The researchers tried the same experiment with wolves and no such results were evident. The wolves were paired with the humans who had raised them, although not as domestic pets.
The difference in the results suggests that dogs began staring at owners as a social strategy when they became domesticated. It was not something they inherited from their wolf ancestors, researchers said.
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Another experiment with dogs and owners determined that dog’s tend to gaze at their owners for longer periods when given oxytocin. This in turn triggered the chain reaction of increasing the hormone’s levels in their owners too. Once unexpected result is that this was only evident in female dogs! The reason for this is not clear.
Another oxytocin researcher, who was not connected to the study, said prior research had only established bits of evidence that the hormone plays a role in bonding between species. The new Japanese research is far more comprehensive.
“It makes very good sense,” said C. Sue Carter, of the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University.
One detractor, Clive Wynne of Arizona State University, a psychologist who studies interaction between dogs and people, says the link to domestication is “barking up the wrong tree.” The study doesn’t provide convincing evidence for that, he said.
Emory’s Young, who studies bonding behavior, said the relationship between humans and dogs is very special and unique. While human love can lose its initial exhilaration over time, he hasn’t seen any evidence of this with his dogs who he has owned for 10 years.
“When I come home from work every day, they are just as excited to see me now as they were when I got them,” Young said.
Now we know a little more about the loving bond we have with our beloved Labrador dogs!
Source: ABC News