Humans love their dogs and their dogs love them in return (study confirms)

A 2015 Japanese study, in essence, found that dogs love their human caregivers. It’s more than just about seeking food and surviving for a dog. It seems that through 10,000 years and more of selective breeding (artificial selection) humans have provided domestic dogs with a cocktail of genes which has allowed them to hijack the human concept of love and the human bonding system.

Dog love

Dog love. Image in the public domain.

And on the flipside, it is claimed that separation anxiety in dogs is far worse than people envisage. There are too many dogs left at home alone who are anxious and miserable.

The way that the Japanese scientists decided that dogs love their human caregivers is by measuring the amount of oxytocin (the love hormone) in their urine after they had spent half an hour gazing into the eyes of their owner and vice versa.

They discovered that dogs experienced a 130% increase in oxytocin while humans experienced a bigger spike of up to 300%. And it seems that eye contact between person and dog is important in the human-dog relationship.

There were 30 dog and human participants in the study. It is referred to in a book by Jules Howard, a zoology writer, titled: Wonderdog: How the Science of Dogs Changed the Science of Life.

Recent research has found that through selective breeding there has been an increase in the number of genetic mutations carried by dogs resulting in their hyper- sociability. They say that this is a “cocktail party personality”. Dogs is full of eagerness to please and connect. This is common in the modern domestic dog.

This cocktail of mutations is rare in wolves. A similar study with people who were raising wolves found that there was no increase in oxytocin and the wolves rarely met their keepers’ eyes.

These genes exist in people but it is rare with just one in every 18,000 people having them. But the domestic dog is “riddled” with them according to Howard who does admit however that he’s biased in favour of dogs.

Howard says that dogs are “hardwired to connect”. And this desire is not parasitic or “classically mutualistic” i.e. it is not to do with mutual benefit, but it is something else, he says. Howard says that his dog, Oz, “knows everything about me – more than anyone else in the world”.

Howard believes that cats “just aren’t interested in the minutiae of our existence”. My thought on that is he’s wrong with regard to many cat-human relationships, and if he is right, it is because domestic cats have been domesticated for a far shorter time than dogs. Their time will come when they are like dogs. Just give it about a thousand years.

Howard says that his dog knows exactly what he’s doing and when is doing it and what he’s done. “He could tell you when I last went to the toilet, at what time I went upstairs, at what point I came back and when I disappeared to take a call for a moment”.

He says that people want to know whether the dog loves them. “People want to know – they really, really want to know – do our pets love us?”

He writes: “They want to get past the idea that it is just a big ruse on the part of the dog – that there is cupboard love, but nothing more”. People do want to know whether their love for the dog is reciprocated. According to Howard and according to this study it is.

There are some more articles on dog behaviour below.

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