A new study concludes that eye contact between a dog and its owner gets both to produce more of the love hormone oxytocin. It is exactly the same mechanism as between mother and child.
Be honest. Do you occasionally treat your dog like your child? Well there is now a scientific explanation!
A recent study has recently shown that eye contact with our hairy friends produces the same hormonal substance, just when you are having eye contact with your baby. This study was published on Sciencemag.org.
Dogs Have ‘Hijacked’ The System Of Humans
”It’s an incredible finding that suggests that dogs have hijacked the human bonding system,” says Brian Hare, an expert on canine cognition at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, to Sciencemag.org, who was not involved in the work.
Previous studies have shown that when a mother looks into the eyes of her baby, the baby produces more of the love hormone, oxytocin. Oxytocin is known to make us more altruistic and monogamous, and it causes us to rely more on each other. When the baby’s level of oxytocin increases, repays the her mother’s gaze, which in turn causes the mother’s love hormone to reach new heights. And it stays, while the mother and baby keeping eye contact.
It is this hormonal love-loop, the Japanese research team has now documented between man and his best friend, the dog.
Wolves avoided eye contact
Professor of behavioral biology Takefumi Kikusui from Azabu University in Japan and his colleagues persuaded a total of 30 friends and neighbors to take their dog with them to the laboratory. Here, the researchers took urine samples from both the human and dog. The dog and its owner then spent 30 minutes alone.
Most owners used the time to pat, cuddle and talk with their furry companion.. Some subjects had eye contact with their dog for up to several minutes, while the others only had eye contact for a few second. After that, both submitted yet another urine sample.
The results were very conclusive: Researchers could measure an increase of the love hormone oxytocin at 130 percent from the dogs who had eye contact with their owners for a long period of time. For the dog owner, the increase was an incredible 300 percent.
The same research team found no increase in the levels of oxytocin in the dogs and their owners, who only had eye contact for a short time. And even among those who, instead of a dog brought a wolf.
The Professor Takefumi Kikusui had persuaded a few people from a kennel for the wolf to participate in the trial. And the wolves studiously avoided eye contact, which in wolf packs generally are interpreted as challenging and aggressively.
The Love Hormone Oxytocin May Have Been Crucial for the Dog’s Evolution
It could therefore suggest that the hormonal love loop that occurs when the dog and owner look each other in the eyes, has played a significant role in the dog’s evolution from the wild gray wolf.
The Japanese research teams suggest, that only the wolves who were able to establish a relationship with a man were cared and protected by out ancestors. And here oxytocin have been the bridge between the two species.
”I definitely think oxytocin was involved in domestication,” assesses PhD student Jessica Oliva from Monash University in Melborne, Australia, to Sciencemag.org.
Sciencemag.org have an entire section dedicated to the relationship between dog and man, you can find it here.
She was involved in creating the study. But her latest study showed how exactly oxytocin helps the dog understand what people mean when they point somewhere. She recommends further further studies before we finally conclude how the dog has become man’s best friend.
Join A Competition
While researchers dig further into how the bond between dog and man evolved, you and your dog might as well join a competition at Sciencemag.org: Watch your dog deeply into your eyes and send them a picture of it. It might your cute dogs eye that are published in Science.
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