The deep bond between dogs and humans has been well documented throughout history. It is widely accepted that King Frederick of Prussia was the first person to call these canine companions “man’s best friend”, when he praised his greyhound’s unmatched loyalty in the 1700s. And our love for dogs has only grown from. In June, Gucci introduced its first-ever luxury pet collection, which includes a $7,500 dog bed and a $460 poop bag holder. In the UK, people are increasingly pampering their puppies with spa treatments and facials. But fortunately, the intense love we feel for our dogs is not one-sided. A new study shows that our dogs probably love us as much as we love them, so much so, in fact, that they cry tears of joy when we come home. Read on for the scientific proof of this canine connection.
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Americans love their dogs, to put it mildly. According to a report by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), they are by far the most owned pet in the United States, with nearly 50 million households across the country having at least one dog. But pooches are more than just pets for many of us. In 2019, a survey conducted by SpotOn found that 98% of all dog owners nationwide consider their dogs family. That same year, a different Merrick and Harris Poll study found that 7 out of 10 pet owners in the United States even go so far as to say their dog is their favorite member of the family.
“From the moment we bring home a puppy that is a furry bundle of joy, dogs are part of our families,” Mary Burch, animal behaviorist and director of the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen program, told PetMD. “They grow up with our children, go through phases of our lives with us…and when it comes time to say goodbye to them for the last time, we mourn them as we would members of the human family.”
Now, science has shown that this fervent love is returned by our canine companions.
Let’s be honest: most of us would give our dogs all our love even if they didn’t love us back. But luckily, the bond we feel with our furry family members is likely mutual. Japanese researchers from Azabu University and Jichi Medical University recently sought to better understand the special bond between dogs and humans. Their study, published in the Current biology diary from August 22, analyzed the different reactions of 22 dogs when they were reunited with their owners compared to when they were reunited with people they knew but who were not their owners.
The researchers placed specialized strips of paper under the dogs’ eyes to use as tear markers. According to the study, a dog’s tear product increased “significantly” within the first five minutes of their owners returning home after five to seven hours of separation. This same increase was not seen when they were reunited with other familiar people who were not their owners.
“We had never heard of the discovery that animals shed tears in joyful situations, such as reuniting with their owners, and we were all thrilled that this was a world first,” Takefumi Kikusuione of the study’s authors, said in a statement.
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This reaction during the reunion of a dog and its owner is likely linked to the hormone oxytocin, according to the researchers. “Oxytocin is a hormone produced in the hypothalamus and released into the bloodstream by the pituitary gland,” explains Harvard Health, noting that it is typically produced at higher levels during childbirth or manifestations of affection, which is why it is often called the “love drug” or “love hormone”.
Kikusui said his research began six years ago after he noticed tears in the eyes of one of his poodles who had just given birth and was nursing the puppies. “It gave me the idea that oxytocin might increase tears,” he said. According to the researcher, a dog’s tears don’t fall like they often do when humans cry, but you can still see unmistakable tears in a dog’s eyes. As part of the study, he and his researchers found that dogs’ tear volume also increased when they added oxytocin to their eyes, supporting the idea that oxytocin release plays a role in tears produced by dogs when they find their owner. .
“We found that dogs shed tears associated with positive emotions. We also found oxytocin as a possible underlying mechanism,” Kikusui confirmed.
The relationship developed between dogs and humans “has always been special and reciprocal”, Andy Ramshawa canine expert and owner of Venture Dog Training in Donegal, Ireland, says Better life. But to receive the kind of love that makes your dog cry when you get home, reciprocity is key. In other words, you can’t just expect to bond with your dog if you don’t do anything to foster that bond.
“Just like in human relationships, the more you invest in understanding and meeting your dog’s needs, the more he will like you and the more your bond will grow.” Alexandra Bassetteowner and head trainer of Dog Savvy Los Angeles, explains.
This can be done in different ways, of course. “These days, our bond with our dogs is based on love and affection. Dogs’ lives are all about rewards and what they can do to get the maximum rewards,” says Ramshaw. “These rewards can be food or drink. They can also take the form of games, activities, places or situations. Using this landscape of available rewards to teach our dogs builds rapport and trust.”