In the quest to further understand the relationship between human and dog, scientists are uncovering their findings as to what connects us the most.
Surprisingly, it's not playing with your dog, exercising with them, taking them on walks, petting them, or even feeding them that fosters the most intimate bond between human and canine. Multiple media outlets, including The Christian Science Monitor, are reporting their findings this week. The conclusion?
It's all about the eyes.
Science has now proven that there is a direct correlation between the level of the human-dog bond and the eye contact we make with each other.
This directly from Christian Science Monitor:
To better understand the neurobiology behind human-dog companionship, a team of researchers from Azabu University in Sagamihara, Japan, placed a number of canine participants in a room with their owners. They instructed owners to touch, talk to, or gaze at their pets for a period of 30 minutes. When the time was up, researchers took urine samples from both pet and owner, which they tested for oxytocin levels. Oxytocin is sometimes called the “love hormone” – during mammalian reproduction and childbirth, it acts as a neurotransmitter, sending positive feedback to the brain. It is also associated with pair bonding.
Surprisingly, Dr. Kikusui’s team found that simple eye contact was better at raising oxytocin levels than vocal communication or physical contact. So as much as your dog probably appreciates a good scratch behind the ear, eye contact has a deeper association with bonding.
Paw-retty interesting, eh?
Then again, when you think about it, whether you're currently a dog owner or not, when you look into a dog's eyes, you can feel the connection. Dogs have very fixated brains, and often times when they lock eyes with you, they won't look away until you do - or until you make a different reaction.
What's even more interesting is that through the findings within all of these oxytocin studies, science is proving that the relationship between people and pups is beyond unique.
"Most evidence shows this kind of connection works within a species— humans produce oxytocin because of other humans, and dogs produce it because of other dogs." (TODAY)
This is the first time that we've had conclusive evidence of the emotional bond between members of a different species; and a carnivorous one at that. (Keep in mind, humans have been domesticating dogs for thousands of years, and that also has played a significant factor over time.)
What can we take away from all of this? Perhaps something us dog owners have known for a while now..
The emotional connection a parent can foster with their dog(s) can be incredibly strong.
And for better or worse, even stronger than the ones that exists with our children.
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