Puppy Love and the Role of Oxytocin

Puppy LoveDoes your dog love you? I mean does it really feel the affection and emotional connection you feel for it?

Some people would say that our pets only truly appear to care for us in a reciprocal manner because we feed them and take care of their other basic creature comforts. But even though I am no scientist, I do believe there is more to it than that. In my heart and mind, I love all my dogs unconditionally and sense they share that feeling.

According to the latest research, oxytocin plays a major role in the bonding experience between humans and dogs. Oxytocin in humans is the hormone that helps mothers and babies intensify their intimate connection.  It also increases the ability of people to understand emotions and solve social problems.  And that same chemical is also present in dogs (as well as other animals).

In one Australian study by Jessica Oliva from Monash University, dogs were better at following cues to find a hidden treat after they were given oxytocin. And Olivia says that “patting and talking to a dog for just three minutes has been found to increase oxytocin levels in the blood stream of both human and dog.”

According to another experiment at an animal refuge in Arkansas, domesticated pets release the hormone when interacting with other animals and humans.

In a case involving a terrier mix and a goat, researcher Paul Zak observed that the canine’s oxytocin levels spiked 48 percent, on par with a human who is excited about a new friendship, when the two were put in a pen together to interact for 15 minutes. The goat’s levels increased even more dramatically – 210%. Which might not come as no surprise for anyone who has ever had the pleasure of visiting a goat farm and playing with them up close. They are a very amorous bunch indeed.

In the animal shelter where I volunteer, just spending some time petting and talking to the dogs makes both human and dog feel better. Dogs respond and remember the volunteers they especially are fond of. There was one particular Chihuahua that had come in as a stray. I truly feel in love with him and he knew it. He would jump out of his cage to greet me and lick my face. Fortunately he found a wonderful forever home or I would have had to add him to my pack!

Once again science is attempting to prove what us dog lovers have known all along. Our dogs love us and we love them! And I might also add, don’t ask me to choose between my spouse and my dogs. Many of my dog friends would make the same choice.

As Charles Schultz said, “Happiness is a warm puppy.” How can you argue with that?

Smiley, the Blind Therapy Dog
How Much Money Did You Spend On Your Dog Last Year?