How dogs stole our hearts

Dogs are a huge part of many people’s lives, but they may be closer and more in tune with humans than you think. New research shows that when our canine pals stare into our eyes, they activate the same hormonal response that bonds us to human infants. The study, the first to show this hormonal bonding effect between humans and another species, may help explain how dogs became our companions thousands of years ago.

“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. Hare says the discovery might lead to a better understanding of why service dogs are so helpful for people with autism and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Dogs are renowned for their ability to interact with humans unlike any other animal, for example, if you point at an object, a dog will look at where you’re pointing, this is an intuitive reading of our intentions. This may not seem very impressive, but it is an action that causes confusion in even our closest relatives, for example, the chimpanzee.

 

Similarly if you stare into your dog’s eyes, there is a mutual feeling of love and affection as oxytocin (the ‘love’ hormone) is released in both human and dog, while the same action of eye contact is interpreted as hostility by the dogs’ closest relative, the wolf. This demonstrates how much dogs have adapted to live alongside humans and become such a huge part of many people’s lives.

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