Science Explains Why Dogs Are Man's Best Friend

Debbie Ann

A new study from researchers at Japan's Azabu University may explain why dogs are really seen as man's best friend and explain the bond between man and his canine companion. There is truly a basic connection. According to researchers, when man and dogs look into each other's eyes, each experiences a surge of oxytocin, the hormone associated with trust and love that is released that is largely responsible for maternal bonding.

The study involved 30 dogs and their owners. Researchers observed their interaction of playing for a half an hour, then measured the amount of oxytocin the dogs produced via urine tests, according to Salon. The breeds included golden retrievers, poodles, a Jack Russell terrier, a German shepherd dog, and several miniature schnauzers, and there were 15 male and 15 female dogs. The tests demonstrated the following.

"Urine tests before and after the session revealed that oxytocin levels spiked in people whose dogs stared at them the most. But their dogs experienced a similar effect, with their own oxytocin rising too. When the scientists repeated the experiment with hand-raised wolves, the effect was nowhere to be seen.

They went on to perform a further experiment. This time, the researchers sprayed either salt solution or a dose of oxytocin up the dogs' noses before watching them in a room with their owners. Dogs that had received the hormone boost stared for longer at their owners, though the effect only stood out in females. Again, tests on the owners found that the longer their dogs gazed at them, the higher their oxytocin levels rose. Why the effect was so vivid in females, but not in males, will become the focus of future research."

They went on to perform a further experiment. This time, the researchers sprayed either salt solution or a dose of oxytocin up the dogs' noses before watching them in a room with their owners. Dogs that had received the hormone boost stared for longer at their owners, though the effect only stood out in females. Again, tests on the owners found that the longer their dogs gazed at them, the higher their oxytocin levels rose. Why the effect was so vivid in females, but not in males, will become the focus of future research."

Domestic dogs are descended from wolves. At first, man bred the best workers, such as the herders and hunters. Later, dogs became cherished companions and not just workers -- loved by their owners in the same manner we love human family members. The release of oxytocin in people and their dog really acts to strengthen the bonds between them.

So there really is a scientific explanation why dogs are man's best friend. Evan MacLean and Brian Hare at the Duke Canine Cognition Center in North Carolina state that the following regarding the findings, according to the Guardian.

"[The tests] reveal a powerful mechanism through which dogs win our hearts, and we win theirs in return. If they stand up, the implications of these findings are far-reaching... The benefits of assistance dogs for individuals with autism or post-traumatic stress disorder--conditions for which oxytocin is currently being used as an experimental treatment--may arise partly through these social pathways."

[Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images]

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