Not just posting this to make you feel better. Your dog really does love you.
Is doggie love real? While it may seem obvious to you that your dog loves you, there’s been very little scientific data that dogs feel the equivalent of love for their owners. Some have argued that humans, who crave love and social bonds, see what they want to see when they ascribe “love” to their dogs, while the dogs are simply playing a game to manipulate you for food and care.
Now, from a team of neuroscientists in Japan, comes compelling evidence, released today in the journal Science, that dogs really do love their owners.
In two different experiments, the team, led by Takefumi Kikusui of Azabu University, measured levels of a hormone called oxytocin in response to dogs and owners gazing into each others’ eyes.
Scientists have previously shown that touching between dogs and people increases oxytocin levels in both humans and their pets, but this new research expands on these findings and extends it to include wolves that were hand-raised by humans.
The experiments focused on eye gaze. In the first experiment, dogs and their owners were assigned to interact for 30 minutes. Those dog-owner pairs that engaged in the most in eye contact showed the highest increases in urinary oxytocin levels in both partners. Touching also raised oxytocin levels.
When the experiment was repeated with wolf-owner pairs, the wolves rarely eye-gazed, and there was no correlation “with the oxytocin change ratio in either owners or wolves.”