Regardless of whether you are a mother to a toddler or a loving owner to a puppy, love knows no boundaries. The way we pet, cuddle, feed, and take our dogs into our own home is supportive evidence of how much love and care we have for them. But while the habit of taking animals as pets started between 20,000 to 40,000 years ago, no one understood how and why we’ve come to develop these emotions, until recently.
We have PLOS ONE journal to thank for this. It previously published a study proving that the affection we feel for dogs is identical to the same love we give to our children.
The researchers attempted to understand the similarity between maternal-child bonding vs. owner-pet bonding by looking at the theory of human attachment. This theory puts a primary on the fondness developed between the caregiver and child. The study focused on brain activity, particularly the portion where relationships and emotions are developed.
The participants of the study were mothers of children between the ages of 2 and 10 and also owned a dog. They were asked to bring a photo each of their dog and child as part of the experiment, but during the study itself, the researchers also showed them pictures of other children and dogs they weren’t related to.
The findings of the study showed a similarity in brain activity as the participants saw pictures of their dogs and children. In contrast, the researchers did not see that kind of brain reaction when they showed pictures of children and dogs they had no relation to.
The result of the study explains why females often used the expression “my babies,” which can either refer to children or pets they have at home. Since mothers are natural caregivers, they tend to give dogs the same importance they provide to their kids. Dogs and babies both need to be taken care of, groomed, and fed. Thus, dogs are often considered as part of the family.
Dogs are intelligent as well, which enables them to return the affection their owner gives them. As a result, people tend to love them even more.
Other studies have also emerged supporting the one made by PLOS ONE journal, one of which is the research created by animal behaviorist Takefumi Kikusui.
Kikusui found that our levels of oxytocin rise when we look straight into a dog’s googly eyes. According to his data, this sort of connection is comparable to the one we have with infants and sexual partners, which Kikusui called oxytocin-mediated eye-gaze bonding.
“And this is surprising to us because there is not a reproductive relationship between human and dogs, but both of them have acquired similar skills,” Kikusui said. Science Journal experimented proving that the release of oxytocin is mutual between people and dogs.
The researchers gathered 30 dogs and humans to participate in their little experiment. The study was pretty straightforward. The only thing the participants had to do was look straight into the eyes of the dogs they were partnered with. And then, after that, they needed to give urine samples. The researchers took urine samples from the dogs as well.
The findings showed that the dogs had a 130 percent increase in oxytocin while the levels of their human counterparts increased to about 300 percent.
Researchers from the University of Tokyo and Duke University also suggested dogs’ bad behavior could be related to their relationship with their owner. This brings us back to the human attachment theory which suggests that a caregiver’s fondness towards a child is what stimulates compassion, safety, and security.
If there’s a tight connection between the dog and owner, this will most likely lead to a tamed dog. Contrast to that, dogs who have less bonding with their owners are more likely to behave undesirably.
Dogs do a lot more than make feel love and happiness. They also help boost your self-esteem, relieve stress, lower your cholesterol level, and keep you from mental health issues. Dogs also happen to be uplifting and goofy. In a sense, they do live up to being a man’s best friend.