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The Look of Love

Apr 22, 2015 02:00PM ● Published by Cate Reynolds

It’s not just your imagination. Face time with your beloved dog really does make you feel better. And Japanese scientists have proven it.

Those irresistible puppy dog eyes not only make us melt, they actually deliver a nice dose of oxytocin (the powerful, feel-good hormone). When tested by the scientists in Japan (involving a simple urine analysis), we experience a 300 percent increase in oxytocin when gazing into the eyes of our dogs. This doesn’t involve petting, or playing, or feeding. Just looking at each other eye to eye. Oxytocin, incidentally, is the same “love hormone” that helps us bond with our babies.

But what may be the most fascinating aspect of the study, is the fact that the dog experiences an oxytocin increase as well—130 percent increase to be accurate. (I suspect the canine increase is smaller than the human one because the dogs start out happier than the people.)

This synergistic love fest goes back to the time when ALL dogs were wolves. (Easy to imagine in a Husky; not too easy in a Pekinese.) Gradually, over thousands of years, dogs were domesticated through breeding and bonding. That’s probably about the time the oxy kicked in. The bonding mechanism, by the way, was not found concerning wolves—even those who were hand-raised by humans. This is strictly something dogs dreamed up all on their own. According to the scientists, this is “the first demonstration of convergent evolution [when things evolve independently] in cognitive traits between humans and another species.”

Any dog lover/owner knows that dogs can really work that big-eyed angle to get exactly what they want.

Isn’t it wonderful that exactly what they want is simply to love us?

--Sarah Hagerty
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