Human-canine bond: “Love is a four-legged word”
Living with dog brings a lot of unexpected joy and laughter into a daily routine. It is hard – if not impossible – to stay sad, dispirited or angry once you let the dog come into your life. There is always someone with fur and tail delighted to see you. One of the great values of this friendship is that dog won’t allow you to be lost in thoughts and negative emotions.
This is not strange because dogs are extremely sensitive to humans – there is this very special relationship that science has been striving to reveal. Observing the canine brain activity in response to different human and dog sounds, including familiar and unfamiliar voices, barks and the meaningful grunts and sighs both species emit revealed similarities in the way dog and human brains process emotionally laden vocal sounds. It was found that happy sounds in particular light up the auditory cortex in both species. What it proves essentially is that dogs don’t just seem to sense our subtle mood changes — they are actually physically wired to sense them. There is nothing that will activate dog’s reward center in the brain more than the smell of his owner.
Your dog sees you and feels you as his family. Dogs don’t seek out eye contact from their biological parents, but from their human caregivers. Just looking at his loving owner raises the oxytocin level in dog; scientists actually measured it in dog’s urine. Oxytocin, beta-endorphin, prolactin, beta-phenylethylamine, and dopamine are also increased in humans during and after a positive interaction with dogs. There is a funny and truthful saying that man is a dog’s idea of what God should be. When dogs are scared or worried, they run to their owners like children run to their parents while e.g. cats and horses will run away when in fear.
And people reciprocate dogs’ strong feelings. Researchers measured brain activity in response to photos of dogs and children, both their own and unfamiliar, of the women who’d had dogs and babies for at least two years. Both types of photos sparked activity in brain regions associated with emotion, reward, affiliation and social interaction. Basically, both furry and (typically) less-furry family members make us equally happy. And the brain’s reward system is hypothesized to facilitate strong interpersonal attachments. So instead of calling ourselves dog owners, we should consider the better term – dog guardians, because our responsibilities are similar to those that parents and guardians of children have. And it is only fair towards those we consider our own guardians.