Science Explains: Why Do Dogs Love Us?

Every dog owner claims that their dogs love them. But how true is this puppy love? Or are dogs just clever enough to trick their owners for some dog treats? It seems as if science has taken an interest in proving that a dog's love is unconditional

Humans and canines have a long history together. Some scientists argue that our relationship only goes back up to 10,000 years ago when humans learned how to domesticate dogs. Before that, these creatures were roaming the earth free. 

However, research studies show that the two species—humans and dogs—evolved together, finding how to adapt to each other's lives. It is those adaptations that have helped both the dogs and their human companions get along just fine. 

Looking Into Dog Emotions

How much do you love pets? Dogs might be the first on your list, and you can tell how incredibly important they are in your life. Seldom do people wonder why their dogs are so friendly because most people believe that it is part of their very nature. 

But can your dog love you? Surprisingly, new evidence shows that they just might have those emotions right in the heart of them. 

Why are dogs so friendly?

The first evidence that your dog could be full of fluffy love for you is the oxytocin-gaze presence in a positive loop. Oxytocin is the hormone, also called the love hormone, in the dog's body that works as the neurotransmitter of their brain. 

Whenever a dog sees their human hug a loved one, their brain bursts with this molecule d'amour. It is the same hormone produced whenever they gaze at their owner, and it appears as whenever they're looking at someone else they love, like your cat or your best friend. 

In a 2015 Japanese study, dogs and humans were found to share in that cross-species kind of gaze that mediated instant bonding. They used the same oxytocin system that humans used to show their love and affection to another human being. 

Simply put, when you look your dog in the eye, they look back at you. In their brain, they seem to register a new spike that researchers call as the "love drug" or oxytocin. 

The same research also suggested that wolves rarely look people in the eye; thus, they do not appear to release oxytocin when they do. This means that domesticated dogs have this unique ability to show their humans some dog love. 

Dogs Know Who To Be Loyal

Did you know that your dog can scan your profile in their brain to identify if you are their owner or not? The neurologist Gregory Berns provided the world with secondary scientific evidence as to how your dogs genuinely feel about you. 

Berns scanned dog brains in 2014 to find out how it reacts whenever its owner is within smelling range. The study results show that the canine brain lights up differently whenever the dog is able to sniff its owner. 

The researchers trained a handful of dogs to sit still in order to go through the fMRI machine. It helped them monitor the part of the brain they called the caudate nucleus, the one associated with the neural rewards system. 

When the dog is able to sniff its owner, this part of their brain lights up, seemingly identifying different emotions they have associated with their owner. When the dogs were able to smell other dogs and other people, the effect wasn't as strong. 

However, the study claimed that they have yet to identify whether this reaction of the dog is actually an identification of its owner. They also think that this reaction may be since the dog may have associated the scent of its owner to the idea of mealtime. 

Another fMRI study conducted in Hungary found that dogs and human brains appear to process emotionally-laden sounds the same way too. 

While the study remains to be inconclusive, it does appear that there might really be something in the dog's brain that allows it to keep a memory of its owner. 

Building An Emotional Connection

How do dogs show affection? Whenever their owner arrives home from work or somewhere else, they instantly walk towards the owner as if giving out a hug. 

If this isn't their way of showing love, then what could it be? 

Dogs show their owners how much they value their presence. Whenever their owners are around, dogs become more playful. They tend to move around more because they feel that they are safe from predators. 

Are these enthusiastic and devoted behaviors of dogs telltale signs of their love for their owners? Most dog owners could attest that their pets show them a kind of affection that no other animal or primate could. Each one of them claims that their hounds seek their attention as if they've always wanted human contact

Most dogs run to their owners whenever they feel rattled or threatened. This is something that no other animal would do. Most would be in fight or flight mode, but dogs always take the side of their owner. It's like they are in their comfort zone. 

In 2016, a study found that dogs are able to recognize human emotion by just looking at people's faces. The study exposed dogs in pictures of happy and sad human faces to test their reaction to it. 

Along with the pictures came sounds of human voices. Most of the time, dogs looked at the pictures to which the sound can be associated. They looked at the sad face image when the sound played involved a human crying. 

Is this the kind of connection dogs are able to build with humans? Admittedly, it is enough to say that there is a connection built between dogs and people. It's a special kind of relationship that transcends time. 

What's The Takeaway?

Do dogs love humans? In truth, only dogs and their owners can truly say. At some point, both species must trust their guts and allow themselves to feel what they feel. 

Whether it is comfort, happiness, or love, one thing is true: both dogs and their human owners have this unexplainable connection that bonds them to each other. 

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