Brian Hare is an associate professor and Vanessa Woods is a research scientist in evolutionary anthropology at Duke University. They foundedDognition, a Web-based service that helps people find the genius in their dogs. This post was adapted from their New York Times’ best-seller “The Genius of Dogs.” They contributed this article to LiveScience's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.
There is real chemistry between dogs and their owners, new research over the last few years and data from Dognition show. From a simple kiss to a long, loving gaze, everyday interactions with dogs are responsible for changing people’s biochemistry for the better.
Oxytocin is a peculiar little molecule. It is known as the “hug hormone” because it is what makes you feel good when you are touched by a loved one, get a massage or enjoy a good meal. Oxytocin also has pain-relieving properties and can decrease stress and blood pressure.
People experience oxytocin in many social relationships, including bonding with children or partners. What is surprising is that people would also experience a change in this hormone when bonding with a completely different species.
Friends with benefits
Miho Nagasawa of Azabu University in Japan and colleagues conducted a study with 55 dogs and their owners. People whose dogs gazed at them for two minutes or longer (23 percent of dogs) showed a higher increase in oxytocin than people whose dogs gazed at them for less time. People with dogs with a long gaze also reported being happier with their dogs than those people whose dog’s gaze was only around a minute long.
These results were echoed in the database of Dognition, a Web-based service that helps owners find the genius in their dog. In a sample of 276 dogs, 32 percent of dogs had a long gaze (a continuous 90 seconds or more) in one or more trials. (To see if your dog has a long gaze, try the Dognition eye contact game.)
In another study by Linda Handlin and colleagues from the University of Skövde in Sweden, owners who kissed their dogs the most frequently had higher levels of oxytocin than other owners.
Handlin found that along with kissing, there were two other factors that predicted the higher levels of oxytocin — the first was that the owners were more likely to perceive their relationship with their dog as pleasurable (i.e., they did not think that looking after their dog was difficult or a chore). The second was a lowerfrequency in giving treats, showing that the path to true love is not necessarily through a dog’s stomach.
In a separate study by Johannes Odendaal and colleagues from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, owners were brought into a roomthat was empty except for two tables and chairs. The owners sat on a rug on the floor with their dogs and a nurse drew their blood. For the next 30 minutes, each owner’s attention was completely focused on his or her dog. They talked softly to their dogs, stroked them gently and scratched their bodies and behind their ears. The participants’ blood was drawn again after 30 minutes.
The researchers found that participants’ blood pressure decreased, and they experienced an increase in not only oxytocin, but also a whole other range of hormones, including beta-endorphins, which are associated with euphoria and pain relief; prolactin, which promotes bonding associated with parenting behavior; phenylethylamine, which tends to increase when people find a romantic partner; and dopamine, which increases pleasurable sensations.
When each dog owner came in and read a book for 30 minutes, oxytocin and the other hormones did not increase as much as they did during interactions with their dog. What is even more incredible is that not only did humans experience a rise in these hormones — the dogs did, too. It seems the feelings of bonding and affiliation are entirely mutual.
Humanity’s relationship with dogs is so extraordinary that it affects humans’ very biochemistry. Science is only beginning to understand the mechanisms of this relationship, and the implications will keep cognitive psychologists busy for many years to come. But for those who just need a little something to lift their spirits, try a meaningful gaze, or even a kiss, with your best friend.
Woods’ most recent Op-Ed was “Does a Dog’s Breed Really Dictate Its Behavior?" The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. This version of the article was originally published on LiveScience.
A tough Wyoming cowboy who just happens to like blouses
Sissy Goodwin isn’t gay; he’s been married for 45 years and has two adult children. As a young man, he was a rodeo cowboy who rode bulls bareback, a free spirit who never shied away from a fistfight. The former aircraft mechanic loves to drink beer, play golf, throw steaks on the grill.
What sets him apart, he says, is what he calls gender independence: He just likes to do most things in a dress.
A resilient guy living it out in Wyoming, a state he refers to as “the Mississippi of the West” for its disposition toward him, Goodwin has been beaten, arrested and glared at for years - but he continues his defiant dressing habits to this day.
Read more from reporter John M. Glionna in a Column One feature.
Photos: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times
This weekend, do you.
This give me so much hope!!!!!!
CLOTHES ARE JUST PIECES OF CLOTH
#no one realizes the significance of this #the point of this movie is not that you will find another love #it’s that douches like tom will keep falling into the cycle of chasing a manic pixie dream girl #and probably think that she’s the one #but guess what? just because you listen to the same music or because she has a cute name #doesn’t mean that you’re meant for each other #500 days of summer the most misunderstood hipster hit the world has ever seen
And let’s talk about the fact that Joseph Gordon Levitt himself said the point of the movie is not so you’d feel bad for him and fall in love with him, it’s so you’d realize how selfish some people are.
Actual quote from him from an interview:
The (500) Days of Summer attitude of ‘He wants you so bad’ seems attractive to some women and men, especially younger ones but I would encourage anyone who has a crush on my character to watch it again and examine how selfish he is.”
"He develops a mildly delusional obsession over a girl onto whom he projects all these fantasies. He thinks she’ll give his life meaning because he doesn’t care about much else going on in his life. A lot of boys and girls think their lives will have meaning if they find a partner who wants nothing else in life but them. That’s not healthy. That’s falling in love with the idea of a person, not the actual person.”
Scientists Discover One Of The Greatest Contributing Factors To Happiness — You’ll Thank Me Later
I seriously teared up and then sat for a moment and thought about the person in my life who has made a difference and who I’d like to thank.
Try it yourself.
this made me cry gdssaaaahhdjjh
this is the beeeeessttttt!!!!
My old cats, Tom and Little, always slept together in a guitar case. They both lived for seventeen years and my family is still convinced that they were in love. Little was perfectly healthy when Tom died, but a week after his death she stopped eating and would hide behind couches and in corners all day. Within a month, she passed away too. They are buried side by side in our garden.