What makes the bond between humans and dogs so exceptional?
Can our pets experience love as we do?
Once, psychologists denied the idea that animals can feel the way humans do, but now the tables may have turned. Here’s why.
A new book from the author Clive Wynne, founder of the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University, argues that the relationship between a dog and a human being is one of the most significant interspecies partnerships in history.
The author of the book “Dog is Love: Why and How Your Dog Loves You.” began his studies on the subject in the early 2000s. Similar to his peers, he believed that ascribing complex emotions to dogs is not quite rational. However, his mind has completely changed by a piece of body evidence that he simply couldn’t ignore. According to Phys.org, Wynne says in an interview:
“I think there comes a point when it’s worth being skeptical of your skepticism.”
In the past two decades, canine science has been enjoying a revival of the idea about dogs’ intelligence.
Many titles, such as “The Genius of Dogs” by Brian Hare, have firmly supported the belief that dogs are, in fact, incredibly alert and perceptive. On the contrary, Wynne argues that it’s not brilliance what makes canines so special. It’s love.
The canine psychologist states that unlike dolphins’ understanding of grammar, or wolves’ ability to follow human cues, dogs haven’t shown significant abilities defining their intelligence. He proposes that it’s dogs’ “hyper-sociability” or “extreme gregariousness” that makes them exceptional. In other words, their love for us humans is what makes them so compassionate.
Additionally, scientists have proved that oxytocin, a brain chemical that seals emotional bonds between people, is also responsible for interspecies relationships between dogs and humans. The thesis clarifies in a recent study by Takefumi Kikusui at Japan’s Azabu University. Kikusui’s research shows that when humans and their dogs gaze into each other’s eyes, their oxytocin levels rise, similar to the effect observed between mothers and their babies.
In 2009, UCLA geneticist Bridgett vonHoldt made a surprising discovery.
She found that dogs have a mutation in the gene, responsible for Williams syndrome in humans.
The Williams syndrome is a condition characterized by developmental challenges and a markedly outgoing personality. Wynne explains:
“The essential thing about dogs, as for people with Williams syndrome, is a desire to form close connections, to have warm personal relationships—to love and be loved.”
Furthermore, behavior testing is one of the most certain approaches that give insight into dogs’ real nature. For example, in a test, researchers were using a rope to pull open the front door of a canine’s home and placing a bowl of food at an equal distance to its owner. What this test showed, is that the animal’s initial instinct is to go to their human first.
Moreover, magnetic resonance imaging has shown that the brain of a dog responds to praise as much, or even more than food.
This proves that our puppers love us more than they love food. How incredible is that?! However, such affection requires early life nurturing to take effect.
Clive Wynne claims that the future of canine science is in studying genetics, which will help unravel new discoveries about the process of domestication. He is a firm believer in the trash heap theory. The theory states that ancient dogs gathered around human dumping grounds. In the meantime, they slowly ingratiated themselves with people. This way, they established an interspecies partnership through joint hunting expeditions.
Withal, science will also help researchers to discover the exact time when the crucial mutation to the gene that controls Williams syndrome occurred. According to Wynne, this happened 8,000 – 10,000 years ago, when humans began regularly hunting alongside dogs. The author argues that these findings are significant because of their implications for dogs’ welfare.
Wynne believes that dogs love their humans, just like people love one another.
“Our dogs give us so much, and in return they don’t ask for much. You don’t need to be buying all these fancy expensive toys and treats and goodness knows what that are available.
They just need our company, they need to be with people.”
Are you a dog lover?
Do you believe that these compassionate creatures are capable of love as we know it? Share your opinion with us in the comment section!