According to a new study, human and dog relationship is strengthened by a special hormone, which is increased by staring at each other.
The study, which was conducted by the researchers from the Japan’s Azabu University, and published in the Science journal, states that oxytocin, a hormone that among other things helps reinforce bonds between parents and their babies, increases in humans and their dogs when they interact, particularly when looking into one another’s eyes.
Oxytocin is a hormone that has several functions in the human body. In mammals, one of its significant roles is to foster bond between parent and offspring. Oxytocin is made in a brain structure called the hypothalamus and secreted from the pituitary gland. It is involved in emotional bonding, maternal behavior, child birth, breast-feeding, sexual arousal and other functions.
Takefumi Kikusui, a veterinary medicine professor at Japan’s Azabu University, and the lead author of the study, said, “Oxytocin has many positive impacts on human physiology and psychology.”
For their study, the researchers conducted a series of experiments. In one experiment dogs were put in a room with their owners, and their interaction was tracked. Later oxytocin levels were checked in their urine samples. The researchers found that people and dogs, who had the most eye contact, had high levels of oxytocin in their urine. However, when the same experiment was repeated with wolves, no such thing happened despite the fact that the wolves had been raised by the people.
In the next experiment, the researchers sprayed oxytocin into dogs’ noses and put them in a room with their owners as well as people the dogs did not know. With the female dogs, and not the males, this increased the mutual gazing between dogs and their owners and also led to an oxytocin increase in the owners.
“I have three standard poodles. I strongly feel the tight bonding with these dogs. Actually, I participated in the experiment, and my oxytocin boosted up after the eye gaze, like 300 percent,” added Kikusui.