Do Our Dogs Really Love Us?

Humans don’t question their ability to love their dogs. We feed and exercise them, set our schedules based on their needs, get up with them in the middle of the night, buy them silly toys, and tell them our deepest secrets.

For years, however, scientists and animal behaviorists have researched whether our dogs have the ability to return our love. Are we being anthropomorphic when we interpret our dogs’ behavior in human terms of love?

In a study conducted at Duke University, scientists compared how wolf pups and dog pups responded to humans. They took young wolf pups away from their mothers and litters and raised them in human homes.

It’s In Their Genes

Since dogs are highly dependent on their remarkable sense of smell to evaluate the world around them, animal cognition scientists at Emory University decided to measure the canine brain’s response to the smell of familiar and unfamiliar people and dogs.

Positive Brainwaves

Oxytocin, known as the love hormone, is present when humans and animals interact. University of Tokyo scientists studied the role of oxytocin in a dog’s brain as an influence on social interactions with humans and with other dogs.

Love Hormone

They found evidence that oxytocin enhances social motivation in dogs to approach and interact with their dog partners (picture Lady and the Tramp) and their human partners.

Researchers in Sweden also studied oxytocin levels in dogs and their owners. They observed that dogs and their owners responded in similar ways to their interactions, such as petting, regarding oxytocin levels.

Calm, anti-stress behaviors in the human caused a similar response in the dog. They concluded that “the owners and the dogs could mutually sense the other’s emotional state based on an increased ability to read the other’s behavioral cues