We’ve all seen it, instances of dogs and their owners who share a special, inexplicable bond that seems unbelievable. Chances are you’ve been a witness to the dog who knows to wait for his person at the front door every day at precisely the right time, or the dog who snuggles up next to his person just when they need a hug. If you haven’t experienced it yourself, I’m sure you’ve heard a story or two.
Turns out researchers not only agree with the claims of bonds between dogs and their owners, they have evidence to support it — finding finding dogs and humans share a bond not only unique – but stronger than any other relationship between animals and humans.
How deep is the bond between dogs and humans?
In the PBS NOVA documentary, “Dogs Decoded,” several key pieces of research surface, proving the significant bond between owner and pet. Here are 5 of scientific findings that dog lovers have known to be true all along:
Dogs read our faces like humans do
Veterinary behavioral medicine specialist, Professor Daniel Mills, conducted a study which found that dogs, like humans, read humans faces with a left gaze bias – a trait which no other species aside from humans do, and dogs only do this when communicating with humans, not with other dogs.
What does this mean? Dogs have evolved to communicate with humans through their cues, one being human facial messages.
Dogs are the only animal that respond to human pointing cues
Cognitive psychologist, Juliane Kaminski found in a study that not even chimps, who are seen as highly responsive animals to humans, can respond to human pointing cues, yet puppies as young as three-months-old respond to the visual human prompt of pointing.
What does this mean? Visually pointing and having your dog respond indicates the dog comprehends your body language, resulting in a tangible way to communicate with your dog.
Humans might be able to understand basic emotions from the pitch of a dog’s bark
In another study, dog-human interaction scientist Adam Miklosi put dogs in emotion-provoking situations, such as having a stranger walk into their yard or seeing a treat, and recorded the sound of the barks. When humans played the recording of the barks they could generally recognize the dogs emotion.
What does this mean? Hearing our dog bark can alert us of an intruder, that our dog is hungry, or even excited. Understanding these basic emotions through the pitch of a dog’s bark helps us to understand our pet more.
We work on similar rhythms
Both dogs and humans are social beings who traditionally hunt during daylight, a finding that suggests dogs and humans may have been drawn to one another to help increase their chances of survival.
What does this mean? Perhaps dogs and humans can complement each other, finding ways to communicate that began centuries ago.
Dogs and humans can have a bond strong enough to release a hormone in both the pet and owners brain
Oxytocin, the hormone released in humans related to bonding, such as when a mother breastfeeds her baby, can make us experience love and connectivity. Professor Kerstin Uvnas-Moberg of Sweden found when humans pet dogs both the dogs and human start with no oxytocin being released, but soon both human and animal often have a surge of oxytocin.
What does this mean? The release of oxytocin when dogs and humans interact proves a bond exists between dogs and humans, even on a physiological level.
While scientific research indicates dog and man have a bond of proven significance, sometimes it’s the stories that speak the loudest.
Who can forget Hawkeye’s story.
Back in 2011, ABC News told the story of deceased Navy Seal Jon Tumilson’s dog, Hawkeye, who lay at the foot of the casket during Tumilsons funeral. Hawkeye’s bond with Jon was so great that death didn’t stop him from wanting to be physically close to his owner.
I’d say that bond runs deep alright.