A Mutual Affection Between Dogs and Owners
Americans love their dogs. A lot. In fact, we spend billions of dollars each year on our furry friends—$23 billion on pet food alone! Many people feel as though their dogs are family members, which is why dog parks and grooming services are so popular across the country.
It’s only natural for us to want the affection to be mutual, so we get excited when they show us love. We’re enthralled by their wagging tails and the way our dogs rest their heads on our legs. Sometimes they jump into our laps and hog the entire bed when they snuggle at night. Even though these actions are heartwarming and adorable, we weren’t sure if these were signs of love.
MRI Research Shows the Truth
Scientists have studied the canine brain, and the news is more than welcome among dog owners. Our canine companions love us just as much as we love them. They also see us as family, showing higher affinity for humans than other canines.
This study used neuroimaging, a branch of science that studies chemical changes in the brain. The dogs were exposed to several different smells while connected to an MRI machine. The scans tracked brain activity at a constant and when each scent was presented. A dog’s sense of smell is as much as 100,000 times greater than ours.
The results were astonishing. Each time the dogs were exposed to the scent of their owners, the reward center of the brain, called the caudate nucleus, lit up. No other samples produced this reaction, including unfamiliar humans, familiar or unfamiliar dogs, and their own smell.
Consistent Results for Canine Research
This study isn’t the only one attempting to explore the workings of a dog’s brain. Researchers in Budapest completed similar trials with sounds instead of smells. The results correlate, showing reactions to human sounds more frequently than barks or other dog vocalizations.
The information also revealed patterns in the way that emotional sounds are received. As it turns out, dogs can distinguish happy moods in our voices, and they respond with excitement of their own. They don’t just seem to know our feelings—they actually do!
The next time your furry friend perks up at your voice, remember that you’re not just imagining the excitement. Our pooches absolutely adore us and translate human feelings better than those of their own species. The old saying was right all along: Dogs are man’s best friend.