A Birthday, A Dog & Friendship



Today, October 19th marks Chloe’s 9th birthday - Happy Birthday Chloe!  While we may sometimes take our dog’s friendship for granted, did you know that our bonding is grounded in science? 

People Have Bonded With Canines For Centuries - and Science Can Help Explain Why Dogs Are Humans' Best Friend

www.insider.com, by Zoe Miller, August 2018

Whether or not you consider yourself a dog person, you probably know someone who has a close bond with their pooch. People have had partnerships with canines for centuries, and for good reason. Not only can dogs understand human speech, they may also be genetically predisposed to be outgoing. Both humans and dogs are social creatures, so the partnership is mutually beneficial. While dogs lessen their owners' worries and make them feel safer, people care for and nurture their pooches. Thus, this symbiotic relationship is mutually beneficial. 

Dogs may be inherently outgoing thanks to their genetic makeup. 

Dogs are known to happily greet their owners when they walk in the house - and the reason for canines' boundless joy could actually be genetic. Researchers discovered that hyper-sociability in dogs could be linked to the same gene that makes people with the developmental disorder Williams-Beuren syndrome friendly and trusting.

While a dog's genetic makeup can dictate its personality, pups are likewise influenced by the lifestyles and personalities of their owners. 

A study conducted at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary, found that canines are affected by their owners' lifestyles and personality traits. Researchers administered online questionnaires to more than 14,000 dog owners. Dogs featured in the study represented 267 breeds and 3,920 mixed breeds. Owners had to answer a survey about themselves and how they interacted with their dogs, in addition to filling out questions about their dogs' personalities. Overall, the study determined that owners influenced four key animal traits: calmness, trainability, sociability, and boldness. 

Dogs can understand human speech, especially if it features words of praise. 

Another Eötvös Loránd University study looked at dogs' ability to understand human speech. By using an imaging machine to examine the brains of 13 dogs as they listened to their trainers speak, researchers found that the reward pathway in the dogs' brains lit up when they heard praising words spoken in an approving way. "Dogs process both what we say and how we say it in a way which is amazingly similar to how human brains do," Attila Andics, a neuroscientist at the university, told NPR. Mutual gazing (aka eye contact) bonds dogs and humans - just like it bonds people and their non-fur children. 

A study conducted at Azabu University in Sagamihara, Japan, found that when people lock eyes with their dogs, the process generates the "love hormone" oxytocin.  The researchers - who analyzed urinary oxytocin levels in about 30 dog owners after they interacted with their pets for half an hour - postulate that dogs acquired these human-like modes of communication when they were domesticated.

Dogs actually possess the ability to distinguish between friend and foe, like people can

According to a 2017 study published in the journal Animal Cognition, dogs are capable of distinguishing between friends and foes.

The findings are based on a series of experiments conducted at the University of Zurich. Researchers gathered a group of 27 dogs comprising different breeds. Each dog was introduced to two human partners. The "cooperative partner" would call a dog's name and give it a treat when it walked over, while the "competitive partner" would get the dog's attention but hide the treat.

In the next phase of the test, the dogs had to walk the partners over to identical boxes that contained a sausage or a dog biscuit. Dogs could only eat a treat if they walked the cooperative partner over to the boxes. If they led the competitive partner to the treat boxes, they weren't allowed to eat the food. Most dogs knew to lead the "nice" partner to their preferred snack.

Just as I had written on the back cover of Chloe's book - "...a dog enriches our life with their unconditional love and devotion". 

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