How Dogs Hack Our Brain To Make Us Love Them The Way We Love Human Babies

Research suggests a whole new layer of meaning to the term “puppy dog eyes”

image via (cc) flickr user foosel

We all know them: People who baby their dogs a little too much. Maybe they let the pooch sleep on the bed with them, or feed it scraps right from the table. Maybe they even give their dog open mouth French kisses. There are a lot of ways dogs have come to occupy special places in our lives, and now a team of researchers think they know why.

The key, according to Azabu University’s Miho Nagasawa, is eye contact.

When human mothers look at infants, both infant and adult experience a spike in oxytocin, the so-called “love hormone” often associated with maternal nursing, and even sexual orgasm. This hormonal rise galvanizes the strong emotional bond between the pair that leads to a feedback loop of continued gazing, further chemical release...Lather, rinse, repeat. As it turns out, this same chemical feedback loop is what cements the bonds between people and their dogs, as well.

image via (cc) flickr user jessiemoore

To reach this conclusion, Nagasawa and his team observed and recorded the interactions between thirty canine/human pairs over half-hour sessions. They then tested both dog and human urine samples for increased levels of oxytocin. What they discovered was a 130% oxytocin spike in dogs–both male and female–who engaged in deep eye-gazing with their owners, and an astonishing 300% spike in the humans. In a second round of experiments, the scientists administered a nasal spray of the chemical to the dogs before the interaction sessions, and observed a 150% increase in canine eye-gazing as a result, but only in females.

Interestingly enough, when the first of the two experiments was duplicated using wolves that had been raised in captivity, there was no significant spike in hormone levels. It seems that when it comes to reproducing the parent-baby hormone response, only dogs elicit the same reaction. Researchers suggest the dogs-only hormone spike may point to a correlation between oxytocin and the process by which dog’s feral ancestors were domesticated.

Regardless, the fact that dogs and humans share this interspecies hormonal bond should be enough to partially explain, if not necessarily excuse, people who insist on babying their pet pooch. It’s not indulgence – it’s chemical.


Screenshot via (left) Wikimedia Commons (right)

Greta Thunberg has been dubbed the "Joan of Arc of climate change" for good reason. The 16-year-old activist embodies the courage and conviction of the unlikely underdog heroine, as well as the seemingly innate ability to lead a movement.

Thunberg has dedicated her young life to waking up the world to the climate crisis we face and cutting the crap that gets in the way of fixing it. Her speeches are a unique blend of calm rationality and no-holds-barred bluntness. She speaks truth to power, dispassionately and unflinchingly, and it is glorious.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Ottawa Humane Society / Flickr

The Trump Administration won't be remembered for being kind to animals.

In 2018, it launched a new effort to reinstate cruel hunting practices in Alaska that had been outlawed under Obama. Hunters will be able to shoot hibernating bear cubs, murder wolf and coyote cubs while in their dens, and use dogs to hunt black bears.

Efforts to end animal cruelty by the USDA have been curtailed as well. In 2016, under the Obama Administration, the USDA issued 4,944 animal welfare citations, in two years the numbers dropped to just 1,716.

Keep Reading Show less

The disappearance of 40-year-old mortgage broker William Earl Moldt remained a mystery for 22 years because the technology used to find him hadn't been developed yet.

Moldt was reported missing on November 8, 1997. He had left a nightclub around 11 p.m. where he had been drinking. He wasn't known as a heavy drinker and witnesses at the bar said he didn't seem intoxicated when he left.

Keep Reading Show less
via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

At the end of the September 6th episode of "Real Time, " Maher turned to the camera for his usual editorial and discussed how obesity is a huge part of the healthcare debate that no one is having.

"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

Keep Reading Show less
via Gage Skidmore

The common stereotypes about liberals and conservatives are that liberals are bleeding hearts and conservatives are cold-hearted.

It makes sense, conservatives want limited government and to cut social programs that help the more vulnerable members of society. Whereas liberals don't mind paying a few more dollars in taxes to help the unfortunate.

A recent study out of Belgium scientifically supports the notion that people who scored lower on emotional ability tests tend to have right-wing and racist views.

Keep Reading Show less