As a long-time dog lover and first-time dog parent, there are tons of questions swirling in my head about what my dog’s thinking, dreaming, and barking.
But, if you’re like me, you’ve probably found yourself wondering, “How much does my dog love me? What does he get out of our lovin’ relationship?”
Thanks to scientists and their quest to understand the human-dog relationship on a deeper level we now have some more answers on the subject.
According to a recent piece by Mic in partnership with GE, “Not only do dogs seem to love us back, they actually see us as their family. It turns out that dogs rely on humans more than they do their own kind for affection, protection and everything in between.”
Dogs understand the world through their noses. So, scientists at Emory University conducted a neuroimaging study about odor processing in dogs’ brains. They trained dogs to stay very still so they could do an MRI of their brains while presenting them with smells, both strange and familiar.
What they found was that dogs’ reward centers lit up like fireworks on the 4th of July when presented with their owner’s familiar smell. It turns out that in the barrage of smells they are presented with on a daily basis, they filter out and prioritize their human’s smells above all.
Another study (conducted by the Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest) that researched vocal communication between dogs and humans found that emotionally heavy vocal sounds are processed similarly in both species.
“It’s very interesting to understand the tool kit that helps such successful vocal communication between two species. We didn’t need neuroimaging to see that communication works [between dogs and people], but without it, we didn’t understand why it works. Now we’re really starting to.”
Andics also pointed out something that pup parents everywhere will find extremely interesting and reassuring:
Dogs are the only species that when frightened, worried, or anxious, run to their humans for comfort, just like children do. They are also the only species that seek eye-contact with their humans.
Humans have always seen dogs as family, but now there’s definitive proof that dogs truly think of us as family as well.
Featured image via @barkbabybark