“Dog is Man’s Best Friend”

Yesterday somebody said to me, “I love my dogs and could not live without them, although sometimes they drive me crazy.” This is the sentiment of many dog owners, but do our dogs feel the same about us?

Recent research has shown that a dog’s brain reacts to his person in the same way as the brains of people react to dogs. Dogs were given various scents, including those of their people to smell. The brains of the dogs were scanned using an fMRI scanner. They showed activity in the reward centre of the brain when activated by scents of their people. When the researchers experimented with sounds, including human voices, they had a similar result.

Activity in the brains of people when shown pictures of dogs, babies and children was not dissimilar, indicating as strong a bond with their dogs as with their children. Dogs demonstrate their attachment to people by running to their person, when they are anxious or frightened. This also shows us how much they rely on their human for comfort, direction and support.

Unless a dog is anxious and sending a signal, often referred to as a calming signal, to say he doesn’t want a ‘fight’, he will look people in the eye. When wolves, the ancestor of the dog, were raised like dogs, they did not display this trait of looking their person in the eye. The bond between dogs and people has been developing for some 15 000 years and so dogs are wired to connect with us.

The bond between human and dog is definitely a two way street, but we don’t always correctly interpret what our dogs are saying. We should learn to understand their language and how to communicate with them, to do justice to their need of and love for us.