Science proves looking into a dog's eyes releases oxytocin.
If you've ever gazed at your dog and felt an overwhelming emotion, you're not just a crazy dog owner. The warming sensation that washes over your heart when you make eye contact with your furry best friend is real. Science says so.
A hormone called oxytocin is found in both male and female mammals. It has been dubbed the "love hormone" due to its association with nurturing and relationships.
Levels spike when a woman has a baby or breastfeeds the infant.Both men and women also release heightened amounts of oxytocin during sex. The hormone is a driving factor in social and emotional relations, affecting brain activity and subsequent behavior.
Now, science is saying a simple stare-down with man's best friend has the same effect.
Dogs and other pets are known to offer stress relief, which is one reason why offices are starting to allow dogs at work. Now there's even more reason to have dogs around 24/7. More than just making people happier, they make us more loving.
But the bond between a dog and its owner goes a step further. Similar to how dogs become agitated when their human is tense, canine levels of oxytocin also spark when a dog stares lovingly into his owner's eyes.
One study found that spritzing oxytocin onto the nose of a female dog also increased the amount of time she spent staring at her owner. According to the research, there appears to be a positive feedback loop associated with the hormone.
Additionally, the study offers a breakthrough for owners struggling with pets that suffer from separation anxiety. The longer the gaze is held between a dog and its owner, the greater the likelihood the dog will whine.
Canines are so connected with their owners that their eyes will actually follow humans as they pace around the house, but only when an owner has signified that he or she is paying attention.
Interestingly, wolves do not show signs of increased oxytocin when they gaze into a human's eyes. However, scientists theorize the hormone release is linked to domestication, hypothesizing that perhaps the same study with other domesticated mammals, likes cats and horses, might show similar results.
The bond between a mother and her child has often been explained by the love hormone. Science now offers an even stronger explanation for why dogs are referred to as a human's best friend.