If you’re a dog lover, there’s a large chance you’ve had a dog of your own in your lifetime. There is some sort of unconditional love for your furry friend that you can’t quite explain, but you totally know it’s there. Your dog would follow you across the world if it could, and some quite literally have! I remember reading this post from Dr. Chris Brown (yes, I follow him on Facebook, he’s beautiful, don’t fight me on it) about a dog called Pero that had been left with it’s owner’s friends while they went on holiday. For some reason, Pero didn’t think it was good enough for him to be left behind while they lay on the nice warm beaches, so he decided to make a journey of 400km to meet up with them again. How he survived for 3 weeks on the road is a complete mystery, but you’ve got to admire his spirit! If that’s not real love there, then I don’t know what you’d call it.
But how do we really know if our dogs love us back in the same sort of way we love them? With Science of course, silly!
A lovely team of Scientists at Emory University in Atlanta decided they had this same thought and wanted to test it out, so essentially they trained over a dozen dogs to feel comfortable and relaxed (well, as relaxed as dogs can be) around an MRI scanner and measured this.
The dogs had shown to have released the same chemicals in their brain when they look at us that we release when we look at our dogs and feel the heart-warming vibe that we do. These include the following:
Endocannabinoids (the “bliss” molecule), Dopamine (the “reward” molecule), Oxytocin (the “bonding” molecule), and Adrenalin (the “energy” molecule).
Pretty much, they came to the conclusion that yes, dogs do feel love and happiness as we do around them. I mean, to put it in the most ‘Science-y’ way possible, love really is all just chemicals!
Gregory Berns, one of the Scientists at the Emory University study, wrote a book about this specific study, and gave a few tips on how to tell if your dog loves you.
I personally know that my dog loves me, when she comes and cuddles me when I’m sick, and so I do her the same when she shivers from the thunderstorms.
So no, you’re not just a food and housing source to these animals; they care about and love you unconditionally.