There’s a reason that dogs are called man’s best friend. Cuddly, protective, and downright adorable, dogs make excellent companions. What could be better than coming home after a long day at work and having your furry friend greet you at the door with doggy kisses?
Dogs are notoriously loyal and seem to love their human companions, but how much of that is biology and how much of it is genuine affection? Sure, your dog may eagerly rush into your arms when you come home, even if you’ve only been gone for an hour, but does your dog genuinely love you?
Can science prove that dogs love their humans?
According to a 2015 Japanese study (via ABC News) there’s some pretty compelling evidence that your dog’s love for you is the real deal. The hormone oxytocin works as a neurotransmitter in the brain. Bursts of this “love molecule” help humans bond by registering when they hug loved ones or look into their eyes. But that dose of oxytocin also happens when humans and dogs look into each other’s eyes. The human and dog each experience a spike of oxytocin in what is known as the “oxytocin-gaze positive loop.”
In 2014, a neuroscientist named Dr. Gregory Berns scanned dogs’ brains and found out that they lit up differently when a dog sniffed their owner than when they sniffed another human or dog. If that’s not love, what is?
How can you tell if your dog loves you?
Now, a dog being capable of love doesn’t mean that they love just anyone who comes along. How can you tell if your dog loves you?
According to Berns, it’s as simple as your dog liking to spend time with you. “I’ve seen many dogs who just like being around their person,” he told HuffPost. “They crave the attention, they crave the contact and they will choose that over food. Is that love? I would call it that, yes. We call it that in humans.”
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