Dogs love us, they really do No on e disputes the clear bond dogs have with us, and there are many studies examining this attachment. Some researchers believe it has to do with the dog's cognitive abilities, but others believe it has less to do with intelligence and more to do with friendliness and sociability. Some researchers have used the term "hypersociability" to describe this trait in dogs. Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist at Emory University, used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to observe what happens in a dog's brain during human interaction.
He found that the dog's reward center is just as active when the dog is praised as when they are given a hot dog. And we all know how much dogs love hot dogs! In further research, Dr. Berns has shown that some dogs even prefer their owners over food when given the choice. He also found a similarity between the part of a dog's brain that lights up when it hears its owner's voice and the same area in our brain that lights up when we're around someone or something we love. Is the dog-human bond unique? Here's where we might disappoint some of you dog lovers out there: it's not just people that dogs bond with. Dr. Wynne — along with Princeton biologist Bridgett vonHoldt and other researchers — discovered that dogs have certain genes that are associated with Williams-Beuren syndrome, a rare genetic disorder in humans characterized by "indiscriminate friendliness." One thing is clear, dogs can and will socialize with other animals if they are raised with them. Raise a puppy with a goat and it will bond with goats, for example. Biologists Raymond and Lorna Coppinger have documented examples of puppies being raised with sheep-to-sheep bonds. Bill Costanzo of the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Center in San Angelo, Texas is doing actual research on the bonding process. He trains puppies to become good livestock guards (LGDs) and studies the factors that lead to success. At about three months of age, potential LGD puppies are placed in pens with whatever species will be protected in the future.
The term "pen" is misleading here, as each is a fenced field of roughly one acre in size. Once successfully bonded, they will be moved to larger pastures along with the animals they will be in charge of. "LGDs can attach to almost any species," Costanzo said in an interview with the Department of Animal Science. “They also do a great job when tied to poultry. Free-range poultry operations in California use dogs to protect against predators.” Currently, the scientific community is divided on the factors that make dogs so clingy. Some believe it is their cognitive ability to understand and communicate with people. However, there is compelling evidence that it is an emotional bond rather than a cognitive one. One factor that makes a strong case for emotional attachment is the ease and willingness with which dogs bond with other species. Is it true love and empathy? That is not clear. According to Dr. Coren, dogs have the same emotional maturity as two- to three-year-old toddlers, and empathy in human children often takes a few more years. But it is very clear that dogs can feel attached and protective of many other species, even penguins. Dogs are important to many people, but what makes them so? Besides being warm, soft and capable of inspiring our unconditional love, there are a number of unique qualities that set dogs apart from other animals. As a dog researcher, animal behavior consultant, and canophile (which means I love dogs), let me share five qualities that I think make dogs so special.
Dogs are hypersocial We all know those golden retriever type dogs who seem absurdly delighted to meet any new social being. It's hard not to get swept up in their infectious friendliness. These furry, hypersocial creatures have some key genetic differences even from other domestic dogs. Most interestingly, these genetic differences are linked across the genome to hypersociability in people with a genetic condition called Williams-Beuren syndrome. Although people with this syndrome experience negative health effects, they also tend to be very open, involved and sociable. Not all dogs fall into this hypersocial category—but even those who don't are unusually accepting of strangers and dogs. Unlike other sociable wild canids, such as wolves, domestic dogs can live quite happily in harmony with different species, as well as with non-family members of their own species. This is why it is so easy to incorporate dogs into our lives. Dogs are wired to understand us Humans have selectively bred dogs for many generations. And in many cases we have bred them to help us in a wide variety of jobs – including being our companions. This has led to domestic dogs being born with an interest in humans. From an early age, puppies are attracted to human faces. While dogs are cooperative like wolves, they tend to be submissive to humans and follow our directions – while wolves are bolder and more likely to lead when cooperative with humans.
Dogs also learn to follow our gaze and show a left gaze bias when looking at human faces. This means they spend more time looking at the left side of our faces (which would be the right side from our perspective). This bias appears in several species when they process emotional information, showing that dogs read our faces to determine how we feel. Dogs were also thought for a while to be particularly attentive to human gestures such as pointing – but recently research suggests that many domestic species and some wild animal species can track pointing. Dogs come in countless shapes and sizes No other species has such a variety of shapes and sizes as domestic dogs. Not even cats or horses show the same diversity.
The largest dogs can be almost 25 times larger than the smallest! In addition, we have dogs with dropped ears and erect ears and everything in between, tails and no tails or bobbed tails, short legs and long legs, long noses and short noses - and a huge variety of coat colors, lengths and textures. For dogs, this huge variation may mean they have more to learn than other animals when it comes to understanding their own species. For example, herding dog owners may find their dog somewhat confused or even defensive when they encounter a very different short-haired breed such as a bulldog. For us, this means that we should appreciate how the size and shape of dogs can affect their behavior and experience. For example, dogs with longer noses have sharper vision, while dogs with a lighter build tend to be more energetic and fearful. Dogs form deep emotional bonds. Domestic dogs have been shown to form bonds with human caregivers that are very similar to those formed between children and parents. This may partly explain why they can read our emotional signals, why they worry (and try to help us) when we are in distress, and why MRI studies show that dogs are happy when they feel their owners. It can also be the reason why they panic when separated from us. Dogs' attachment to humans goes beyond hypersocial behavior. We are much more to them than just the food we provide and the balls we throw. We are an attached parent-like figure.
Dogs can help us be our best selves Most dog owners would agree that their dog brings out the best in them. They can confide in their dog and love it unconditionally – sometimes more easily than another human. Dogs play an important role in animal-assisted therapy, where their non-judgmental presence can have a calming effect and facilitate social interactions. They can even help children learn to read and reduce anxiety. Although helping people with their emotional problems can be a difficult task for such an emotionally sensitive species, research suggests that the right dogs will be up to the task if their workload is carefully managed. Horses are also used in animal-assisted therapy, as are some smaller furry animals. However, dogs are more portable and can remain calm in stimulating environments such as courtrooms, schools and airports.
They are uniquely positioned to accompany us wherever we go. Paws for thought We might think that dogs are special for some of the qualities we value in humans, such as intelligence, selflessness, or a loving nature. But really, dogs are special by simply being dogs. They are social acrobats who can find social harmony wherever they go. They have rich emotional lives in which they coexist with different species and can even form bonds outside of their own species. They are also generally tolerant of our primates – and good at receiving our love. And that's enough for me.