What do dogs really think of their owners?
They say that dog is man’s best friend, and many dog owners would agree. It doesn’t matter if you’re having a bad day or look like a fashion disgrace, your pet pooch will always be happy to see you.
While many dog lovers enjoy the affection that their pets display, they also wonder whether the affection they receive is actually a sign of love or just a sign that their animal is smart enough to know where their food is coming from.
According to scientific findings, dogs do indeed have similar ‘feel good’ factors to humans which plays a role in their relationship with their owner.
Here, we look at what your dog really thinks of you when giving you those puppy dog eyes.
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The research, undertaken in the USA, found that what is known as the caudate nucleus in a dog’s brain resembles the same structure in the human brain. This nucleus is the part of the brain which is associated with positive emotions like love and happiness. The team of researchers managed to scan the brains of a selection of 12 dogs through rigorous training which prepared them to keep still on a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine.
This enabled them to obtain clear brain images from the dogs without having to resort to sedation, which could interfere with the experiment.
Going back to breakfast, lunch and dinner, the scientists devised an experiment. Through further training, they led the dogs to believe that they were about to be fed a treat with a hand gesture signal. The reactions to this activity indicated that the caudate nucleus in dogs and humans was similar.
The research is going to continue with further brain scans. Researchers will next have strangers and machines offer food in order to analyse the reaction of the dogs. They argue that, if doggy-love is simply about getting food from anybody, they will have the same results as with the previous tests.
However, if who or what is offering the treats affects the reaction of the dogs, then it would appear that there is more to a human-canine relationship than simply where the dog’s next meal is coming from.
Loves me, loves me not
There are a few experiments any dog owner can do in order to check what a dog thinks or feels about them.
For example, it is common for a dog to bark and leap up at its owner when they arrive home after a few hours of leaving the pet alone. The excitement which a dog shows can make an owner feel truly appreciated. Checking that the dog doesn’t do this for everyone who walks through the door, though, is one way of seeing if the behaviour is selective or automatic.
Unfortunately, when the dog gets over excited when its owner leaves, this is not necessarily a sign of love but anxiety at being separated. This is a condition that many pets experience and is something which should be addressed for the health of the animal.