Have you ever gazed into your dog’s eyes? How does it make you feel?
Gazing lovingly is not at all like staring at a dog. Staring does not convey love. It can feel like a threat and be scary.
Making positive eye contact is one of the first skills puppies learn when they bond with humans. And aren’t we drawn to the puppies that look right at us and appear to invite communication? It’s natural to look into your dog’s eyes and most people feel a strong attachment to their dogs in those moments.
A recent article in Science magazine has explored this connection and set out to demonstrate scientifically what most dog owners have always known.
The “bonding hormone” oxytocin has been found to be elevated in both dog and person as they calmly gaze into each other’s eyes. Connecting with a dog can restore calm to a troubled mind, bring comfort to a grieving heart and encourage relaxation in a tension filled day.
But we who love our dogs already know that!
The partnership between dogs and humans is ancient. It’s hard to say whether dogs know and understand us better than we know and understand them. One thing is for sure: we know far more about dogs today than we knew even as little as 20 years ago. Twenty years is a tiny span of time in our long history with dogs. But the science is exploding with new information about how dogs think and learn.
This is knowledge that matters to everyone who lives with a dog. It impacts how we share our lives with dogs, how we teach them and how we care for them. More on this in future posts.
For now, stop and spend some quiet time with your dog. Gently gaze into his eyes and see what he has to say to you today. How does that quiet moment with your dog make you feel?