There is a popular saying that goes "I want to be the kind of person my dog thinks I am." Well, apparently dogs, due to their immense love for us, want to believe in us, regardless of our true intents. At least that's what a new study conducted at the University of Helsinki has discovered.
Previous studies have shown that when humans and dogs look at each other they both experience a boost of the love hormone oxytocin. This new study has revealed that when dogs see us smile they are willing to let their guard down when it comes to their fear in hopes of receiving positive attention or adoration. In other words, they're willing to take a chance all for our love.
Anything for Love
The university's Canine Mind project undertook two different tests using 43 dogs. In each test the canines were shown images of angry individuals followed by smiling, happy faces. After each image was viewed the researchers measured the dogs' pupils to monitor their reactions. It seems a dog's pupils dilate when confronted with strong emotions, the stronger the emotion the more dilation.
When shown the angry faces, the study participants displayed reactions as if they were threatened. The second test, using both the happy, smiling faces and the angry ones, was conducted after a nasal blast containing either oxytocin or a placebo solution of saline was introduced to the test subjects. Afterward, the research showed a focus on the smiling pictures rather than the angry images with the animals exposed to oxytocin.
For the Love of Dogs
All this confirms that dogs want our attention and will do almost anything to get it, whether through good or bad behavior, and they'll disregard their survival instincts in the process. Oh, to be so loved!
Interestingly, Professor Outi Vainio, head of the research team, noted, "We were among the first researchers in the world to use pupil measurements in the evaluation of dogs' emotional states. This method had previously only been used on humans and apes."
Each new study regarding dogs and their emotional connection to us just strengthens the idea that dogs really are our best friends.