American humorist Dave Barry once observed that “you can say any foolish thing to a dog, and the dog will give you a look that says, ‘Wow, you’re right! I never would’ve thought of that!'” And you gotta laugh, especially if you are a dog owner, because you no doubt have had a similar exchange with your pet. But have you ever wondered when you stare into the beaming eyes of the family canine, is that really affection you’re seeing, or do they just want something?
Results of a study recently published in the journal Science suggest that love, or something akin to it, could definitely be what you are observing. A spike in the hormone oxytocin has long been associated with the feelings of connection and bonding parents experience when looking at their infant children. Researchers recently found the same bonding hormone gets a boost in both pet owners and their dogs when they gaze into each other’s eyes. According to the study findings, “Both dogs and people feel it.”
“It’s really cool that there’s actually some science to back this up now,” Evan MacLean, an evolutionary anthropologist and co-director of Duke University’s Canine Cognition Center, explains to NPR.
“For thousands of years, humans have bred dogs for obedience, and that has altered their brains as well,” MacLean tells NPR’s Geoff Brumfiel. As a result, dogs have become excellent at understanding gestures like pointing. They’re also good with language.” According to the American Kennel Club, additional research shows that “the sound of a human yawn can trigger one from your dog. And it’s four times as likely to happen when it’s the yawn of a person he knows.” Another recent study shows that dogs are among a small group of animals who show “voluntary unselfish kindness toward others without any reward,” says the AKC. They also note that 45% of U.S. dogs “sleep in their owner’s bed.”
“I’m perfectly happy saying that we can love dogs, and they can love us back,” says MacLean. All of this may not come as earth-shattering news to the owners of the reported more than 75 million pet dogs found in the U.S., the largest number of bow-wow buddies than in any other country.
Says new research published in the journal Human-Animal Interactions, it is a bond that appears to extend to children as young as 2 years old. As reported by Neuroscience News, “The study entitled ‘Do children help dogs spontaneously?’, found that a sample group of children aged 2 to 3 years were twice as likely to help a dog reach a treat or toy when the animal showed interest than if it did not.” Lead scientist Dr. Rachna Reddy, a postdoctoral fellow in evolutionary anthropology at Duke University and associate in the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, states that “these findings lend support to our hypothesis that children’s early-developing proclivities for goal-reading and prosociality extend beyond humans to other animals.”
As pointed out in a recent article in National Geographic by writer and editor Fran Smith: “For decades, scientists trying to push the limits of human life span have studied simple organisms like worms and fruit flies … By setting their sights on dogs, longevity researchers (now) hope to discover ways to turn back time in humans” by helping them live longer, healthier lives. After all, she reasons, “they live in our houses, breathe the same air, and suffer many of the same ailments that affect older people.”
“Because a dog’s life zooms by much faster than ours, scientists can track biological changes in a matter of years, not decades, and test anti-aging therapies at far less cost … Even if experiments in dogs yield nothing to thwart human aging, they may produce novel treatments for (dogs).”
Adds Andrei Gudkov, a molecular biologist, cancer researcher and member of the senior leadership team for National Cancer Institute, “If we solve the problem of longevity with dogs, we will reduce lots of grieving and suffering.”
“Canine cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs,” says a Medical Express report. “When they are diagnosed with late-stage or terminal illness, there are often no treatment options available. In a recent study, however, a novel form of chemoimmunotherapy has proven to be a promising treatment in altering the course of the dogs’ lives … The development of this therapy to treat canine patients leads the team toward a better understanding of cancer treatments, as well as its use in human patients, as helping dogs with naturally occurring cancers provides valuable clues about human cancers.”
Today, it seems that everywhere you look there are more and more wearable devices for humans that do everything from counting steps to measuring heart rate, as well as tracking and recording your calorie consumption for each meal and telling you when to take your medications.
According to a Fox Business report, a South Korean company has developed a smart collar for dogs and claims it will extend the life of a dog by offering precise health metrics and transferring them to your phone. The wearable device is said to use “artificial intelligence software to detect negative or positive health trends in dogs, offering monthly, quarterly and yearly data updates (that) could help spot the beginnings of various diseases and health issues.”
In making the announcement, Sueah Kim, global marketing leader for Cotons AI, says, “With this therapy that has been proven safe and demonstrated promising clinical benefits in animal patients, we hope to develop effective treatment options to help human patients with cancer as well, which can improve their health without compromising their quality of life.”
The report goes on to say that its product is expected to be available in South Korea during the second quarter of 2023 and is on track to be available in other countries sometime in 2024.