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OXYTOCIN MAGIC IN PEOPLE & DOGS
Your dog recognizes sadness, joy, love or annoyance as you glance at him but here’s why the uncanny ability to communicate is so uniquely developed in the canine!
The California Science Center has an exhibition called “Dogs! A Science Tail.” Diane Perlov, the VP in charge of new exhibitions, tells visitors “If you look a dog in the eye, a dog will look back at you and you will produce oxytocin.”
That unique connection works both ways. In making that direct eye contact, the dog produces the “love hormone.” If you have the normal human-dog relationship, you are subconsciously flattered when your dog looks up at you. You smile as you note his communication and the dog’s tail “wags” in response to your smile.
Both of you have experienced an involuntary reaction directly connected with the release of the ii bonding hormone oxytocin (instant information). Dogs don’t wag as a way of communicating with people as has been postulated by some scientists. The tail wag is as automatic and involuntary as is your smile when meeting a friend.
Cat lovers say the same thing occurs between them and their cats. Of course cats don’t “wag” their tail (it twitches in irritation or when the cat is intensely concentrating on something) but they show their pleasure at communicating with you by purring or kneading – even when you don’t stroke them.
When friendly humans make eye contact, oxytocin is released and our pupils involuntarily dilate as do those of the other person. Dogs are much more sensitive to this physical phenomenon which actually has a name - pupil mimicry.
Conversely, if we distrust the other person our pupils constrict. That is just one amazing way that animals, including your long-domesticated dog, “read” people.
Scientist note this phenomenon does not apply to our closest relative, the great apes. Apes will look away from a strange human, refusing to make eye contact. The dog, even a strange dog, will almost always “look at” you. The canine is trying to read your intention – because he cares about human contact whereas the wild animal, including monkeys, do not care and do not ever seek human company.
In that, dogs are totally unlike wolves and all other wild canids. Dr. Perlov, an anthropologist says that “wolves and people crossed paths more than 10,000 years ago.” What we don’t know was who made the first move… But this we do know, dogs make eye contact with humans they care about or even a stranger who they sense is friendly.
ONLY dogs do that. Before you reject that statement, stop and think - your house cat, your bird or your horse may make direct eye contact but that is because he knows you and associates you with food. A stray dog may do that for the same reason, imploring you, i.e. begging you for a bite of whatever you’re eating.
But only your dog will make and hold eye contact to “tell” you something, to communicate with you. That direct communication results in something otherwise shared only with humans… Isn’t is scientifically amazing that even a lonely stray you meet on the sidewalk can communicate with you as clearly as your human best friend… now that you know this.
Explaining the amazing canine-human bond Perlov says “It’s that social bond and our ability to communicate with them and our ability to understand each other that forms the basis of our relationship.”
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