A new study carried out by Japanese researchers suggests that long loving gazes and other expressions of affection are a strong bond between human and dogs. When dogs gaze into human eyes, their bodies are flooded with oxytocin, the hormone of love, mutual trust and nurture, similar to the bond that forms between a parent and child.

In the new research, Japanese scientists observed the interactions of 30 dog owners and their pets, and discovered that the more that the owners and their dogs looked in each others’ eyes, the more intense was the burst of oxytocin both in human and for dogs. The researchers the more we humans respond to a dog’s gaze and the more substantial the resulting influx of oxytocin.

When the same scientists measured the spontaneous interactions between wolves and the professionals who had raised, played with them and fed them, they didn’t observe the gaze, while the surge in oxytocin was not present.

In a separate study, the scientists administered dogs a dose of oxytocin before a half-hour session of interaction between the pet and the owner. Among female dogs the raise in oxytocin increased the number of times the dog looked in the eyes of its owner, which icaused an increase in oxytocin released in the dog owner’s blood. The same result was not observed in male dogs.

The new study was published Thursday in Science magazine and was carried out by researchers at the University of Tokyo Health Sciences and by the Azabu University, Jichi Medical University, all in Japan. The study’s canine participants included two mutts, five golden retrievers, three miniature schnauzers, three Labrador retrievers, three standard poodles, two toy poodles, two Shiba inus, two miniature dachshunds, and one boxer, one border collie, one German shepherd, one flat-coated retriever, one miniature bull terrier,, one Jack Russell terrier, one papillon and a Shetland sheepdog.

“Humans may feel affection for their companion dogs similar to that felt toward human family members”, is one of the findings of the study.

But these statements and their implications could help resolve an evolutionary mystery: How did two very different species from the evolutionary tree come to stop mutual aggression, and to live together in a deep relationship which often imitates the relationship between mother and child?

The study’s findings suggest that humans and dogs grow to care and protect each other through a positive loop that is facilitated by oxytocin. The neurochemical is what ignites the bond between child and mother.

The authors of the new research suggest that over long periods of co-evolution, dogs entered deeply into human society by mimicking the behavior that draw humans together.

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