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Does Your Dog Really Love You?

  When you look into those big brown eyes resting above that wet snout, do you think your dog is looking back at you just as deeply? Dogs Decoded, a recently released program for PBS dove deeper into the question of whether our dogs know and feel more than we might think.

The chimpanzee may be humankind’s closest relative in the animal kingdom; but dogs seem to be the ones that most easily understand us as humans, at least according to Dogs Decoded. One of the incredible claims made in this program is that your furry friend can even pickup some of the subtlest nuances on a human face. Not sure if you buy it? Just try a few furtive glances at your pets favorite ball or toy and see if they get reared up for a game or two.

But it doesn’t stop there; researchers have found their understanding goes beyond the visual as well. Dogs can learn and respond to as many words as a young human child (So the next time your dog didn’t catch what you were saying, he was probably just ignoring you.) Dogs Decoded showcased a border collie that could recognize over 300 objects. That shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to most dog lovers, but many owners have yet to tap the learning potential of their dogs.

But beyond this, dogs even look at a human’s face differently than other animals. Humans tend to have a bias to look at the left side of the face, where emotions are often more strongly reflected; dogs also have this bias when looking at humans. However, this bias does not exist when your dog is taking a look at the neighborhood cat or their favorite fire hydrant, proving that you are more than just an oddly shaped dog to your beloved friend.

As amazing as these finding are, it gets wilder! The Karolinska Institutet in Sweden has begun to suggest that the love hormone, otherwise known as Oxycontin is a large player in the development of bonds between canine and human. This same hormone appears in love, eating chocolate and through other of life’s most enjoyable activities. The presence of this hormone gives empirical scientific proof that the bond between a pet owner and their furry companion is not just one sided.

As the pet lover has felt for years, the emotional highway between you and your dog isn’t a one way street. Turns out your best friend could have just as much of an influence on you as you do on them. In the same way dogs can understand our gestures and facial expressions, even learning hundreds of human words associated with toys, actions or treats, we can understand the language dogs speak as well. When listening to a wide variety of circumstances under which a dog was barking, humans were able to reliably identify the circumstances the dog was barking under and how that dog likely felt at the time.

They know when we are sad and we know when they are scared. The deep connection we form with dogs is one we all know and love but there is so much research out there compounding that knowledge and showing us how deep our connection with man’s best friend can become. Dogs Decoded is a must see for the dog lover who wants to show the world what they can feel, but have never been able to explain!