How Humans and Dogs Bond: The Eyes have it

My family has a new member. He has big white teeth, lots of fur, four legs, a tail and beautiful big brown eyes! Yes, my family adopted a dog after only having cats for 15 years.  It has been an amazing experience so far as Thor has adapted to our family and we have grown to love him.  This got me thinking about how the process works for a dog to bond to a new family.  I always just assumed that you got a dog and there was nothing more to it, but now I wonder how does a dog and its family become attached?  How do you love a dog and how does it love you?


A  study released in the journal Science in April 2015 conducted by Japanese researchers explains why dogs like to gaze at their owners and how that gazing creates a bond between humans and their dogs.  According to the study,  the levels of oxytocin rose in both the owners and the dogs when they spent thirty minutes together. The urine of 30 dogs and their owners was tested after the thirty minutes. Oxytocin is a hormone that promotes social bonding. Oxytocin is also known as the love hormone. The researchers also did a second experiment in which they sprayed oxytocin into dogs nostrils which caused the female dogs to look at their owners even longer. The researchers conducted the same experiment on wolves that were pets and their owners, but found no increase in oxytocin. The scientists theorize that long ago a more friendly group of wolves bonded with humans by connecting to one of the ways humans bond with a child, by looking into their eyes, and these wolves eventually became domesticated dogs.

C. Sue Carter of the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University believes the study, “makes very good sense.”  In addition, previous studies have also shown that hormones are responsible in part in creating bonds between species.

In observing our dog I definitely agree with this study.  Thor loves to be around myself and my family members and he is always looking at us!  It is hard to not look back into his big eyes and pet and praise him.  When we are walking him, he often turns his head to look at us.  It is amazing how something so basic such as looking at each other can build the bond between a dog and its human family.  I would have been interested to see the scientists test dogs spending time and playing with people they did not know previously.  Would there still be an increase in oxytocin? Would it be a smaller increase or the same?  Would it be linked to the quality of interaction between the dogs and humans?

So if you are lucky enough to have a dog, be sure to spend lots of time staring into his or her eyes and you will be sure to create a bond for life with your furry friend!