Dogs are one of the most emotionally sensitive pets in the world. They not only protect you as a guard but also act as a member of your family. They play with you and pamper you by cuddling and even licking your face. They make your heavy day lighter, like a comedy program would do. No matter how stressed and depressed you are, they know how to cheer you up.
Coming home to your dog after a long, tiring day would be no less than spending a relaxing day at a spa, reading your favorite book or watching your all-time favorite movie. It would not be wrong to say they love you just like a friend or relative.
Keeping a dog with you tells a lot about your personality too. A dog is kept by only a benevolent person who has a soft and caring heart, knows how to love and protect, and is responsible enough to take care of someone else’s needs.
This sensitive creature knows how to care for its owner and just as it cares about you, it demands to be cared about. You cannot get a pet, especially a dog, and ignore it once you get it home. Attention-seeker in nature, a dog would not bear being neglected and taken for granted.
Modern studies say that dogs are capable of interpreting your facial expression and even responding to it. Hence, they can understand if you are getting annoyed by them.
Not only can dogs understand your facial expressions, but they can also convey a lot with their own. Have you ever noticed a dog’s eyes? They say a lot. They tell when a dog is sad or happy. There is a different sort of spark in its eyes when it sees people around it who are cheerful and smiling.
Research has also shown that a human-animal relationship is strengthened even more due to oxytocin. Oxytocin is a hormone which enables mammals to recognize and respond to emotional behavior such as trust, love, and care and allows one to understand facial expressions. This is the reason why oxytocin is also known as the ‘love hormone’ and ‘attachment hormone.’ When friendly behavior is exchanged between a person and a dog, the oxytocin level increases, which boosts the trust between the two and nourishes the bond. Studies also show that just staring into a dog’s eyes can increase its oxytocin level to 130% and yours to 300%.
Research by University of Helsinki, Finland
A study by Professor Outi Vainio from the University of Helsinki, Finland found out that the friendlier you are to your dog, the more affectionate it is going to be with you. It will even overlook any sort of danger for you.
Now, the question arises, how can someone figure out if a dog is sad or happy? The research on the size of pupils answers this question. Just as pupil measurement has been applied to humans, it works on dogs too. Larger pupils are the result of higher emotional arousal.
This research was carried out by giving oxytocin to dogs nasally. Along with this, a device to track eye movement was used. This procedure was carried out twice for every dog: once with oxytocin and another time without any oxytocin. The results showed that the dogs that were not given oxytocin paid more attention to the dangers and threats around them and vigorously responded to angry faces.
However, those with the hormone ignored the threats, focused on the happy and positive emotions around them and responded to smiling faces. This is because the love hormone makes the angry faces less dangerous and places more emphasis on happy faces. Thus, the hormone changes the way a dog looks at its surroundings.
Research by National Autonomous University, Mexico
Another study published in 2018 on bioRxiv by a team of researchers at National Autonomous University, Mexico revealed what actually happens in the mind of a dog when it sees your emotions. To carry out the study, eight dogs were trained to stay still in an MRI scanner and were shown pictures of humans with different expressions. This simulated the parts of the dog’s brain involved in processing information, learning and rewards. The study revealed that a dog responded to a happy human face in the most positive and energetic way.
Research by University of Portsmouth’s Dog Cognition Centre
Another research was performed by scientists at the University of Portsmouth’s Dog Cognition Centre. To carry out this research, 24 domestic dogs were tied at a distance of one meter from a person by a lead string. They were presented with different situations such as the person paying them attention, ignoring them or turning their back at them. The dogs’ facial expressions were recorded in every situation.
The results show that dogs use their eyes to respond to humans playing with them and giving them attention. The interesting fact is that they do not change their mood when they see food, which clears a misconception that dogs are the happiest when they see a bone. In fact, the thing they care about the most is people being nice to them. A dog might get excited when it sees a bone, but being excited and being happy are two different things.
According to Dr. Juliane Kaminski, the leader of the above-mentioned study, we can now be sure that emotions exhibited by dogs are directly related to the attention given by people and are not merely because of the dog being excited.
If you have bought a new dog who is not very familiar with you and has high sensitivity level, here is the easiest thing you can do to make it more comfortable day by day and it will end up licking your face and being your buddy: just smile at him!