Dog Facts: Emotional intelligence, unique bonds and the ‘lovehormon’

Gemma, our research manager has compiled some of her favorite facts about dogs to celebrate Better Lives for Dogs.

Around 15,000 years ago, dogs were the first animal to be domesticated by humans (Serpell 1995). Domestic dogs can come in all sizes and shapes, including the large Great Dane or the small Chihuahua.

These dog breeds all originated from the grey Wolf. Although it may seem unbelievable, the dogs that we share our lives are genetically very similar with wolves, despite thousands of years.

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Be in tune with your emotions

Scientists are discovering more about the complex abilities and capabilities of dogs.

Dogs are sensitive to our emotions, according to research. Dogs can distinguish between positive and negative emotions when they are shown photos of people with happy or angry faces (Albuquerque and al., 2016). This is a common phenomenon between species members, so it’s rare to see this understanding among different species.

Humans can also read facial expressions of dogs (Bloom and Friedman 2013, 2013). Our facial expressions are stronger on the right side, so we tend to be more interested in the faces of others. Scientists have discovered that dogs can adapt their behavior to see the right side of people’s faces, but not when they are looking at other dogs. These remarkable abilities are undoubtedly responsible for the strong bonds that exist between dogs and humans.

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Hormones can help strengthen the bonds

Dogs can not only read people but also cause physiological changes that make us love them more. Dogs look into our eyes and oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone”, increases in us both. Similar results can be seen in the eyes of mothers when they look at their babies (Nagasawa and al., 2009).

Respect is due to ‘Man’s Best Friend’

Many reasons dogs are kept and bred include:

Some dogs are considered ‘pampered pooch’ and are treated as family members, while others are seen as workers or protectors. In some cases, dogs can be considered meat for human consumption.

This wide range in how people view and treat dogs is just one example of the welfare issues they face.

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Dogs are sensitive

Dogs can experience emotional stress if left alone, even for a short time.

Many dogs suffer from severe illness and suffering every day because of the fashionable preference for large eyes and flat-faced dogs like pugs or French bulldogs. Selective breeding of certain traits can lead to health problems in dogs and reduce their lifespans.

Fear of diseases such as rabies can lead to the inhumane killing of thousands of dogs in some communities. On average, 18 dogs per minute are killed each year from this reason.

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Better lives for dogs

Better lives for dogs is aiming to vaccine 1,000,000 dogs against rabies by 2020. This will give these intelligent, sensitive animals a chance at a happy life.

Science has shown that dogs can experience complex emotions, regardless of their appearance or size, and they can also suffer from mental and physical illness. This should be recognized and acknowledged.

Supporting better lives for dogs can be as simple as donating to vaccination programmes, crowd-funded gifts, signing petitions that lobby governments to change and signing up to learn more about our important work. For more information, keep an eye on our Facebook page and Twitter page starting Monday.