A recent study done at Tokyo University, offers evidence that a dose of the hormone oxytocin given to dogs will increase the demonstration of social behaviors toward both other dogs as well as towards their humans. The study, which can be found in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, is further substantiation to support indications that oxytocin is not just a hormone used in reproductive processes but a vital part of how mammals form social relationships and promote bonds with each other. Oxytocin is known for generating significant social and anti-stress effects.
The researchers worked with 16 pet dogs that were given either a saline spray or a spray of oxytocin in their nostrils. The dogs were monitored both behavior wise and physiologically (blood and urine samples were taken) after the oxytocin was administered and while they were then released to interact with their owners and each other. The owners were not informed as to which spray the dogs had received but had been instructed not to interact with the dogs.
The results? You guessed it—the dogs who had received the oxytocin treatments displayed more playful, affiliative and social behaviors towards both the humans and other dogs. Behaviors such as pawing (for attention), sniffing, licking (go ahead call it doggy kisses) and prolonged directed gazes were measured. Additionally, all that social bonding behavior? Yep, it produced even more oxytocin in the dogs.
There is definite value to science in demonstrating universality in the function of oxytocin for canine and human. There is a bigger value to dog loving partners in getting evidence to support that all that affiliative bonding behavior, all that “doggy love” produces more oxytocin in the dogs themselves. You might even say it kind of shows that loving us humans back feels good for the dogs too and that feels good to know.
Frania Shelley-Grielen is the author of Cats and Dogs, Living with and Looking at Companion Animals from their Point of View