The Bond Between Dogs & Their Owners


Oct 02, 2014 by British Blog

The 'best friend' relationship between humans and dogs is long established, but now scientists are beginning to unravel some of the similarities and factors that make this relationship so effective and enduring.



One team of researchers has recently confirmed that the love humans’ feel for their dogs is, at least to some degree, reciprocated - and the scientists achieved this by making the dogs jealous.

The researchers videotaped 36 dogs, who were made to watch as their owners ignored them and instead paid a great deal of attention to (a) a realistic-looking computerised dog that was programmed to respond to them in typically canine ways, (b) a lamp and (c) a book. The (real) dogs showed clear signs of jealousy, for example they tried to attract the owner's attention and/or get in between the owner and the 'competing' item, and this behaviour was particularly strong when the owner was interacting with the fake dog.



Many dog owners can describe vocal interaction, or 'talking' with their dog, although to those who are not familiar with dogs this idea can seem absurd. However, in two recent studies, researchers have shown that indeed both dogs and humans express their emotions by making sounds, and that both have a specific area of the brain that processes vocal expressions.

In fact, experiments have shown that dogs are very much better even than chimps (which are generally considered humans' closest animal 'cousins') at following spoken instructions from humans, and that the longer a dog spends in human company the better it is at doing this. Furthermore, researchers who scanned the brains of domestic dogs have found that, like humans - and apparently, unlike many animals - they have an area of the brain that is devoted to the processing of vocal sounds. Just as human beings can tell the difference between their dogs' happy and sad barks, dogs can discern emotion from the human voice.

However, there are also some key differences between the human and canine voice processing areas. Dogs are much more attuned to environmental, non-verbal sounds than are humans. Yet, the similarities between these brain areas may help to explain why the communication between dogs and people is so successful.



Finally, scientists have also suggested that another aspect of human/dog interaction - namely the ease with which a dog can be trained - may have implications for its lifespan.

It has long been known that small dogs tend to outlive larger breeds, however recent studies seem to indicate that the calmer a dog is, and the more easy it is to train, the longer it is likely to live in proportion to its size. There is speculation that this is linked to energy expenditure (i.e. that more lively dogs use up a lot of energy relatively quickly) but regardless, it is interesting to note that this is yet another way in which dogs buck the trend. In most of nature, the larger animals (such as elephants) far outlive the smaller ones (such as insects).