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Does your dog really love you? New study focuses on the 'cuddle hormone' in animals

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By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
3/18/2015 (4 years ago)
Catholic Online (

Oxytocin is responsible for the mother to baby bond, and now be the reason animals bond with humans.

Oxytocin, or the "cuddle/love hormone" that helps make the mother-child bond stronger and longer lasting, was found out to induce the same effect in owners relationship with their dogs.


MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic Online) - For about every three minutes an individual pats and talks to the dog, levels of oxytocin increases in both the human's and the dog's blood streams. This may explain why the dogs are better performers in choice tasks than that of the wolves, according to research from the Journal Animal Cognition. Research also explains that inducing oxytocin can make canines more alert and active.

The study, conducted by Jessica Oliva and her colleagues as part of her PhD in biological sciences at Monash University, wanted to "investigate the effect of intranasal oxytocin administration, which is known to increase social cognition in humans, on domestic dogs' ability to perform such a task."

They induced oxytocin via nasal spray or a saline placebo to 31 male and 31 female dogs before testing them twice on their ability to pick which of the two bowls contains the hidden treat.

dog and cat cuddling

Hormone-induced dogs outperformed those who were not induced with oxytocin; the improvement in ability even lasted 15 days after the initial testing.

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Oxytocin has been established as the hormone that creates stronger mother-baby bonds.

Oxytocin is released in our bodies, most often created in higher concentrations, whenever we experience positive feelings on interactions, like falling in love; even giving birth and breastfeeding babies causes oxytocin to be released.

In a separate experiment, a pet dog was placed together with a goat in an enclosed pen, making them interact with each other. As the oxytocin had largely increased in the dog, the goat's response was described as that of how humans feel "true love."

"The only time I have seen such a surge in oxytocin in humans is when someone sees their loved one, is romantically attracted to someone, or is shown an enormous kindness," expressed Paul Zak, lead of the experiment and Professor at the Claremont Graduate University.

Zac also noted that as oxytocin was given, domestic animals show the same responses as those found in humans, but results vary among different animals.


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