Your dog wants to be by your side always. He has kisses for you. He’s the perfect cuddle buddy. He’s always excited to see you. He wants you to take him everywhere you go. But is it love? Or is it just that you’re the one who puts the food in his bowl?
It wasn’t an easy question to answer, but Dr. Gregory Berns was dedicated to finding out. So dedicated, that he and his team took the time to train not one, but 90 dogs to be still while sitting in an MRI machine so they could study their minds! Not an easy task when you think about how fidgety dogs are averse to loud noises and sitting still.
First, researches would take the time to get the dog comfortable with the noise of the MRI machine, then they would have them sit for short periods of time, and then longer and longer until they were able to sit still for the time it took to have the test done.
The results? Worth it.
Dr. Berns discovered that a dog’s brain works in a way that is very similar to a human brain. Commands given during the test showed that dogs utilize the same parts of the brain that humans do when performing similar tasks. It’s also wired to process faces the same way that humans do. We have so much more in common biologically with our dogs than we thought!
The study also followed pups who were bred to be training dogs. As the dogs got older, doctors noticed that those that tended to be better training dogs had less activity in the parts of the brain with dopamine receptors, and the part that processes fear and anxiety.
They were also able to measure pleasure experienced by the dogs when given different things. Dogs were shown hot dogs, and at other times given praise by their owners while in the MRI machine. The test showed that dogs felt just as much pleasure being praised by their owners as they did looking at food. The conclusion drawn from this test was that dogs love their owners, and are not just tolerating them for food and care – they get genuine pleasure from being with their people, which is great news because the feeling is mutual!
So don’t you doubt that true love exists! Now you know that your dog means it when he gives you every single one of those sloppy puppy kisses! Go bask in the knowledge that you get to go home every day to somebody that loves you!